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What Jobs Pay the Most?

By Dave Marine

I'm going to start this article about What Jobs Pay the Most in 1966. There’s a famous sketch from The Frost Report in that year starring John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett which satirises the class system in the UK. Three blokes are standing next to each other. The guy on the far left is tall, the one in middle is, well, medium height and the guy on the right is short.

Very tall bloke (Cleese): I look down on him because I am Upper Class.

Medium bloke (Barker): I look up to him because he is Upper Class. But I look down on him because he is Lower Class.

Short bloke (Corbett): I know my place.

Maybe you’ve already clicked on the link above and heard the rest of it but the two bits that particularly resounded with me are when first, Cleese says:

“I have got innate breeding, but I have not got any money”.

And then later, Corbett says:

“I know my place. But while I am poor, I am industrious, honest and trustworthy. Had I the inclination, I could look down on them”.

And it seems to me that this, in a nutshell, is the essence of the meritocratic society that we seem to live in. I might be poor but with hard work and effort, there’s no reason for me to stay that way. Equally, I might be as posh as the Queen but it still doesn’t guarantee me a healthy and regular income.

So this got me to thinking, whether I’m rich or poor or even halfway between, if I was to aspire to a career that paid me well and that I could realistically achieve, what would it be. Here are some of your options:

1) Lawyer / Barrister

Entry level qualifications

LLB Hons Law degree, Legal Practitioners Course (LPC), Bar Finals or CPE conversion course if you’ve already got a degree

Annual salary

Starting £35,000, Experienced Lawyer: £60,000, Partner in a law firm: £100,000, Experienced Barrister: £225,000 - £750,000, Judge or QC: up to £1.5m.

Description

As a lawyer or a barrister you represent people. Your client has a problem with someone or someone has a problem with your client and it’s your responsibility to make sure that in the case of Plaintiff vs. Defendant, your man wins out. To do this, you need to know your law. And if you don’t, you need to be willing (at all times of the day) to read up on the law so that you DO know it. Court appearances, a flair for (and immunity to the tedium of) legal documentation are a must. And regardless of the crime or the pressure you're under, you must be able to both analyse and argue your way through various situations and (sometimes) moral conundrums.

How easy is it to get in to?

It’s not hugely easy unless you like studying. If you're going to university you’ll need to do a 3 year LLB Hons course and pass it (ideally with a minimum 2:1 degree) if you want to get on to either the LPC or into Bar School. Both last one year. If you pass your LPC you’ll then need to interview with various law firms before getting a starting position where you’ll serve your “articles” i.e. apprenticeship. Assuming you pass that, you’ll then be a fully-fledged lawyer.

Similarly, if you want to be a barrister, you’ll go through the one year of Bar School after which you’ll need to get a “pupillage” (apprenticeship) at a set of barrister’s chambers. If you do well and pass, you might be offered a “tenancy” or an invitation to join the chambers.

Finally, if you’ve already got a degree in something, you can do a 1 year conversion course which potentially turns you into an entry-level law graduate. You’ll still need to do an LPC or attend Bar School to move on from there though.

How can I use my existing skills to get into it?

Basically, you can’t. An LPC or Bar Finals qualification is necessary for this career option but that doesn’t mean that everything you’ve done to date is wasted. If you're good at presentations, can hold your own in argument and can knuckle down when it comes to doing research, you’re many steps ahead of most of the oily teenagers who decide to read for a degree in Law.

 

2) Doctor

Entry level qualifications

3 ‘A’ levels including Chemistry & Biology, 5 years at Medical School followed by a minimum 2 years postgraduate study. If you’ve already got a degree you can bypass the ‘A’ level stage.

Annual salary

General Practitioners (GP’s) and Hospital Consultants can earn up to £250,000 a year in the UK.

Description

I don’t know about you but I've been watching a lot of House lately. It’s part medicine and part Sherlock Holmes and I've been sitting there, thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to do that? Well, it ain’t. Most of the time doctors have to do the worst shit: stick a hand up someone’s bum to test for prostate cancer, listen to the incessant ramblings of hypochondriacs who think they have lung cancer or worse still, tell people the bad news when they do actually have lung cancer. No, being a doctor ain’t pretty. To some extent, you HAVE to be a people person, someone who cares and is passionate about human life. On top of that, you have to be able to deal with the inane bureaucracy that surrounds any kind of care-giving. You’ll need a steady supply of biros.

How easy is it to get in to?

