It’s good to be the boss – especially for managers in the nation’s highest-paid positions. Not only do you have the prestige of supervising lower-level employees and the other perks that accompany senior-level status, but you have serious earning potential. In nearly three-quarters of the most profitable management careers, six-figure median salaries are the norm, and none are far from the $100,000 mark.
Sure, money isn’t everything. You need to consider other factors besides pay when choosing a career. If you have the ambition and leadership skills to manage projects and other workers, though, why not shoot for one of the top 10 highest paying management careers?
1. Architectural and Engineering Manager
A lot of work goes into engineering and architecture projects. There are various team members with different skillsets to hire and oversee schedules to coordinate and budgets to set and follow. Companies in industries like manufacturing and architectural and engineering services rely on experienced professionals to handle these big responsibilities.
Architectural and engineering managers typically begin their careers as either architects or engineers. They may start in entry-level roles, but they don’t stay there long. They learn as much as they can on the job. With time, they take on more and more responsibilities – things like solving problems, making decisions, leading teams and working on complex projects.
As supervisors, architectural and engineering managers naturally oversee their employees, checking not only their work but also their methods. They also handle tasks like determining what materials, equipment and employees they need for a project and coordinating the work of various teams. However, these professionals aren’t completely removed from their engineering and architectural roots. Often, they create the overall concepts and designs for a product or project, solve problems and lead research and development teams.
Median Salary: $124,870
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering, Professional Degree in Architecture, Master’s Degree in Engineering Management or Technology Management or Master’s in Business Administration (MBA)
2. Computer and Information Systems Manager
If you want to work in technology, a career as a computer and information systems manager will allow you to make great money in a field you love. Nearly all businesses and organizations today rely on computers to handle some aspect of their work. These professionals – sometimes called information technology (IT) managers or IT project managers – play a crucial role in an organization’s computer systems. In addition to figuring out what computer and IT professionals the organization needs on staff and overseeing those workers, computer and information systems managers handle the planning, installation, implementation, upgrades and security of computer systems and other new technology.
The responsibilities of specific computer and information systems managers depend on their exact job titles, in addition to other factors. For example, a chief information officer (CIO) will devote more time to devising the organization’s technology strategy, while a chief technology officer (CTO) will focus more on what new technology can do for the organization. IT directors lead IT departments and often serve as the immediate supervisors for the organization’s IT personnel, while IT security managers focus more on the organization’s information security policies and safety measures designed to thwart a security threat.
Median Salary: $120,950
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer or Information Science or an MBA
3. Marketing Manager
Companies spend a fortune persuading consumers to buy their products or use their services. Marketing managers play an important role in how companies use this money effectively to make the most sales possible and bring in revenue. These professionals stay abreast of market trends to determine how much demand there is for a product or service and what markets that product might fit into well. Marketing managers use data from market research surveys to predict who will purchase the product and what price they will be willing to pay.
Of course, marketing managers also perform a number of other job duties. Often, they are even involved in the product development process. They may lead teams of marketing personnel and oversee collaboration between teams of salespeople and public relations staff. In some roles, they may also handle responsibilities such as developing marketing plans, planning promotions or advertising campaigns, setting marketing department budgets and choosing advertising opportunities and negotiating prices.
Median Salary: $119,480
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing Management
4. Natural Sciences Manager
Don’t think high-paying management jobs only belong in the business world. If science is your calling, you can put your leadership skills to use as a natural sciences manager. These professionals manage employees, research projects and administrative policies. They collaborate with their organization’s senior executives to develop research goals and determine how to best achieve those objectives.
Natural sciences managers figure out what personnel, equipment, materials and training are necessary for a particular project and establish a budget for that project. They oversee and assist the scientists and technicians in their research team. Some natural sciences managers spend all or most of their time on administrative and supervisory duties, while others, known as working managers, conduct research of their own in addition to overseeing other scientists’ work. Laboratory managers focus particularly on managing the supplies needed for research.
Most natural sciences managers spend years working as scientists – chemists, biologists, physicists – before they advance to management positions. During their careers, they gradually take on more responsibilities, such as overseeing teams of researchers and guiding the direction of research projects and experiments. The more experience scientists have, the greater their opportunities for independence.
