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September 24, 2008


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I have several friends who are sofware developer/engineers. I can't think of a single one that has beyond a 2 years degree. All but one of them makes over 100k. The only reason the one does not is because he hasn't been willing to move. The big key with Software Engineering is to get your foot in the door somewhere and networking. A degree makes this a lot easier, but it seems the ones that have little school seem to end, usually in my experience, the most driven and therefor most succesful.

My mother's a dental hygienist - she does not make that much - I guess it depends where you are located at. From what I'm hearing from my mother's experience they usually make about 25-35,000 a year in the PA/OH/Western NY regions. She says she earns about $15/hour which isn't that great.
However, she turned down an opportunity to double her salary by not moving to Phoenix about 20 years ago. She couldn't move because of family reasons.

I guess it depends where you are living - that's why I moved out of state for my current job (teaching) because of the salary and cost of living.

All of these articles always leave out petroleum engineering (or chemical or mechanical, in the upstream arena).

Granted, these are boom times, but I can personally verify that these salaries are real ($100k+), and that they are entry level jobs. Yes - 4 year bachelor degree.

In fact, from what I've seen recently, the highest paying companies are now giving out signing bonuses in the $50-75 thousand range for PE new hires.

Can't speak for the rest of these, but - Computer Software Engineers - if you make six-figures, you are almost certainly self-employed and provide your own benefits. Whether that's good or not jut depends on your situation, but it's definitely a trade-off to be self-employed and not have any benefits. Of course, these days, when benefits are evaporating right and left, it's probably not the big deal it used to be.

Median pay for dental hygenists is around $60k. Its good pay but nowhere near 6 figures. According to the BLS the top 10% start makes just over $89k annually. So only the very top makes $100k level. Calling hygenists a 'quick' path to 6 figures is a big stretch.

Pink, there are definitely software engineers making over $100k for normal jobs. Top 25% of software engineers in US make over $100k on average. THe average pay for software engineers in San Jose is over $100k. 20% of all software engineers work in the state of California and average pay there is $95k. I'm sure some of these folks are self employed / contractors but certainly not the majority.


Computer software engineers making six figures implying self-employed? Not a chance. Around here, $85 - $95k is out of school pay. Couple of years you should be around $120-130k plus benefits. I'm on $200k, full time employee with full benefits and stock options.

What I've seen again and again though is that people think "oh I learned some Java|PHP|C++|etc." and so should be paid lots. Ermm no. I know many companies that are struggling to hire software people who are specialists in certain areas.. and turning back waves of unqualified mediocre programmers with no special skills. Programming in a set of languages is like being able to read and write. Now what else can you do? Know compiler internals cold? How about operating systems or database internals? Databases are a good example of the problem. People use MySQL|SQL Server|Oracle for a few years and think they are database "specialists". Ermm no.

Now.. late lunch over and back to the grindstone!

The "software engineer" category is so ill-defined as to be nearly meaningless. It basically means "I touch a computer sometimes", and can range from guys who fix office email and networks to people who architect big, complex software systems. The first person may make $50K, while the second can make a couple hundred K or more in the right fields, especially if they have domain expertise.

Also, one's pay and fortunes vary hugely by employer. Glass-house IT types tend to not make so much, but product developers in software companies will make more - and tend to have more education. Personally, as a long time software person, I've always looked for work in companies where I directly work on software products that are sold to customers, and avoided back-office stuff. In the first group, you're crucial to the success of the company. In the second, you're "overhead".

One thing to keep in mind with average pay rates are that they are based on nation wide numbers. The pay rates will vary a lot depending on location. So while the US average might be $83k, the going rate in California might be $100k and Montana it could be $60k.


I agree with Foobarista and would like to add that a two year associates in 'IT' won't get you a 100K job, for those you need a B.S. in Computer Science and 5+ years of experience. Even then the 100K+ jobs are in high cost-of-living areas like NYC, SF, and Seattle where you need to make 120K just to rent a townhouse.

MANY business-to-business salespeople can make 6 figures after about 10 years of building up their territory.

The Dental Hygienists here in rural Illinois bring in 65-75K, but ever notice that most are under 40 years old. Mine told me the bending and standing all day is hard physically so few last more than 5-7 yrs even though the money is good.

I have to second Giff.

A roughneck working in upstream on an off-shore rig, or the wilds of Alaska will make 6 figures after a few years.

The engineers do even better.

Even on the refining side a chemical engineer with 5 years experience will often be making 6 figures.

A refinery operator (often have associates themselves). With a few years of experience and getting lots of overtime can push 80k+ in TEXAS.

actuary is a terrible career I'm sorry

I go to Dental Hygiene school in NJ and by all means I will not be making 6 figures when I graduate! But I sure as heck will not be making $15/hr either.
I make over $20/hr now as a dental assistant with no certifications (just an Xray license). I guess it depends where you're located and how much experience you have too.
So, yes, it is a far stretch for 6 figures but it's something to work towards, and it is possible.
Definitely a great career with many options and good pay.

The quickest route would be to come out to the Middle East. It's not much fun out here but it's good money if you don't mind the occasional mortar shower.

The software engineer salary is not consistent with what is reported in most computer trade magazines. I certainly have not seen many $200K jobs as mentioned by a previous poster, and I have over 20 years experience (M.S. in C.S from Illinois, 20 years software development, 2 years information security).

They probably do exist for some, but they are not all that common. I would be they are mostly in the really high cost of living areas, if they exist.

I couldn't find anything more recent quickly, but this shows that 6 figures is only the upper range of normal and would not seem to be for entry level people:


I am Dental Hygienist practicing in CT. I have seen the pay here vary $28.00 to $45.00 an hour with in a 20 mile radius. I avg 33 hrs a week and at times it is physically and mentally exhausting. I am passionate about my position. I take the good with the bad. Slightly flexible sched.,Good people, good pay, respect, caring for others, filling a need, variety of patients, demographics and local

I don't get P.T.O.,holidays, sick days, 401k these things are available depending on the size of the office and hours worked. Office politics may also play a role.

Six figures is even a stretch for NYC or Fairfield,CT

Depends on the Dental office and the structure. One of my best friends became a dental hygienist in Boston and she started at 41 dollars an hour but it was not full time and no benefits but there was a dental hygienist temp agency she signed up for so she ended up working well over 40 hours but the temp positions were 31 an hour. She lived in Boston's back and drove a bmw and was very comfortable. I am sure she was making close to 80k her first year. But she is aggressive and very outgoing and pretty. They would call her at 7 am and place her for the day and she was willing to go anywhere in Boston metro and even southern NH. I guess it all depends on your work drive. I know waiters at very nice restaurants that make 100k, one in Boston named radius I use to host at and all the servers where there for years- it was their career and they made CASH. Another offbeat job that can easily make 100k is dog walking. I owned a small dog walking business in Hoboken NJ and made 70k my first year. 15 dollar a dog for a walk and you can walk up to five an hour 75 dollars an hour to walk dogs. Plus I sold playgroups where I would get the dogs together and bring them to the dog park for off leashe play and that was 25 dollars so I would be sitting in a dog park making 100 an hour. When I got enough clients to get employees they would only make 50% off their route so I made my own money plus theirs. It was funny some of my clients were snobs or would text or e mail in all caps and were generally rude, not all but some and I would think to myself you work corporate jobs in NYC working 70 hour weeks and I start at 10 am and end at 5 pm and make as much as you. It all depends on how creative, personable and hard working you are. Of course the down side to a dental hygienist, server, or dog walker is the manual labor aspect.

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