If you have ambitious financial goals and you’re not afraid of a challenge, achieving a seven-figure income may be something you aspire to do.
Of course, everyone would love to have a job or career that provides a fantastic income. But the reality is that very few people will reach the heights that we’re talking about here.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you set high goals and pursue them aggressively, chances are you’ll be well ahead of your peers — even if you end up falling a little bit short of the absolute best-case scenario.
What Is a Seven Figure Job?
When we’re talking about income, the six figure mark is a milestone that’s commonly used to measure success.
Anyone earning between $100,000 and $999,999 per year has a six figure income.
Those who earn between $1,000,000 and $9,999,999 bring in a seven figure income.
How Many People Earn Seven Figures?
According to the most recent data available from the IRS, nearly 154 million tax returns were filed in 2018. Of those, 539,207 reported an adjusted gross income of $1 million or more.
That means that 0.35% of Americans earn seven figures or more, based on their tax returns. In other words, out of every 1,000 Americans, only 3.5 reach this level.
Being in the top 1% isn’t even good enough to ensure a spot in this exclusive club.
Looking at it from a different perspective, 39,494 non-employer firms (businesses with no employees aside from the owner) earned between $1 million and $2.49 million in revenue in 2018, according to census data.
The truth is that if you set out to reach this level of income, the odds are against you. But some people are able to accomplish it, so why not you?
While it’s certainly not easy to earn a seven figure income, the first step is to evaluate the options and career paths that would give you the best possibility of reaching this lofty goal.
Career Paths for Earning Seven Figures
The most common way to make a lot of money is to start your own business.
Of course, we’re all familiar with famous entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson. But you don’t need to get anywhere close to their level to make seven figures with your business.
There are endless possibilities and many different types of businesses that you can pursue, and the barriers to entry are usually very low. At the same time, online businesses are extremely popular, which means competition can be stiff.
Measuring the success of business owners can be a little more complicated than looking at the salary of an employee, for a few different reasons. For example, some business owners don’t show a lot of income on their personal taxes. As a result, it’s not always simple to identify a seven-figure income.
Elaine Pofeldt wrote The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business to determine the types of people and solo businesses that were capable of generating a significant income. In her book, Pofeldt focused on businesses that generated revenue (not profit) of at least $1 million per year.
Regardless of how you define a seven-figure income, we’re talking about an income that is way above average.
Interesting Facts: In her research for The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business, Pofeldt looked at businesses that earned between $1 million and $2.5 million, and found these to be the top five categories, based on NAICS codes:
- Professional, scientific, and technical services
- Real estate + rental and leasing
- Retail (which included e-commerce)
A Realistic Path: The path for each entrepreneur will be different, but here’s an example of what it might look like:
- An idea or concept is drafted.
- A product or service is defined.
- The website is created.
- Investors come on board (optional).
- Marketing leads to business growth and higher revenue/profit.
Shopify has a great resource that can help you validate the potential of your business ideas.
Early-Stage Startup Employee
If the entrepreneurial path isn’t for you, another option is to work as an employee in the early stages of a startup.
Many startups offer an equity component in the compensation package, which means you would have an ownership interest (i.e., stock) in the company.
Part of the reason why startup employees tend to get equity is because the base salary may be lower than what would be offered by other businesses for an equal level of skill. If the startup reaches massive success, you’ll do well, too. But it’s a bit of a risk because you could probably earn a higher base salary somewhere else.
It’s extremely important to note that the vast majority of startups eventually fail. In fact, the failure rate of startups is about 90%, according to the Small Business Administration. That includes more than 20% that fail within the first year.
Typically, those who are among the first 10 employees hired will have the best chance for career and income advancement, as well as the most to gain if the company goes public.
Interesting Facts: According to the Financial Times, Facebook employees shared in more than $23 billion as a result of the Facebook IPO.
The 3,000 employees collected an average of $7 million each, although the earnings per employee varied drastically, with the most tenured team members coming away with considerably more than the average.
A Realistic Path: If you want to get hired by a startup, it’s helpful to know the types of roles that will give you the best shot.
The positions hired by many startups include:
- Chief Financial Officer
- Chief Operations Officer
- Chief Technical Officer
- Chief Marketing Officer
- Business Development Manager
Since today’s startups are heavily reliant on technology, having high-income skills like coding and development makes you extremely valuable. Developers are often among the first employees hired, and if you’ve got strong experience and a track record of success, you could be hired as Chief Technical Officer.
Many startups also hire for a lead customer service position, with the goal of finding someone who can not only interact with customers but also develop the firm’s overall customer service approach.
While there are many sales reps in different industries that earn six figure incomes, enterprise sales is the best sales-related career path if you’re aiming for seven figures.
This job typically involves a lengthy sales process with multiple stakeholders and very large contracts.
A successful enterprise sales account executive may close a small number of deals every year, but those complex agreements involve huge sums of money and can earn a hefty paycheck.
Although there are many different industries represented, many enterprise sales jobs involve technology and software.
Interesting Facts: According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary of an enterprise sales rep is $82,055.
While that’s very high for an average salary, it shows that you’ll have to be much, much better than average to hit $1 million.
At the same time, if you’re looking for a career with big potential, this could be a great option.
This 10-step guide to making $1 million per year in software sales was written by someone who has managed multiple reps who’ve hit this level.
A Realistic Path: According to research from Zippia, 43.3% of enterprise sales reps have a bachelor’s degree. So while a degree may be helpful, it’s not mandatory for the job.
Since enterprise sales reps deal with very large contracts, a proven track record of success in sales is typically a requirement for the job.
