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January 09, 2008


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I have done a lot of finacial work for docs. and dentist in the past, and if a general dentist has good business sense, and many do, they can easily pull in 350K. Especially the ones that refuse to accept insurance.......

Wow, you hit the nail on the head. The key factor is the ability to perform a certain job and the supply of those willing to perform it for the given rate.

Great article. Now, to give this list to my kids so they can choose their profession . . .

There isn't much in the list that I'd want to do, but the pay certainly would be nice.

I had no idea longshoremen and skycaps made so much. I am skeptical of the skycap figures though, that seems too high for a job basically anyone could do.

If you want to be a speaker the best thing you could do at this point would be to write a book in your area of expertise . . . and if you pick personal finance, hopefully something that has a different slant than the 100s of other personal finance books. Maybe a book on the interesection of religion, ethics, faith, and finance.

I work with a number of publishers and most of the authors we work with are writing books mainly as a boost to their speaking engagement careers.

If you think about #1 it actually may help indicate why most managers don't beat the market (of course the fees they take contribute greatly). But $500,000 - $1 million is actually very low for a senior level position in that industry - e.g. finance/investments. Think about it, typical associates just a couple years out of business school make more than $500,000 per year if they go to a hedge fund or investment bank. So why would the best talent go into mutual fund management? They don't.

I don't really think any of those people are overpaid except for the CEOs of poorly performing companies. The rest are getting what the market deems appropriate for the most part.

Airline pilots? Yes the computer flies the plane 95% of the time, but the other 5% includes such minor details as taking off and landing. It might be a while before a computer can handle the course corrections and judgements on a landing flawlessly. I think the pay is as much a reflection of responsibility as skill - someone who chooses to take responsibility for delivering 400 people across the ocean safely and take every detail seriously should get more than the average salary even if they spend 7 hours chatting with the copilot.

For some of the others it's just the risk of the game - when you choose a CEO or pro athlete there's some level of risk, but you have to pay to play if you want the best people. If they don't work out you just have to move on and find the next one to try.

I can agree with mutual fund managers though :)

I'm shocked that all the college graduates making 100k plus for the NY Wall Street didn't make the list... :)

I'd love to go shuffle paper for $136k a year. Think I'll be calling the Pacific Maritime Assn. to see if they need any help with that. :-)

Great article!

I wish unions and union-members would just look at their bloated payrolls every time they complain about jobs being moved offshore. Supply and Demand should set market rates - and if they did I'm sure there'd be a *lot* of people who'd do the jobs of longshoremen for 1/4 to 1/2 the salaries listed above. Wow...

Brion, I've seen other blogs mentioning that the decline of a lot of unions is probably due to overseas competition reducing profit margins, which means there's less money to fight over and smaller rewards for controlling the agreements. There's some areas that are harder to compete with but I don't doubt that competition will continue to put pressure on overinflated salaries.

Personally, I'm all for any arrangement where people can get what they want by putting in the effort and not by overpowering the other side or government intervention...

Regarding "Silicon Prairie"'s comment about the airlines, perhaps it's true that a pilot is responsible for delivering 400 people safely. But what about a bus driver? The average bus driver in a large city probably transports at least that number of people in a day, all for a mere $12/hr (at least that's why my local city pays). And I doubt that flying a plane is really that much mroe dangerous than driving a bus. With either job, if you mess up, everyone under your transport could be killed.

You say the remaining 5% of the job includes landing and takeoffs. Is it really worth $200K a year for 30 minutes of real work in a day, and the remainign portion is automated?

I think a much fairer wage would be $100K/year for a pilot.

Pretty much anyone with a drivers license (i.e. 95% of those over 16) can theoretically hop onto any city bus and drive it from point A to point B. It has a steering wheel, gas, brake, and a few other simple buttons and knobs that we all know about.

Can the same population just jump into a 757 and get to point A to point B? Don't think so.

Even with computers, piloting an airplane requires lots of skill.
Saying that "a computer does all the flying, so pilots should get paid lower" is ludicrous!

