Show Me the Money! America's Top-Paying Careers

For many of us, money really does make the world go 'round. In fact, a recent survey confirmed that money is the number one motivating factor in jobs.

The economy is rebounding and new jobs are being added monthly. A recent report by the Employment Policy Foundation says high-paying jobs are growing the fastest during this recovery. So where is all the money?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nine of the top ten high-paying careers in the country are in the medical field. Only one job prevented a full heathcare sweep - CEO. Of course, not everyone is a doctor and most of us didn't go to medical school, but that doesn't mean that we can't bring home the big bucks.

Michael Distefano, VP Global Marketing for Korn/Ferry, a world leader in executive recruitment, says his organization is seeing an increased number of new high-paying job openings across a wide range of industries.

1. Finance

"The financial services area has shown a remarkable increase recently. It's not back to the levels of the Internet age, but there are a growing number of openings for investment bankers, investment analysts and mergers and acquisition experts especially for those with experience in the industry," Distefano says. He notes that many of those who went into treasury or commercial banking jobs after the tech stock collapse are finding new opportunities in major cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. These jobs pay big six-figure salaries and hefty commissions.

Distefano says that the new emphasis on financial compliance and regulatory issues are creating a huge demand for top-level corporate finance, compliance officers and audit jobs. "When CEOs sign off on the financials, they want to be buttoned up and assured the numbers are right. That makes candidates with solid business experience, financial and even legal expertise in high demand."

Financial professionals, such as CEOs and treasurers, make between $85,250 at smaller companies and can earn as much as $350,000 at larger ones. Salaries for corporate controllers range from $56,750 to $147,000 depending on the size of the company.

2. Accounting and Auditing

Experts predict a growing need for accountants and auditors throughout the next decade. On average, starting salaries in this field earn $43,000 per year with a wide range of opportunities for advancement. But partners in most accounting firms earn upwards of $150,000 a year. Direct reports to partners are typically managers and directors, each of whom earns salaries of approximately $78,000 to $117,000.

3. Risk Management

The insurance and risk management sector, which pays experienced actuaries and department heads over $100,000 a year, are also hiring again in response to new risks and growing revenue streams triggered by national security issues and terrorism threats. Many firms are "recycling talent" in this area, a phrase Distefano uses to describe previously laid off workers who are hired by the same companies and industries that let them go.

4. Sales

As the economy continues to improve, so has the outlook for sales professionals. "Good sales people are always in demand," noted Distefano, adding that sales executives within retail, healthcare and the banking and financial services areas are in greatest demand.

Futurestep, Korn/Ferry's division that places mid-range executives with salaries ranging from $75,000 to $100,000, "has recently been receiving requests to fill dozens of sales positions at a time."

The BLS reports that sales managers earn between $35,000 and $63,000 per year depending on the types of products they sell. Expert sales managers and experienced pharmaceutical sales executives can tip the wage scale to over $90,000 per year. Plus, most companies offer their sales force a "pay for performance" bonus program in addition to their base salaries - so the more they sell, the more they earn.

5. Marketing and PR

With the improving economy, companies that previously cut marketing and public relations budgets are looking to rebuild market recognition. Distefano says that bigger budgets mean new jobs in PR firms, ad agencies and corporate marketing departments. He noted that his firm has received myriad requests for searches for marketing department heads and agency team leaders who can earn salaries in the mid-six figures.

According to a variety of sources, marketing managers can earn between $65,000 and $78,000 per year and often participate in a bonus program, along with their counterparts in sales, that push total compensation close to six figures.

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