If someone is pulling in a six-figure salary, that means they’re making between $100,000 and $999,999. That’s a very large income range and, let’s be honest, a low six-figure income won’t get you as far as it used to. This is particularly true if you don’t manage, save, and invest your money wisely.
Reaching a six-figure income is considered a landmark occasion of sorts, although most Americans will probably never reach this milestone. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual income for American workers as of 2021 was $58,260. On top of that, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the median household income is only $69,021.
Clearly, reaching a salary in the six figures is by no means a slam dunk. But that doesn’t mean it’s unreachable. Particularly with the gig economy that we live in now, if you’re willing to put in the work, achieving a six-figure salary is entirely possible. Read on to learn more about six-figure incomes and what you need to know about how to become a six-figure earner.
How much is a 6 figure salary?
A six-figure income is anything over $100,000 and less than a million dollars ($999,999, to be exact). Once you get to a million, you’re one of the lucky few to earn a seven-figure income, which encompasses only about 1% of the U.S. population. By contrast, most Americans earn a five-figure salary (more than $10,000 and less than $100,000), according to statistics by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
You might also hear people’s net worth expressed in figures. A person’s net worth is the total of their assets minus their liabilities. For example, if you had $10 million in assets and $5 million in liabilities, you would have a net worth of $5 million, or a net worth of seven figures.
What is the actual take-home pay of a six-figure salary?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what your net pay (gross pay minus taxes and deductions) is with a six-figure salary. However, you can estimate that after you pay taxes and other standard deductions, a worker earning $100,000 gross income will typically take home roughly $70,000 in net income. This partly depends on which state you live in as well as other payroll deductions for items such as health insurance and retirement savings.
And keep in mind, the more money you make, the more money you’ll have to pay in income taxes. For example, if you’re earning in the low six figures, your federal income tax bracket would be 24%.
As soon as you start earning more than that, your tax bracket jumps to 32%, which takes a bigger bite out of your monthly income. Six-figure earners who surpass $578,000 will pay the highest income tax rate of 37%.
How far will six figures in a salary go?
In theory, you might think that a six-figure salary means you pretty much have it all — a nice house, a good car, regular vacations, and a comfortable bank account. That said, there’s a huge range between making $100,000 and making $900,000-plus.
How far you can go with a six-figure salary depends a lot on your location, lifestyle, and monthly expenses. For example, six-figure salaries won’t get you nearly as far in Manhattan as they will in Milwaukee because the cost of living is so much higher in New York. Housing prices, taxes, utilities, food, and gas all factor into the cost of living, and where you choose to live has a big impact on what you’ll pay just to get by.
To get a better idea of the cost of living in your state, take a look at the chart below to see each state’s living wage.
This is not to say that you necessarily need to leave the big city and head to small-town USA. However, it is something to consider when you think about how far a six-figure salary will stretch. Plus, if you already live in an area with a relatively low cost of living, you might want to aim for jobs based in areas that tend to pay a lot more.
Lifestyle and money management
In addition to where you live, the way you live your life will have an impact on how much you can do with six figures in income. If you want to go on elaborate vacations, have a vacation home, and buy fancy cars, you can go through six figures pretty quickly.
Your financial health, whether you make six figures or eight figures, also hinges upon your ability to manage your money, budget, save, and invest. For example, if you have a lot of debts like outstanding credit card balances or student loan debt, that can eat into your six figures pretty quickly.
Having said that, if you manage your money wisely, save for the future, and make smart investments, things like credit card debt and student loan payments do not need to derail the comfortable life that a six-figure salary offers.
What are some six-figure jobs?
When thinking of people who make a six-figure salary, professions that come to mind are doctors, lawyers, airline pilots, financial experts, software developers, and dentists, to name a few. But with a little research, there are plenty of other positions available that also command six figures, which you might never have thought of.
To achieve a six-figure salary, taking calculated risks is essential. For example, you can choose a career that didn’t exist five years ago. Since there is a lack of seniority in these new careers, it should only take a few years to grind your way up and become an expert in the field,” suggests Nathan Brunner, CEO of Salarship, a job search and career advice service.
“As the owner of Salarship, I have access to the latest job market trends for 2023,” Brunner reveals. “Here are the top trending careers that did not exist five years ago: podcast producer, big data scientist, TikTok marketer, healthcare navigator, drone operator, AWS cloud engineer, artificial intelligence engineer, renewable energy technician, and robotic process automation developer.”
As you can see, if you think outside the box, there are many non-traditional jobs that can earn workers an average salary of six figures or more, some of which may not even require a college degree.
