America’s most surprising six-figure jobs

We often associate hefty salaries with corner offices, scalpels and law degrees – but it turns out you can pull in a pretty penny working outside the financial, medical or legal fields. In fact, writers, elevator installers and ship captains are just a few of the professionals who surprisingly can score six-figure paychecks.

Forbes combed through data gathered annually by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the Labor Department, to find the 15 most surprising six-figure jobs. The BLS culls its information from surveys it mails to businesses, and it releases its Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Data each May. The report shares information about hundreds of occupations, including hourly and annual wages, total numbers of workers in the profession, and the states and metro areas that pay the best. To make the cut for our list, at least 10% of employees in the profession had to earn more than $100,000 a year.

1. Human resources managers are the only ones on the list where most, not just some, earn six figures. These professionals, who are responsible for everything from interviewing candidates to handling personnel and implementing strategies and policies, earn a stellar average annual salary of $108,600. According to the BLS’ Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Data for 2010, the top 10% of H. R. managers earn more than $166,400 a year. The best-paying state for these professionals is New Jersey, where they pull in an average annual salary of $134,170.

2. An art director’s income isn’t too shabby, either. The mean annual wage for those talented professionals is $94,100. The top 10% make $163,430 – almost four times the national average for all occupations, which is just $44,410. The top-paying state for art directors: New York. Those in the Big Apple earn a hefty $128,080 a year.

3. Some other surprising six-figure jobs, especially from the perspective of the fragile media industry,

include broadcast news analysts, authors, and technical writers. Workers in the top-earning 10% of each of these professions earn more than $100,000, according to the BLS data. For broadcast news analysts, it’s $146,230; for writers and authors, $109,440; and for technical writers, $100,910.

4. Gaming managers, the people who supervise gambling operations, also make the cut, earning a handsome annual income of $73,940. Workers in the top 10% of that profession really hit the jackpot. These high rollers rake in $116,070 a year. Pennsylvania pays its gaming managers better than any other state ($91,850 a year, on average), but it’s only got about 50 of them. In total, 3,230 Americans hold the job nationwide.

6. Water vessel captains, mates and pilots also make a boatload more than one might think. The top 10% earn an ample $117,310 a year, but on average they make $70,500. Boat captains in Tennessee earn $89,700, making it the best paying state.

The list doesn’t end there. There are plenty more surprising six-figure jobs that don’t require a necktie or lab coat. Astronomers, film editors and farm product buyers are some others we’ve singled out.

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America’s most surprising six-figure jobs