Starting from childhood, you’re taught to dream big. The phrases “you can be anything you want to be” and “follow your passion” are deeply ingrained in the fabric of American culture — so it’s no surprise that when the real world rears its ugly head, people are left wondering why loving what they do isn’t making ends meet.
The truth is, sometimes the flashiest job won’t bring home the bacon in the same way that something a little less exciting might. If you decide against pursuing your passion full time and focus on those “boring” gigs you might have previously overlooked, your bank account could thank you.
Spending decades steeped in financial statements, spreadsheets and records might sound like the definition of tediousness. But for people who excel at keeping track of minute details and don’t mind basic mathematics, accounting can prove to be a lucrative career fit — or even a side gig that will bring in a nice paycheck.
Median Annual Salary: $101,560
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $184,770
If you’re a worrier, a career as an actuary might just send you over the edge despite how well it pays. Actuaries are professionals who spend their days studying risks — such as accident, disability, mortality and retirement rates — using statistical data to try and associate the dollar signs attached to everyone’s worst nightmares. This job requires looking at insurance policies all day, and actuaries typically work for insurance companies.
3. Administrative Services Manager
Median Annual Salary: $94,020
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $163,480
Administrative services managers play a practical support role in any organization — and it’s a position that pays surprisingly well. Quiet areas like record keeping, office upkeep and mail distribution are their bread and butter. However, if you value work-life balance or a clear separation between your personal and professional lives, this job might not be for you: Managers often stay on call in case facility problems arise during nonworking hours.
4. Budget Analyst
Median Annual Salary: $75,240
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $113,740
People who are good with numbers are critical to any organization, especially businesses. A typical workday for these analysts consists of policing budget estimates to ensure accuracy and compliance with certain regulations and procedures. If you’re interested in analyzing budgeting and accounting reports, a career as a budget analyst might be a great fit for you.
5. Compliance Officer
Median Annual Salary: $67,870
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $107,010
If you’re passionate about following rules, take that whistleblower attitude and turn it into a career as a compliance officer. This “tattletale” role involves making sure everyone is in line with set standards, laws and regulations. The best compliance officers earn a hefty salary for their troubles and aren’t likely to live paycheck to paycheck.
6. Computer and Information Research Scientist
Median Annual Salary: $114,520
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $176,780
Computer and information research scientists solve problems involving computer software and hardware. The idea of sitting in a cubicle and staring at a computer all day might make some people cringe, but tech-savvy professionals — programmers, network administrators and others — most likely find that six-figure salary worth it.
7. Database Administrator
Median Annual Salary: $87,020
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $132,420
It’s likely that no child grows up with aspirations of becoming a database administrator: It’s one of the more obscure but well-paying jobs. These professionals work heavily with computer database management systems, from coordinating changes to implementing security measures. If you pursue this line of work, be prepared to handle a large volume of data at institutions such as insurance companies.
Median Annual Salary: $102,490
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $172,580
As an economist, you’ll spend your days studying the movement of goods, services and resources. The work is often big-picture — which might not be for everyone — and involves researching trends and evaluating economic issues. Be prepared for years of schooling: To become an economist, you typically need a master’s or doctoral degree.
9. Financial Examiner
Median Annual Salary: $81,690
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $153,850
Armed with a bachelor’s degree and a knack for sniffing out shadiness, financial examiners ensure compliance with federal laws, review balance sheets, assess bank management and evaluate the risk level of loans. In other words, financial examiners can spot cooked books from a mile away. They typically work for federal and state governments and in the insurance and finance industries.
10. Industrial Production Manager
Median Annual Salary: $100,580
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $168,780
If you’re interested in immersing yourself in manufacturing plants or the details of assembly lines, working as an industrial production manager might be for you. These managers handle the resources and manpower necessary for manufacturing products in accordance with certain quality, cost and quantity demands. Assembly lines might be monotonous and repetitive, but at least you’d be paid well.
11. Insurance Sales Agent
Median Annual Salary: $49,710
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $125,190
A job in insurance sales likely won’t be as entertaining as the industry’s advertising icons — think Progressive’s quirky Flo or Geico’s charming gecko — but the practice can still prove quite lucrative for the average Joe. Agents sell all types of insurance — automotive, casualty, health, life, property and more — and understand the ins and outs of these policies. For most insurance sales agents, commissions are a critical source of income.
12. Postsecondary Law Teacher
Median Annual Salary: $104,910
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $208,000
If the convoluted language of law is incomprehensible to you, imagine the long, dry hours of studying required to become a professor and teach courses on the subject. After spending many years on your own education, you’ll head back to school to feed the cycle and untangle the legislative system for other lawyer hopefuls. Postsecondary law teachers might also perform a deeper dive into research in addition to their instructional duties.
13. Loan Officer
Median Annual Salary: $64,660
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $135,590
If examining the fine print of your mortgage makes your eyes glaze over, you might be impressed by the discipline of loan officers, who evaluate commercial, credit and real estate loans on a daily basis. Loan officers also advise borrowers on different payment methods and their financial status.
14. Loss Prevention Manager
Median Annual Salary: $105,610
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $176,800
This role is centered around making sure a company’s products always remain in the right hands — and that nothing gets taken without the customer paying first. Loss prevention managers are tasked with things like maintaining inventory control and investigating employee theft or other suspected shoplifting. They spend their days thinking about potential loss situations and strategies to prevent them.
Pharmacists spend their time doling out drugs prescribed by other health practitioners. Make no mistake — it can be deadly work if done incorrectly. But, on a daily basis, measuring out medications and interacting with foot-tapping patients might wear on even the most steely nerves.
17. Quality Control Systems Manager
Median Annual Salary: $100,580
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $168,780
Although quality control inspectors on the front lines only net a median annual salary of $37,340, you can earn significantly more in a managerial role. Quality control systems managers monitor production or laboratory efforts and lie in wait for mistakes to happen — then bring quality back up to par by communicating feedback to all relevant parties.
Sales engineers sell technological products and services to businesses, which means they need to have a deep working knowledge of what they’re selling — equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in engineering. They might not regale a cocktail party with their work stories, but their expertise can earn them a six-figure paycheck.
Equipment manuals, appendices and maintenance instructions often aren’t the most interesting reading materials, so imagine what it’s like writing these operating guides. However, some high-paying employers include corporate giants IBM, Amazon and Microsoft, according to PayScale, so you might be able to find a company with enviable perks even if your job duties are mind-numbing.
20. Transportation, Storage and Distribution Manager
Median Annual Salary: $92,460
Annual Salary for Top Earners: $156,710
Like the title implies, this job requires planning and coordinating distribution, storage and transportation activities in compliance with internal policies and government regulations — in other words, making sure items get from point A to point B in the most efficient manner possible while following all the rules. These workers tend to operate in the background; it’s not often people think about how their packages arrive at the correct destination.