I don't think getting paid 70-100k/year for standing outside 8 hours a day in all kinds of weather, dealing with people who don't like to wait in line while repeatedly lifting 30-70 lbs is being overpaid.

In fact, they should probably get more, since it sounds like they're earning around $15/hour and have to rely on tips to make the job worthwhile. And I have no idea if they get benefits.

Add pharmacists to this list. Yeah, I know I'll probably get a lot of flack from this comment but I feel it's true. Twenty-five year old PharmD's, fresh out of school, are making up to $60/hour plus TRIPLE time for working major holidays (such as Christmas). I have a coworker who's son graduated as a pharmacist in June, 2007 and began working for CVS at $55/hour!!! Not to mention his son received a $30,000 sign-on incentive!!! It's ridiculous how much money they make (at least for retail pharmacists).

I'm a bit jealous, because my coworker's son was only in school for five calendar years to earn his PharmD (he's a bit of an overacheiver)- but still- my jealously aside it is a ridiculous amount of money for a profession that can easily be automated.

Oh, I forgot to mention that CVS retail pharmacists that work the overnight shift can earn 20% more!!

Maybe I'll go back to school to earn a PharmD and ride the gravy train.

I'll admit that when I'm flying, I'm nervous enough without wondering if the airline is skimping on the pilot's pay. Sure, 99% of the time, the pilot isn't doing much, but that 1% of the time is why they make the big bux.

To AK:

The reason pharmacists make what they do is because there is a LACK OF SUPPLY. If tons of students were going into pharmacy the pay would obviously drop. I went to a school that had a big pharmacy program (Rutgers). What you typically saw was the people who went into pharmacy were people who wanted to go into medicine but not put in the work or want to deal with the competition of going to med school or dental school (which was typically the next choice for people who couldn't get into med school). Also. people think that pharmacists just dispense medicine but that is extremely naive and an uneducated assertion. I know a number of pharmacists (my family and friend circle is full of them) and they really have to know and understand every single drug and all its interactions with other medicines, etc. Pharmacists are correcting erroneous prescriptions written by doctors all the time. The fact that the person who is responsibile for giving you the right medicine and making sure it is safe for you given your profile and other medicines you take is making a fairly typical middle to upper-middle class salary shouldn't upset anyone. $60/hour works out to $120,000 per year - big whoops. Not exactly raking in the dough.

I am suprised that physicians were not on the list. Despite erroding compensation, rising overhead, and increased paperwork, this field is littered with dead-weights who refer you to specialists. Most docs still pull in over 200k, and I think their salaries should be like schoolteachers and postal workers. Most of them are subsidized by the government and contribute siginificantly to rising health care costs( in addtion to big pharma and hospitals). We should have a national health service and make these folks salaried employees. There are plenty of Phds who have studied equally as hard and fail to make anywhere the income. I trust policemen and firemen with my lives. I know that doctors serve an important role in society equal to those civil servants and should be compensated comparably.

"Office clerks who log shipping records into computers will earn $136,000."

What the . . . . ? I must be in the wrong position! Thanks for bringing this article to my attention.

beastlike - I don't think the college grads pulling in over $100K/year on Wall Street are overpaid due to all the hours they work. It ends up being around $10/hour.

the real estate one absolutely kills me. Talk about a low barrier to entry for those positions. A couple week class and they're selling houses and getting stupid rich on putting people into loans they can't afford. A few years ago they and mortgage brokers were raking in insane amounts of cash for minimal effort and hustling that could be likened to used car salesman. I think their days are just about done with the amount of homes for sale and the increased ability of people to have what was once proprietary information. I am definitely not going to pay someone 3% of the cost of my home to show me any number of homes that I can find on my own. When I buy it will be a flat rate or through another service. Selling is another matter altogether and in this market they're starting to actually work for their money. Additionally the real estate industry also has powerful lobbying and marketing that allows disinformation to be spread. David Lereah is a prime example of that when he served as the chief economics person for the National Association of Realtors putting out completely false predictions and information for years.

many of the others are based on high education costs in time and money(college and pilot training costs big bucks), connections(those union jobs aren't exactly posted on careerbuilder), old style bad business ideas that live on, and the rest are based on being the top .01% of their very specialized field.