Another good way to achieve a six-figure salary is to own your own business. Entrepreneurs with big ideas and a lot of hard work can often hit the six-figure mark. And, as they expand and grow, can move on to a seven-figure or even an eight-figure salary.
However, starting a business takes a lot of capital, which you might need help getting. To find the best business loan lender for your business, start by comparing the small business loans below.
How to achieve a six-figure income
If your ambition is to make six figures in annual income, expect that you’ll need to do some hard work to get there. Depending on your existing skills and level of education, it could take years to get where you want to be, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
Evaluate and research
The first thing you need to do before making a career shift is honestly evaluate your skills, strengths, and weaknesses and see where they could best be put to use. Take some time to identify the industries in which your skills are in demand and decide where you might be a good fit.
Some things to ask yourself include:
- What qualifications do I need to pursue this career?
- What education, knowledge, and work experience do I already have or need to flesh out?
- Which companies are the best to work for in this industry?
- What skills do I have or need and where can I acquire them?
- Is my personality right for this role?
For example, if you’re a whiz at science but can’t stand the sight of blood, becoming a physician is a terrible idea. But positions in research and development might be more your speed and could still land you six-figure jobs. The point is to identify where you excel and find a position that can utilize those skills.
Education and training
Be aware that most higher-salary jobs will require a college degree — at least a bachelor’s degree if not a master’s degree or more.
For instance, it can take more than 10 years to become a doctor. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school, and anywhere between three to seven years of residency training to become a fully licensed physician. After that, you may be able to command six or possibly even seven figures in income for sought-after specialists. The finance world is another lucrative field that can easily result in six-figure jobs, but you’ll probably at least need a master’s degree.
There are some six-figure jobs, however, that may not require a college degree at all, like real estate or construction. Some of the most successful general contractors out there started out as laborers before opening up their own contracting businesses.
The same can be said of the trades such as plumbers and electricians who can begin with trade schools and/or apprenticeship training and eventually own their own business earning six figures or more. Trade workers can also expect to earn more income if they work in higher-density, more affluent areas as opposed to small rural towns.
Related reading: To learn more about different jobs in a variety of fields, take a look at our articles covering work in different industries.
- Best Paying Jobs In Precious Metals Industry in 2022
- Best Paying Jobs in Oil & Gas Production in 2023
- How Many Jobs Are Available in Industrial Machinery/Components?
- 15 Best Paying Jobs in the Energy Industry (2023)
- Best Paying Jobs In Public Utilities in 2022
- How Many Jobs Are Available in Capital Goods?
- Best Paying Jobs in Major Banks
Perform high-quality work
In your quest for a six-figure salary, remember that it’s not going to happen overnight. As you work your way up, you’ll need to consistently produce excellent work to get noticed, get promoted, and earn a six-figure salary.
Christa Reed, Head of Job Market Research at Jobsearcher.com, says employees must be willing to take on extra responsibilities. “Show your employer that you’re willing to go the extra mile and take on additional responsibilities. This could lead to promotions or increased compensation.”
In addition to providing quality work, be the kind of employee who others want to work with. Getting along well with colleagues and superiors, as well as offering to perform additional tasks, will help make you the person your bosses think of when a better-paying position opens up.
Always act and dress appropriately for the status you’d like within the company. Make sure those with the power to promote you start thinking of you as the type of person who’d be appropriate for that status.” — Barry Maher, Principal at Barry Maher & Associates
Learn how to negotiate
If you want to become a six-figure earner, you’ll need to know how to negotiate on your own behalf. Chances are you won’t always have someone in your corner telling the world how great you are. Be prepared to do that work yourself to reach your desired income level of a 6-figure salary
“Be ready with a list of your accomplishments to show why you’ve earned a raise or promotion and why you deserve it,” advises Maher. “And if you’re going for a promotion, showcase the abilities you’ll be bringing to the new position. If you can assign a dollar value, how much the accomplishments on that list have earned or saved the company, so much the better.”
To avoid getting stagnant in your job, and therefore failing to move up in the company, you must be open to learning new things and staying aware of what’s going on in the industry.
(One) important factor is to constantly educate yourself and stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends and technologies. This will make you a more valuable asset to any organization and increase your chances of landing a high-paying job,” advises Dennis Shirshikov, Head of Content at Awning.
While this is true in just about every industry, think about the technology field. Things change by the day, and if you don’t continually educate yourself, you risk getting left behind and never reaching the desired six figures. This might mean getting another degree, taking online courses, attending seminars, or even just staying up-to-date with the news.
