A salary is often described in “figures.” If someone says they earn $50,000 annually, they would be referring to their income in five figures. An income that has six digits refers to a six-figure salary.
This article explains what it means to have a six-figure, seven-figure, and eight-figure salary. Plus, it provides examples of realistic jobs that can produce these levels of income without being an athlete or a celebrity.
How Much Is Six Figures?
A six-figure salary is an annual income of at least $100,000 and less than $1,000,000. A person earning a six-figure salary makes at least $8,333 per month before taxes and other deductions. You need to earn at least $48.08 per hour to earn six figures, based on a 40-hour work week.
With a six-figure salary, your net pay — which is what’s left after deductions like taxes, insurance, and 401(k) contributions — will be lower (likely in the range of $6,000 to $7,000 per month).
Factors to consider when calculating your net pay include:
- State and federal taxes.
- The number of dependents you claim.
- Health insurance and other benefit deductions.
- Retirement contributions.
We found this paycheck calculator helpful if you’re creating a budget and want a clear estimate of your after-tax take-home pay.
Realistic Six-Figure Salary Jobs & Professions
While it’s not surprising that doctors and lawyers make six-figure incomes, there are other jobs that can generate a six-figure salary and don’t require years of specialized education. Some of these include:
- Small business entrepreneurs. There are various ways to bring in over $10,000 a month by starting a small business. Some people can even accomplish this with a side hustle. Our favorite low-cost startup business ideas are freelancing in a high-paying niche, starting a small business that caters to the wealthy, or starting a B2C service-based agency.
- Computer programmer. Attending short-term retreats like a coder boot camp can quickly get you up to speed and earning a six-figure salary as a computer programmer, often in less than six months.
- Sales. High-earning sales jobs in the market right now are found within the pharmaceutical and enterprise software industries. It’s possible to make a six-figure salary as an inside sales rep, field sales representative, or account manager working in these competitive but rewarding fields.
- Realtor. Most realtors can complete the course requirements to get their license in a few months. According to the BLS, 10% of real estate agents earn over six figures yearly.
- Construction/contractors. Both can be very lucrative fields. Overseeing a construction project from start to finish as the general contractor, or working as an experienced tradesman (electrician, plumber, mason, etc.), can earn you a six-figure salary. According to a BLS report from 2020, the top 10% of plumbers and electricians earned over six figures yearly.
How Much Is Seven Figures?
Seven figures means an annual income of $1,000,000 to $9,999,999. A person earning a seven-figure salary makes at least $83,333 per month before taxes and other deductions. An hourly wage of at least $480.77 per hour (based on a 40-hour workweek) is required to earn seven figures.
Net pay for a low seven-figure salary would be approximately $55,000 to $70,000 per month.
Realistic Seven-Figure Salary Jobs & Professions
Earning seven figures isn’t easy, but it’s also not impossible.
According to a study published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, more than 140,000 people in the United States earn more than $1.58 million per year.
The study describes the typical seven-figure earner and the industry they’re in, and surprisingly, the average profile is not that of an investment banker, Fortune 500 CEO, athlete or influencer. Instead, the authors found that many seven-figure earners were regional business owners, and singled out opportunities such as owning an auto dealership or a distribution company.
For this reason, entrepreneurship ranked #1 on our list of seven-figure jobs.
The data supports that ranking, as the same study mentioned above found that business owners making seven figures per year outnumbered wage earners by a ratio of three to one.
This New York Times article offers more analysis of the study and other data about who is making seven figures a year.
Other paths to earning seven figures a year include:
- Early-stage startup employee. Being one of the first few employees at an early-stage startup that eventually becomes a billion-dollar business (i.e., a “unicorn” startup) can result in a seven-figure payout when the company goes public or gets acquired.
- High-paying sales. Selling big-ticket items such as real estate, aircraft, yachts and luxury cars can earn you a seven-figure salary. These are of course harder fields to break into, but once you have a few years of experience and a strong sales record, it’s possible to make seven figures.
- Investment banking. Investment bankers typically earn six-figure salaries, but the top performers can make over $1 million a year in salary and bonus.
- Consultant. Consultants who work with big businesses to help them grow and scale can earn a seven-figure salary. The classic book The Consulting Bible: How to Launch and Grow a Seven-Figure Consulting Business is a great resource for learning more.
How Much Is Eight Figures?
Eight figures represents an annual income of $10,000,000 to $99,999,999. This means someone earning an eight-figure salary makes at least $833,333 per month before taxes and other deductions. An hourly wage of at least $4,615.38 per hour (based on a 40-hour workweek) is required to earn eight figures.
Eight-Figure Salary Jobs & Professions
Earning eight figures per year is an incredible and rare feat. According to IRS statistics, just 23,000 households in the United States reported an income of over $10,000,000 in 2020.
Most high-income earners in this range are not earning a salary over $10,000,000 a year. Instead, they’re selling assets that have significantly appreciated in value over time, such as a business, investments or real estate. As such, they’re likely not earning eight figures per year on a consistent basis as payment for work.
That said, some examples of jobs and professions that can produce an eight-figure annual income include:
- Private equity and venture capital firms. Partners at large firms typically earn a percentage of the profits (carried interest) generated by the firm, which can add up to eight figures a year.
- Fortune 500 CEO. Most CEO compensation comes in the form of stock options, bonuses based on performance, and stock gains realized from selling company stock acquired over the years.
What most surprised me while researching for this article was that 140,000 individuals in the United States earn over $1.58 million per year. If your goal is to earn the highest income possible, it makes sense to study these individuals. After all, if you’re going fishing, it’s smart to fish where the fish are.
This same concept can be applied to any career goal or ambition you may have.
If your goal is to make six figures without returning to school, look at the professions that can realistically produce that level of income.
Also, understand other not-to-be-overlooked details, such as geography.
For example, if you want to be a writer, understand that writers in some industries, such as copywriters, earn significantly more than others. Similarly, plumbers who live close to wealthy and populated areas will make more than plumbers who live in a small town.
Outside of income, it can pay to study other factors, such as happiness and fulfillment. Payscale does an insightful study each year ranking the satisfaction from over 500 different professions.
The key takeaway is that whatever your goal is, find people who have accomplished it and study them. A moonshot goal like earning seven figures a year may seem impossible, but it can be one step closer to reality if you understand how it’s done.