Some enterprise sales jobs require sales management experience. As a result, you’ll want to develop your sales skills and get some sales management experience, if possible, before trying to land an enterprise sales role.
When you think of high-paying jobs, a career in finance may come to mind. Investment banking is one of the opportunities that offers sky-high potential.
Investment bankers are responsible for the creation of capital for companies and other entities, and they also frequently manage mergers and acquisitions.
According to PayScale, the average salary for an investment banker is $100,556. However, that is just the base salary. Investment bankers typically earn a significant amount of their total compensation through bonuses, which vary depending on many factors (but primarily performance).
However, it’s important to understand that this is a very stressful industry and investment bankers typically work long hours (sometimes 80+ hours per week). If you want to make your fortune as an investment banker, you’ll have to be willing to put in the necessary work.
Interesting Facts: According to the Corporate Finance Institute, total compensation for an Investment Banking Managing Director could range from $500,000 to $10 million per year.
A Realistic Path: Because of the enormous income potential, investment banking is a very popular line of work and there is a lot of competition for these jobs.
The website Corporate Finance Institute has a very helpful article that covers the process of getting a job in investment banking, featuring the four steps below.
- Network and resume (get the interview).
- Understand the interview process.
- Know how to answer the interview questions.
- Master technical skills.
You can also check out our list of the best quantitative finance books to learn more about the field.
Consultants exist in many industries, and it’s no secret that this can be a very high-paying line of work.
Typically, people who are working as consultants have a proven track record of being able to produce results — either for their own business or for clients (or both).
There are also entry-level consulting positions at big firms, but if you’re going the solo route, clients will want to see that you know how to improve their bottom line.
There are several different approaches when it comes to compensation for consultants. Some charge an hourly, daily or per-project rate — and those rates can be quite high.
However, you’re still unlikely to earn a seven figure income with this approach.
The approach with the higher ceiling is to charge based on results.
One of the go-to-experts when it comes to seven-figure consulting is Alan Weiss, who offers the formula below in his book Value Based Fees.
- Tangible Outcomes X Annualization
- Intangible Outcomes X Emotional Impact
- Peripheral Benefits + Improved Variables
Interesting Facts: According to a 2018 study conducted by ConsultingSuccess.com, only 17% of consultants use value-based pricing.
While this is not the most common approach, it does provide the highest income potential.
With value-based pricing, at least a portion of the consultant’s compensation is based on the results generated for the client.
A Realistic Path: In order to become a highly-paid consultant, you’ll need to become a master in your line of work. Because if companies are going to pay you large sums of money for your insight, you’ll need to be able to produce results.
If you already have the experience but you’re unsure how to turn that into a lucrative career as a consultant, be sure to check out this guide to value-based pricing for consultants.
When you think of high-paying roles, executives are likely to come to mind quickly.
Chief Executive Offers, Chief Financial Offers, Chief Marketing Officers and other C-level (or C-suite) executives are responsible for an entire department or business unit.
Of course, the salary for these jobs will vary — but many executives are able to earn very high salaries and impressive bonuses.
Interesting Facts: According to a report from Equilar, the average salary among Fortune 500 CEOs with at least two years in the role is $11.5 million.
Salaries for CEOs and other executives can be misleading at times.
For example, Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been collecting a salary of just $1 for several years. However, because he owns such a large portion of the company, his net worth is reportedly close to $100 billion, according to Forbes.
Many executives collect relatively modest salaries and earn the majority of their wealth through equity in the company (and bonuses).
A Realistic Path: The path to a role as a C-level executive will vary depending on the specific job (i.e., the path is different for a Chief Technology Officer compared to a Chief Marketing Officer). However, the basics will remain the same. You’ll need to have outstanding experience and proven success in your line of work, and you’ll also need skills related to:
In recent years, there’s been an increase in the number of people earning massive incomes as influencers.
An influencer is someone who has an established reputation and is able to influence others (including their buying habits) as a result of their high profile.
The rise in popularity of platforms like Instagram, YouTube, SnapChat, and TikTok has led to many influencers achieving million-dollar incomes. Influencers may earn money through sponsorships, advertisements and/or the development and sale of their own products.
Of course, not everyone with a blog or YouTube channel will earn a great income. But the sky’s the limit for those who are able to achieve success.
Interesting Facts: In 2020, 9-year-old Ryan Kaji was the highest-earning YouTube star, raking in $29.5 million, according to Forbes.
Kaji has been at the top of the list for three years in a row (or ⅓ of his life), with more than $20 million in earnings each of those years.
According to Influencer Marketing Hub, the 20 highest-paid Instagram stars bring in an estimated $180,000 to $700,000+ per post.
A Realistic Path: As you can see from the numbers above, the most successful influencers earn well over $1 million per year.
You’ll need to have a lot of success to reach the seven-figure mark, but it is possible. In fact, the second-highest earning YouTube star, Jimmy Donaldson (aka Mr. Beast), didn’t start his YouTube channel until 2017.
Influencer Marketing Hub lays out these seven steps to becoming a successful influencer:
- Select your niche.
- Optimize your profiles.
- Understand your audience.
- Create and post relevant content.
- Be regular and consistent.
- Engage with your audience.
- Let brands know you’re open to collaboration.
If you’re interested in starting your own blog, check out our in-depth guide to making money as a blogger.
There’s no doubt that reaching seven figures in income would be a monumental accomplishment.
Many people aspire to reach this level of success, but only a small percentage will be able to make it all the way there.
But if you set ambitious goals, take the right approach, and have the patience and persistence to stick with it, who knows what can happen.
If you want to reach $1 million or more in income, the jobs/careers covered in this article are among the best options available.