You may not be one of the people who believes that money can buy happiness; however, a recent Glassdoor survey revealed that as many as 7 in 10 respondents (68%) said that salary and compensation are top of mind when considering whether or not to accept a new job.
There’s a lot more of that going on right now. With as many as 78% of hiring managers planning to bring new people on in the first half of 2016—according to career site Dice—and over 100 occupations in the U.S. that have more job postings than actual hires month over month, it’s a great time to be looking for a job.
For those with their personal bottom line in mind, Glassdoor conducted a new analysis of the salary reports collected on its platform to determine which positions garnered the heftiest paychecks. For a job title to be considered for the list of the top 25 it had to have at least 75 salary reports shared by U.S.-based employees over the past year (1/24/15 – 1/23/16) and not be a C-suite level position. What they found were some traditionally highly paid positions as well as a few surprises.
Unsurprisingly, 11 of the top 25 are tech and engineering jobs. This is in line with other recent findings that the average salaries in the sector in the U.S. jumped 7.7% to $96,370 annually, compared to the average national wage growth of 2.2%, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are a few jobs on this list—such as data scientist, tax manager, and solutions manager—that overlap with the recent 25 Best Jobs in America ranking.
Glassdoor chief economist Andrew Chamberlain tells Fast Company that the previous report highlighted jobs according to three factors: hiring opportunity, earning potential, and career opportunities. "The overlap between these two reports reinforces the idea that high pay is often closely linked to in-demand skills," he explains, "which in turn leads to a high number of job openings for these positions, as well as the opportunity for career growth."
Chamberlain says that positions earning high salaries are often not only in-demand, but are also protected from competition and automation—even as the rise of consumer software has made an impact on the finance and insurance industries. "Even as technology has helped to automate some aspects of the tax and insurance markets, the remaining jobs in these fields require lots of human judgement and creativity that is very difficult to automate," Chamberlain asserts.
For example, he notes, the complexity of tax law requires many judgment calls and creative solutions to tax problems. "Similarly, many top insurance positions are those managing client relationships and building customized solutions, something that requires the kind of flexibility that's hard to automate," he says.
There are other jobs that are impossible to imagine turning over to artificial intelligence. Physicians, creative directors, and research and development managers all rely on human interaction for their roles. But what exactly is a strategy manager and why is it such a moneyed position?
"[They] are responsible for providing the overall direction of company objectives, as well as developing the policies and plans designed to achieve the overall company objectives, and then allocating resources to implement these plans," Chamberlain explains. "It’s a senior-level position," he adds, which in addition to needing excellent communication and problem-solving skills, usually requires several years of managerial experience. The latter prerequisite alone automatically bumps strategy managers to a higher pay bracket.
Glassdoor’s findings demonstrate that higher salaries go hand-in-hand with higher education and skills that are in demand, so it’s not surprising that all of the top jobs command salaries over six figures, with the lowest being $106,000 for information systems managers.
Even this salary exceeds the $70,000 figure that an oft-cited Princeton study revealed as the dollar figure most likely to trigger contentment among 450,000 U.S. residents.
"There’s no doubt that pay is among the leading factors most job seekers weigh when determining where to work," Chamberlain, says. "However, our research shows that a big paycheck isn’t necessarily tied to long-term satisfaction in your job."
Indeed, another study of over 200,000 Glassdoor users found that only 10% who were making more than $120,000 per year gave their employer low marks as compared to 15% who did while earning less than $30,000 per year. It’s more complex than that, Chamberlain says. "When we dig deeper into what keeps employees satisfied once they’re in a job and with a company, we find that culture and values, career opportunities, and trust in senior leadership are the biggest drivers of employee satisfaction."