Median Salary: $115,730
Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree or Ph.D. in Natural Science, Chemistry, Biology, Physics or Engineering
5. Financial Manager
Every business and organization needs to be vigilant about its financial health. Financial managers are the professionals who report on current finances, make decisions about investments and establish future goals and strategies. They prepare financial statements, summaries, reports and forecasts of all kinds for many different uses. They also weigh in on the organization’s financial decisions, including how it can cut costs, increase profits, expand and acquire other businesses. Like other types of managers, financial managers supervise the work of lower-level finance employees. Today’s financial managers now spend more of their time analyzing data and using those analyses to advise top-level executives on making financial decisions than they do simply creating reports.
There are several kinds of financial managers. Some, called credit managers, handle credit and collections, while others, cash managers, oversee the organization’s cash flow. Risk managers work to minimize the likelihood that the organization will suffer a financial loss. Insurance managers decide what kinds of insurance, and how much coverage, is necessary to reduce any such losses. Controllers are primarily concerned with generating financial reports, especially special reports for government use. Treasurers and finance officers deal with budgets, mergers and investments. Regardless of specific job title, all kinds of financial managers need plenty of experience in the field. Most financial managers have spent at least five years gaining business and finance experience in positions like accountant, auditor, financial analyst, loan officer or securities sales agent before they advanced into a management role.
Median Salary: $109,740
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, Business Administration, Economics or Finance, or an MBA or Master’s Degree in Finance
6. Sales Manager
If you enjoy the challenge of sales and the opportunity to motivate others, a career as a sales manager will let you earn a six-figure salary with your natural salesperson personality (and the right education and experience, of course). Industries like retail, wholesale trade, manufacturing and finance and insurance depend on sales managers to oversee their salespeople and sales strategies.
Sales managers establish goals and develop the strategies and plans to meet those goals. When conflicts arise, they resolve customer complaints. They hire and train their organization’s sales personnel, helping them to perform at their full potential. Sales manager positions also have a quantitative side. These professionals oversee budgets, establish quotas, appoint sales representatives to specific territories, analyze sales data and predict sales volumes and profits.
While most sales managers have a college degree, it’s sales experience that really gives candidates for management positions a competitive edge. Sales managers typically have at least one to five years of experience as sales representatives, purchasing agents or other similar roles. Some sales managers have even more extensive sales experience when they advance into a management position.
Median Salary: $105,260
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, Economics, Finance, Management, Marketing or Math
7. Top Executive
If you really want to be the boss – not just a boss – then top executive is the career for you. These management professionals are personally in charge of making sure an organization achieves its goals. They set goals and procedures for a variety of departments within the company and decide which personnel will lead those departments. They monitor finances and budgets, analyzing statements to assess performance and determine ways to decrease costs. Some top executives are more concerned with big-picture strategy, but others spend much of their time handling daily operations and administrative duties.
Top executive roles take many forms. Chief executive officers (CEOs) include presidents, vice presidents, executive directors, chief financial officers (CFOs), chief information officers (CIOs), chief operating officers (COOs) and chief sustainability officers. At schools, top executives include superintendents and college presidents. More common are general and operations managers, who handle many different administration and management duties. Even cities and states have top executives, known as city managers, county administrators, mayors and governors.
Which top executive role you work in can make a huge different in your pay rate. The median wage for chief executive officers is $168,140 per year. On the other hand, even general and operations managers earn a median annual salary of $95,440.
There’s no quick or easy route to a top executive role. Many top executives start from the bottom and gradually advance through the ranks within their organization. Others develop their management skills and cultivate enough experience to get hired from outside the organization. In addition to gaining experience in management roles, candidates for top executive positions must develop excellent communication and leadership and become proficient – and confident – in making decisions and solving problems.
