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Jobs with the highest variance in pay

  • Jobs with the highest variance in pay

    Some careers come with a reasonably predictable salary spectrum that gives job hunters a good idea of what they can expect to earn when entering the field and advancing in their careers. Others, not so much.

    In some industries, those in the bottom 10th percentile of earners take home less than the country’s median salary—$39,810, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May 2019—while those in the 90th percentile earn into the six figures, sometimes more than $200,000 per year.

    This list explores 50 occupations with a six-figure gulf between those in the profession who earn the least and those who earn the most, all of whom do the same job—technically, at least.

    In some industries, like postsecondary education, two different professors could earn radically different salaries depending on whether they work at a private university, public college, or junior college. Their pay might vary based on their tenure status, their history of securing grants or other awards, or the amount of research they’ve published.

    Salaries in other industries, like sales, are based mainly on commission, which means earnings can vary wildly based on factors like the quality of leads, the competitiveness of the industry, and, of course, the salesperson’s talent for selling.

    Using 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics, released on March 31, 2020, Stacker compiled the top 50 jobs with the highest variance in annual pay between the 90th percentile and the 10th percentile. Jobs with “all other” in the name were excluded, as these were aggregates of several jobs, and the wage data was not accurate to one specific job.

    Keep reading to learn about the careers where the pay variance is so vast that the difference between the lowest earners and the highest is often more than the entire salary of those on the bottom end of the pay scale.

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  • #50. Industrial production managers

    - Variance between highest and lowest percentiles: $111,020
    --- 90th percentile annual wage: $176,070
    --- 10th percentile annual wage: $65,050
    - Median annual wage: $105,480
    - Employment in 2019: 185,790

    Sometimes called plant managers, industrial production managers keep things running smoothly in production facilities, ensuring that work progresses on schedule, within budget, and up to the required quality standards. They analyze data, hire and train workers, and devise strategies to maximize the efficiency of both the workforce and equipment. The good ones who command those high six-figure salaries successfully craft and implement plans to improve production moving forward in the future.

  • #49. Administrative services and facilities managers

    - Variance between highest and lowest percentiles: $111,120
    --- 90th percentile annual wage: $166,330
    --- 10th percentile annual wage: $55,210
    - Median annual wage: $96,940
    - Employment in 2019: 307,280

    Like plant managers, administrative services and facilities managers keep things running smoothly, manage personnel, and recommend new policies and procedures. They, however, tend to deal with things like office upkeep, mail distribution, and recordkeeping.

  • #48. Anthropology and archeology teachers, postsecondary

    - Variance between highest and lowest percentiles: $111,140
    --- 90th percentile annual wage: $157,840
    --- 10th percentile annual wage: $46,700
    - Median annual wage: $86,220
    - Employment in 2019: 5,850

    Although “Indiana Jones” fans grew up thinking that archaeologists spend less time in the classroom than dodging booby traps while trying to swipe magic artifacts from Nazis, fights involving pistols and bullwhips are fairly uncommon in the field in real life. Indy's time in the classroom is the most accurate: Many anthropologists and archaeologists go into academia. Postsecondary anthropology and archeology instructors teach courses, conduct research, collaborate with faculty, and advise students in colleges and universities.

  • #47. Fashion designers

    - Variance between highest and lowest percentiles: $111,750
    --- 90th percentile annual wage: $149,010
    --- 10th percentile annual wage: $37,260
    - Median annual wage: $73,790
    - Employment in 2019: 22,030

    Budding fashion designers often pursue their craft with names like Vera Wang, Coco Chanel, and Ralph Lauren serving as their guiding light. Whether or not they ever reach the pinnacle of the profession, fashion designers can earn a good living designing clothes and accessories for entertainment productions, merchandising brands, or individual clients.

  • #46. Chiropractors

    - Variance between highest and lowest percentiles: $112,190
    --- 90th percentile annual wage: $147,480
    --- 10th percentile annual wage: $35,290
    - Median annual wage: $70,340
    - Employment in 2019: 35,010

    Chiropractors are most commonly known as healers of troublesome back problems, but these medical professionals manage problems related to all aspects of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which deals with the skeleton, muscles, nerves, and connective tissue like ligaments and tendons. Many are self-employed, but the large majority work in chiropractic offices.

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  • #45. Chemistry teachers, postsecondary

    - Variance between highest and lowest percentiles: $113,220
    --- 90th percentile annual wage: $159,160
    --- 10th percentile annual wage: $45,940
    - Median annual wage: $79,550
    - Employment in 2019: 21,380

    When high school students who excel in chemistry decide they’re ready to move on from the periodic table of the elements, they take college courses in chemistry. The people who teach those students about the elements, compounds, and other building blocks of the universe at a postsecondary level can earn big bucks doing it, but their ability to do so depends on their experience, their status in the department, and the type of research they conduct.

  • #44. Environmental science teachers, postsecondary

    - Variance between highest and lowest percentiles: $113,270
    --- 90th percentile annual wage: $158,030
    --- 10th percentile annual wage: $44,760
    - Median annual wage: $82,430
    - Employment in 2019: 6,060

    These college and university instructors guide their students through one of the most exciting interdisciplinary subjects in all the sciences. Environmental science includes coursework in things like soil and geological science, limnology, oceanography, zoology, plant science, and ecology.

  • #43. Agricultural engineers

    - Variance between highest and lowest percentiles: $113,620
    --- 90th percentile annual wage: $160,950
    --- 10th percentile annual wage: $47,330
    - Median annual wage: $80,720
    - Employment in 2019: 1,550

    Agricultural engineers are problem solvers who present solutions to challenges dealing with things like power supplies, the efficiency of machines, environmental issues like pollution, and other factors that affect the production and health of crops and animals. They often split their time between the office and working agricultural sites in the field.

  • #42. Art, drama, and music teachers, postsecondary

    - Variance between highest and lowest percentiles: $114,380
    --- 90th percentile annual wage: $149,560
    --- 10th percentile annual wage: $35,180
    - Median annual wage: $69,530
    - Employment in 2019: 94,060

    Postsecondary instructors who teach art, drama, and music are among the lowest-paid among all college and university professors. Only those who teach criminal justice, education, and English language and literature earn less.

  • #41. Financial examiners

    - Variance between highest and lowest percentiles: $114,700
    --- 90th percentile annual wage: $158,200
    --- 10th percentile annual wage: $43,500
    - Median annual wage: $81,090
    - Employment in 2019: 64,550

    State and federal government agencies, as well as the insurance and finance industries, employ armies of financial examiners to manage and monitor the health of their balance sheets, expense accounts, and income reports. These experts have to constantly stay up to date with ever-changing laws and regulations to maintain the solvency and overall financial health of the banks and other organizations that employ them.

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