BTW the photographer one seems very high for weddings. Also another low barrier to entry position which requires minimal specialized equipment and highly questionable "training" or "expertise."

Yeah, I knew I'd get dinged on the pharmacist comment I made.

"I know a number of pharmacists . . . and they really have to know and understand every single drug and all its interactions with other medicines, etc. Pharmacists are correcting erroneous prescriptions written by doctors all the time . . . [and] giving you the right medicine and making sure it is safe for you given your profile."

Pharmacists provide a valuable service, please don't get me wrong. I just think the compensation far, far outweighs the job. But, as the above commenter suggested, it is all about supply and demand. Supply for retail pharmacists is very high and demand is very low.

Ooops. Didn't proof.

Should read "Demand for retail pharmacists is very high and supply is very low."

Apologies to FMF and readers.

Pharmacists think too much of themselves. Some of them are so arrogant that they think they are smarter and better educated than doctors. People who are intelligent and competent usually don't speak of themselves in that manner. They usually just go about their business and leave others to their own - rather than run down doctors to their patients, friends and family. Most of what they know they just memorized! Doctors actually have to "problem solve" rather than recall what they've memorized or have in their manuals with regard to contradictions and doses. There are many other professions where mistakes are deadly. What about your mechanic? The guy who connected the gas line to your house? People operating cranes, mining equipment or working on pipelines? What about air traffic controllers? If you think about it, there are many people we rely on for our safety to make no mistakes. I think that the big difference is that pharmacists have memorized much more information than other people.

Pharmacists do much more than memorize information...the have a working knowledge of drug-drug/disease interactions and how they school isn't just 4 years of learning drug names and when not to use them, there are several years of pharmacology and pharmacotherapy which explains the "why" behind everything...pharmacist also "problem solve" and make recommendations for suitable alternatives to otherwise deadly prescriptions

Pharmacists make a lot of money because

1. They compete fiercely for their title in a grueling program that is filled with countless other hopefulls who will not make the cut.

2. They are fully liable for any and all medication errors in a pharmacy. A typical pharmacy can do 200-300 Rx's a day. The amount of errors that they catch on a daily basis (which, by their very nature, machines would undoubtedly miss) is scary.

3. They have a wealth of clinical knowledge and clinical problem solving experience (which is often utilized, including off label indications/newly discovered interactions based on clinical trials that haven't been worked into a computer-safety system, new laws, etc).

4. Anyone who thinks a pharmacy can be "easily automated" has never managed one and really has about as much say in the matter as your average mentally impaired parrot that can somehow manage to verbalize a sentence.

Everyone here is wrong in arguing on who "should" or "should not" be paid. Everything is supply and demand.
The pharmacists and doctors limited the supply of their applicants while engineering and law schools were opening up wildly for the past 40 years due to the Cold War and the tech boom, increasing supply and therefore reducing value. I am one of those, and today I tell young people not to take up the profession.

One only needs to look at France, where plenty of doctors are trained and where the supply is large. They make 1.9x the average salary. Hard to compare with 5.5x for the US and 3.9x for Canada.

Pharmacists and the like have beaten us down with their "value" and have kept their supply short. Turning down candidates and the like are just a way of promoting their own value. Wouldn't the world be better if we had way more pharmacists? They could take more time off! Oh but wait: Pharmacists are business people first who want to be compensated.

Unfortunately, if anyone else wants to be fairly compensated, they will have to make drastic changes in their lives.

Yes, there some "good" pharmacists out there but most are idiots. Perhaps back in the day when information wasn't as readily available, pharmacists were the only easily accessible source. Now a days we can find drug information in less than 5 seconds.

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