Median Salary: $101,650
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, an MBA or a Degree in a Discipline Relevant to the Specific Industry
8. Human Resources Manager
Workers play an integral part in every industry, and someone needs to recruit, train and communicate with those workers. Human resources managers are the professionals who oversee an organization’s use of, and interactions with, employees. They interview job candidates and hire the most qualified workers. Human resources managers strategize to make the best possible use of employees’ skills and ensure those employees have the training and tools to succeed. They resolve conflicts between workers and handle disciplinary actions when necessary.
Human resources managers also serve as the point of communication between employees and administration. They have input into organization policies and deliver employee services such as benefits and payroll. A human resources manager’s responsibilities include motivating and retaining great employees.
While you can earn a bachelor’s degree in human resources, the education alone isn’t enough to land a management position. Experience, particularly in leadership roles, is a necessity. Many human resources managers begin as human resources or labor relations specialists. Over several years in the field, they develop – and display – the organizational, decision-making and management skills they need to advance to this career.
Median Salary: $99,720
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources or Business Administration, MBA or Master’s Degree in Human Resources or Labor Relations
9. Public Relations and Fundraising Manager
An organization’s image matters – especially when it comes to fundraising for nonprofit organizations. Both public relations and fundraising managers are professionals who strategize how an organization, nonprofit or otherwise, will communicate with members of the public.
Public relations managers oversee the material organizations use to build and improve the public perception of their organization or client. They create content like press releases to get information out to the media and garner media coverage for stories and events. They act as or designate a spokesperson who will act as the public face and voice of the organization, and they work with this spokesperson to provide information and support for media inquiries. Public relations managers single out the audiences most crucial to the organization’s mission – whether that means a target audience to sell to or potential donors to appeal to for fundraising purposes. They figure out which methods of communication are most likely to be effective at reaching these groups and plan promotional and advertising campaigns to get their audience’s attention. Everything a public relations manager does is to improve their organization’s image and public identity, but they also supervise the work of other public relations personnel.
In nonprofit organizations, in particular, fundraising managers play an important part in securing donations, grants and other forms of funding. They plan and implement new strategies to reach their organization’s fundraising objectives. In addition to supervising lower-level employees, fundraising managers direct strategies to acquire more funds. They reach out to past donors and new potential donors to ask for contributions. They choose from a variety of fundraising techniques, like annual campaigns and planned giving, for different fundraising events and campaigns. In addition to seeking out donations, fundraising managers submit applications for grants from the government and other sources.
If your ultimate career goal is to become a public relations and fundraising manager, expect to be in it for the long haul. These professionals usually begin their careers in entry-level public relations specialist or fundraiser positions. A few years of work experience in the field, with increasing responsibilities, may be enough to qualify candidates for lower-level management positions. For roles like public relations director and fundraising director, though, candidates often need a minimum of five to 10 years of relevant work experience.
Median Salary: $95,450
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations, Fundraising, Communications, Journalism or English or Master’s degree in Public Relations or Nonprofit Management
10. Training and Development Manager
Across all industries, organizations want their workers to be as productive as possible. To perform at their best – and add the most value to their company – employees need the right training and the opportunity to develop their skills. Training and development managers are the professionals who plan and oversee training opportunities. In addition to supervising lower-level training and development specialists, they determine what training and skills employees need to achieve the company’s goals and create and coordinate those experiences. Part of a training and development manager’s job is to use resources well, and that includes making and sticking to a budget.
Employee training can take many different forms. Training and development managers may be responsible for teaching classes themselves, or they may teach other instructors or managers how to effectively train employees. They acquire training materials from vendors but might also have to develop their own materials, including online learning materials.
Like other management careers, training and development manager is not an entry-level position. A degree alone won’t land you this job. Instead, you’ll need experience working as a training and development specialist, human resources specialist or teacher, and you’ll also need some form of management experience.
Median Salary: $95,400
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources or Business Administration, or an MBA or Master’s Degree in Training and Development, Human Resources Management or Organizational Development
Editor’s Note: The source for the employment, education, training and salary information presented in this article is the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While this federal agency is responsible for monitoring the labor market, including the many professions in it, students will find that job requirements, responsibilities and wages differ depending on employer, region and industry. This article is meant as a guide to help students start their own research into potential career paths.