The Highest-Paying Jobs and Majors


Marketing and finance are the yin and yang of any business. Marketing is the art of attracting revenue, while finance is the science of distributing it. In popular culture, marketing is the “fun” job where you spend money and play psychologist with the marketplace. In contrast, finance is the tedious “adult” job, where you’re derided as a “bean counter” for being the one who has to say “no” (particularly to the marketing folks).

However, these dueling roles share one thing in common: They rank among the highest-paying jobs in business. That was one finding from PayScale’s 2016-2017 College Salary Report. According to their data, the highest-paying business jobs for mid-career professionals were the chief investment officer and chief marketing officer, with each bagging $187,000 annually in median pay — $11,000 more than the runner-up, the chief accounting officer.

When it comes time to pick a major, however, it pays to be a quant. Finance-related majors grossed two of the three largest paychecks by mid-career, according to PayScale — a pattern that holds true for pay to graduates just entering the workforce.


The College Salary Report data is based on surveys completed by website visitors to PayScale, a leading supplier of business and university data. To access salary information by region, industry, and job function, visitors must complete a survey that includes their educational background and salary history. The report, which is based on 1.4 million responses from Americans, includes data from both early career (five years or less of post-graduation experience) and mid-career (median age of 44 years old and 15 years of experience).

To calculate pay, PayScale “combines base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime, and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable.” However, it excludes stock compensation, retirement benefits, and the value of other non-cash benefits such as healthcare. It is also restricted to individuals who work a full-time job to avoid data being skewed by factions like contract employees. Even more, salary data is not weighed against region of employment or segmented by school. Overall, 535 American undergraduate business programs are represented in the survey.



Not surprisingly, finance people take care of themselves first. Six of the 10 highest-paid job titles engage in finance-related work. Accounting firm partners and tax directors earn $168,000 and $159,000, respectively, before taxes, to rank fourth and fifth on PayScale’s list at mid-career. PayScale visitors who hold a VP of Finance title placed eighth, raking in $147,000. Expanding the scope, 11 of the 20 highest-paid roles were also concentrated in finance. Add to that, finance-related functions were found in 26 of the 50 business jobs paying $100,000 or more annually.

That’s not to say marketing-related jobs didn’t fare well. If you reach the vice president level in either the communications or marketing arenas, you can expect to make $159,000 and $152,000, respectively. Top salespeople, known to come from nearly every academic background, make a healthy living as well: An account management VP, marketing and development VP, and group account director cluster together in the $142,000 to $144,000 range. At the same time, popular options like management consultants ($142,000), analytics directors ($123,000), and social media managers ($118,000) generate six-figure incomes by mid-career.

Which roles should you avoid? Start with ones that are focused more on service than selling. Here, pay tops out at $97,000 for a “customer success manager.” In sales, you’re better off in the field than in the office, as evidenced by sales trainers making just $75,000 by mid-career. However, the biggest dead end (pay-wise at least) is human resources, with the highest median pay in the field going to human resources supervisors at $64,000.

Go to next page for mid-career pay for the 100 highest-paying business job titles.

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