What are the $100k+ jobs that you can switch to?

Okay, so after yet more whining about my job, a friend and I come up with the following question.

Let’s say you’re mid-career (late 30s/early 40s). In my case, an attorney, but let’s just generally say you have a liberal arts undergraduate degree and some form of advanced professional degree (law, journalism, whatever, but no specialized “hard skills” training like engineering).

If you wanted to switch careers entirely, what jobs/professions are out there where you could fairly comfortably make $100k+ per year? Additional stipulations are first, it would be without having to go through massive retraining (perhaps a year or two of additional school that is relatively affordable, but nothing like “Go be a doctor, see you in 10 years”). Second, it can be something where you would have to live in a standard large city, but not necessarily one with inflated salaries like New York (as it seems in New York, $100k per year is necessary just to afford the COL).

Perhaps this sounds like a fairly standard “What jobs pay $100k” question, but it’s not quite that - the twist here is ability to transfer into it without specific experience in the area, but with 10-20 years of prior experience as a white collar/professional elsewhere.

P.S. I understand this may sound a little bit like George Bush not knowing the price of milk - not the intent; I confess my ignorance up front. :)

The job market is pretty awesome right now and unemployment is at an all-time low, so basically anything.

Hilarity. Fortunately, unemployment is at something like 2-3% for people with advanced degrees, if I recall correctly (not counting the hidden unemployment issues re: people who have stopped looking, etc.).

I’m not talking about $100k+ jobs without a high school diploma.

That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free


You are asking for a highly paid job with the basic qualification ‘be literate and entitled’ in a job market where generally each opening garners 50+ applications.

Are you cute?

No, not at all. It isn’t a matter of “be literate and entitled.” Or if it is, there are a lot of literate peers where I work who are indeed making that much. I also know a lot of “literate and entitled” bankers, accountants, and similar professionals who make that much. They don’t have hyper advanced degrees or anything similar.

So I am wondering what categories outside of my knowledge base (which is essentially law, banking, and similar professionals) I might be missing.

Isn’t “law” the best answer to that question? I mean, I know not all lawyering jobs pay six figures, but if you go work for one o’ them big companies, surely you can pull that down as a lawyer.

Have you ruled out drug dealer?

I don’t think you’ll find many professions where $100K is likely, short term, for a 40ish individual with no relevant experience (other than being smart and having a college degree).

There are plenty of jobs where you could accumulate experience reasonably quickly, and/or where if you had the right mix of skill and luck, you could reach $100K rather quickly.

Sales comes to mind. At least, certain sales jobs. But skill is involved, and even if you found you had a knack for it, I think it would be difficult to go from 0 to $100K super quickly.

Yes, you can, though that is getting harder. It is highly dependent (like a lot of other things) on graduating from one of the top 14 schools in the top 25% of your class).

I guess I did not think that law was some type of unique bubble for that. Also, for law, you do need an additional three year degree, at a very high cost. I was looking more toward the middle manager types at the U.S. Banks and Wells Fargos of the world who have undergraduate B.A.s (in some cases undergraduate business or econ degrees) who I know are making well more than $100k in their early to mid 30s, not to say 40s. (Note that I’m not talking about people who are in their consumer bank offices; I’m talking about people who are, for example, working with commercial banking lines.)

There are a lot of areas I just don’t know. Private therapists/psychologists, for example. They are professionals, they generally (I think) bill at a relatively high rate. I think (though don’t know) that it is possible to do it without a Ph.D - perhaps a couple of additional years of masters work?

I assume there are other areas like that out there, but perhaps I’m wrong.

There are also entrepreneurial activities - starting a small business or buying a franchise or whatever…

In the case of banking:

  1. I would assume many of these folks had business or econ degrees or something else that might catch the attention of hiring folks. (Math, maybe?)

  2. But I would guess that even in those cases, folks were hired in their 20s at relatively modest salaries. Yes, the successful ones can achieve high salaries fairly quickly, but there is risk and time involved.