Don’t underestimate networking
“Networking is also key when it comes to achieving a six-figure salary,” adds Shirshikov. “Building relationships with people in your industry and making connections with others in your field can open doors to new opportunities and can often lead to being considered for high-paying jobs before they are even advertised.”
Just be careful not to look at networking as a one-way street — a means to get you into a six-figure job — be there for others as well. You never know when someone you helped out in the past might land a seven-figure salary with another company and think of you when a new position opens up.
Other ways to earn six figures
You don’t necessarily have to change your whole career to pull in six figures. In addition to your monthly salary or wages, you can still bring home a six-figure income if you have investments, a side job, or other income stream.
Many Americans avoid investing because they think they must have a pile of money to start or need to hire a financial advisor to be successful. This is not true. Even if you only have a little extra money, you can invest that cash now and let it grow over time. Many people that started out with nothing got where they were by investing any money they could.
“Warren Buffet says: ‘Never depend on a sole source of income. Always invest to build a second.’ He is right,” Stephen Davis, CEO at Total Wealth Academy reminds us. “Building a second stream of income with passive investing is the key to achieving your dream salary and true financial freedom. Real estate investing is the most effective way to do this, although there are of course various options.”
The bottom line is, investing your money wisely is one of the best ways to create new income streams, earn passive income, reach your desired annual income, and ultimately increase your net worth.
Rental properties are one of the best ways to bring in passive income and help you reach your income goals. If your credit isn’t the best, you might also look into home equity investments to come up with the cash.
Earn extra money
Another opportunity to reach your salary goals is to get another job in your spare time. We’re living in the midst of a robust gig economy, and there are a ton of options with flexible hours.
This is also a good time to think about what specific skills you have that could add new income streams to your lifestyle. Many freelance jobs, for example, can be lucrative and done from the comfort of your own home.
If you have a talent in any of the following areas (which is by no means a comprehensive list), you could be earning more money from your couch and getting closer to your six-figure goal.
- Virtual assistant
- Web designer
- Digital marketing consultant
- Business consultant
- Web developer
Don’t forget non-salary benefits
Your goal may be to find a six-figure job, but before you discount a position that offers less than that, be sure to carefully consider the entire compensation package. A company may offer an $80,000 annual salary, but the benefits associated with the position could mean your overall compensation comes to about six figures or even more.
For instance, many high-paying positions come with flexible schedules, health benefits, and retirement benefits that could significantly add to your income. Depending on the business, you may even receive company stock options or a company car as part of your compensation.
Additional benefits that many companies offer include free meals, gym memberships, and tuition reimbursement. All of these benefits can help to boost your total compensation even if your average salary is less than six figures.
What jobs pay seven figures?
A seven-figure salary is anything over $1 million annually. People who make it to the top 1% of salary earners are often business owners, C-level executives, investment bankers, sales executives, and successful (but mostly b-list) actors and athletes.
What jobs pay eight figures?
If you want to make an eight-figure salary, you’ll need to be either extremely good at what you do or very, very lucky. Eight-figure salaries mean you’re making more than $10 million a year.
People in that pay range are often the very top CEOs, world-class athletes, influencers, hedge fund managers, and Hollywood actors, for instance. Some in the top end of these careers might even take home nine figures.
- In terms of salary, “six figures” means your salary is literally expressed in six digits — anywhere from $100,000 to $999,999 a year.
- Common professions that typically earn in the six figures include doctors, dentists, lawyers, airline pilots, software developers, and financial planners.
- While many six-figure jobs require a college degree, those who can earn six figures without a degree include business owners, contractors, real estate agents, and sales representatives.
- You don’t have to quit your day job to make six figures. Instead, add a new income stream to increase your income, such as freelancing, working side jobs, or investing in real estate or the stock market.
View Article Sources
- May 2021 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates — U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- QuickFacts: United States — U.S. Census Bureau
- Highest-Paid CEOs — American Federal of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations
- $100k a Year is How Much an Hour? — SuperMoney
- What is Gross Monthly Income? (and 4 Ways to Calculate It) — SuperMoney
- How Many People Make Over $100k in U.S.? — SuperMoney
- How Much Do Veterinarians Make? — SuperMoney
- How Much Do Dentists Make? Average Salary by State — SuperMoney
- 15 Side Jobs You Can Easily Do From Home — SuperMoney
- How Much Does a Doctor Make By Specialty? — SuperMoney
- Is Finance a Good Career Path in 2023? — SuperMoney
- How To Start Investing with $1,000 or Less! — SuperMoney
- 10 Ways To Budget Like A Pro — SuperMoney