  3. I would guess that many of the big banks who do this kind of thing lean towards younger hires for what amounts to a training program.

Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate

Cybercrime is a pretty booming industry these days.

Sales (as Phil mentions), possibly insurance agents/brokers (though only 2-3 years experience may be pushing it) are the only things that jump readily to mind considering the criteria.

  1. Probably generally the case, but likely obtainable with relatively minimal retraining (depending on one’s abilities and background). The types of commercial bankers I work clearly do not have MBA level skills. Frankly, a lot of the MBAs I work with aren’t math geniuses.

  2. That is probably the crux of it, and fundamentally the reason for my question. With a law degree, with some luck (well, it used to be some luck, now it is nearing winning lottery ticket level luck), you can literally start making $150k plus at age 25 right out of school (but again, with usually crushing debt levels). So we wondered, if you didn’t have that advanced degree, but you did have 10-20 years of actual life experience and general business training, could you somehow parley that into making less than a 25 year old makes.

  3. See number 2.

I guess part of my question is that I see a lot of people who are basically unskilled making numbers that, while sub-$100k, are close enough that you would think someone more intelligent with some general background (even if not industry specific) would be able to bridge the gap.

Our secretaries here, for example, make $60k+ per year. Yes, it’s a law office, but no, I know most of them have next to no skills beyond typing quickly. I type quickly, as do many other people. You would think someone with the same skill sets as those secretaries plus a greater work ethic and, frankly, basic skillset would be able to double up, or at least get close to $100k.

But that’s applying logic, and I understand that logic doesn’t always work in these situations. Perhaps it is an issue where job salaries are fairly “stuck” in a narrow band, even though productivity capability differences between workers and positions can be many multiples.

Once you guys nail it down, I would like one too.

Please make sure that the extra I’ll be taking home by paying US taxes ensures the same level of healthcare, unemployment coverage etc. that my current job gets me. Also 7 weeks vacation.

I hear print journalism is a dead end…

I’m not sure what you’re asking, which is essentially “How can I switch careers and keep my $100K salary?” is possible, especially in this shitty economy. Advanced degrees exist for a reason, and no matter how much experience you have as an attorney you are not going to be able to make the jump to a job that requires a CPA, MBA or other specialized degree or equivalant work experience.

Your best bet might be to become a consultant, still doing work in your original field but contracting your services on an as needed basis to many clients rather than working simply for one firm or corporation. If you have a lot of experience in your field you can also farm yourself out as a legal consultant, or “expert”. These are the guys law firms bring in when they need technical, medical or professional opinions and testimony.

Honestly, if you are in your late30’s/early 40’s and have certain types of advanced degree, such as Law, MBA, accounting, computer/mechanical science/engineering, Nurse Practioner, etc. AND you’ve been working steadily in your field since graduation AND you live in a decent sized metropolitan area then you should be pretty close to if not above the $100K salary mark already. Given the amount of time and effort (15-20 years of it) that it took to reach that point it’s wishful thinking to assume you could hop to another profession and maintain the same level of pay and all the perks that come with that experience level.

EDIT : As others have mentioned, there are some positions such as real estate agent and corporate sales that are open to practically anyone who is willing to undergo a little training. While it’s true that sometimes these jobs can pay $100K or more, it’s not a sure thing, they have shitty hours and stress levels, and competition is fierce. Two anticdotal examples : 1) My cousin is a corporate sales guy for Dell. He recently made $125,000 commision off a single sale. It was the highlight of his 10+ year career with them, and a real accomplishment. He also spent years barely cracking $50K while working his way up the ladder and forming client relationships that eventually led to where he is now. 2) I have a friend who’s huband quit a good-paying but stressful business career to become a real estate agent. In only a couple of years he was bringing in over $100K in commisions easily, sometimes much more. Then the bottom fell out of the real estate market and he’s lucky to see half of what he was making previously and doing three times the work to earn it. She says he’s more stressed out now than when he was in the business world.

Way to shit on your secretaries, SlyFrog.

He was just applying logic. Duh.