Just like becoming a lawyer, it’s not easy. If anything, it’s harder. More years of study and lots of practical training as you’d expect given that every move you make potentially saves a life. Be prepared for books and practical lessons galore.

How can I use my existing skills to get into it?

Again, and unfortunately, you can’t. Sure, you might have learnt First Aid at school or even in your time with the Territorial Army or as the Fire Safety Monitor at your last job but becoming a doctor or, for that matter, a dentist, requires years of rigorous exams and practical experience. On the other hand, the whole world is short of doctors. It really is. And I can’t think of a single profession that’s more worthwhile than this one.

 

3) Company Director

Entry level qualifications

None. No, really, none. Richard Branson left school at 16 remember.

Annual salary

The sky's the limit. Roman Abramovich is a company director (actually he's a director of many companies) and he's worth over £8 billion.

Description

So, you've been toiling away in your current job for almost 3 years now and whilst you've had an annual pay rise and been given a newer laptop, nothing much seems to have moved on. Stick with it. If you stay long enough or have enough good ideas that you can wangle your way into bringing into fruition, you too will be a director of the company one day. Sure, as a Director you'll be working harder than you've ever done in your whole life but then you'll have minions ministering to your every whim, a Blackberry to keep you in the loop at all times and empires (of your own) to build as well as topple (not of your own).

How easy is it to get in to?

Easy? It can be a piece of piss. Stay with the firm long enough and one day, sometime in your 50's or 60's you'll achieve a Directorship. Alternatively, learn to do something extremely well and create and maintain a loyal but feckless group of allies and you've likely got it made anytime from your mid-30's onwards.

How can I use my existing skills to get into it?

You can use them all in one way or another. You can sell? Great! Explain to your colleagues and managers why they should follow your line of thinking. Good at marketing? Wonderful! Regularly turn ad campaigns into winners and you can't help but be noticed by the big bosses. It's the same with Design, Finance, Operations, Logistics, Research, Commercial, Online, Content and Customer Services for these are all departments of which you could be the head honcho. And remember, if all else fails, stay with the same company until everyone else moves on or dies. You'll then become a Director by default.

 

4) Politician

Entry level qualifications

The lovely thing about democracy (assuming you live in one) is that anyone, anyone, in theory can become a representative of the people regardless of sex, colour, education or qualification.

Annual salary

In the UK, backbench MP's (i.e. not ministers or members of the Shadow Cabinet) earn around £56,000 a year plus various allowances for travel, staff and office costs. If you make it to the full Cabinet you could be earning around £100,000 and become Prime Minister and your salary will be around £163,000 per annum.

Description

As a member of Parliament you'll mainly be doing 3 things: representing your constituents (the people who live in your local area), voting on whether to endorse or deny new pieces of legislation and helping decide on new policy. Basically, you'll potentially be helping to make the laws of the land. Start cultivating that evil laugh which tells everyone that you have POWER!

How easy is it to get in to?

Again, the whole idea of democracy is that in theory, everyone can become an MP unless you're a registered bankrupt, a vicar, a Crown employee (e.g. a civil servant) or you've been found guilty of certain electoral offences or are currently serving a sentence of a year or more in prison. Aside from that, anyone with £500 to put down as a deposit for standing in an election can run for Parliament. Note: you lose the deposit if you don't win.

How can I use my existing skills to get into it?

This is the great bit about becoming a politician. Almost everything you've learnt to date can be re-used in this job. And that's because being an MP is a job of many talents. If you're good at numbers you might one day be Chancellor of the Exchequer, if you're good at research it'll help when you're grinding your way through stacks of bills and other documents. And even if the only skill you possess is to make a shit-hot curry, well, that might come in handy when you're entertaining policy wonks and apparatchiks. If you think I'm kidding bear in mind that Alan Milburn, who became Health Secretary in 2001 and was in charge of the biggest employer in Europe – the National Health Service (NHS), had only ever run a badge shop in Newcastle-upon-Tyne before becoming a politician.

 

5) I.T. Project Manager

Entry level qualifications

You don't need to be qualified in the sense that you took a specific course at college or university but it helps to have an interest in computers and a smooth way in bossing people around and getting things done.

Annual salary

Under I.T. Project Manager I'm also including the roles of Website Developer, Applications Developer and Software Programmer. If you specialise in a specific set of skills you can earn up to £100,000 in each of these roles.

Description

When I was growing up in the 80's my dad, who didn't even finish High School, was canny enough to say to me “son, whatever you do, get into computers”. I ignored him of course but how I wish I hadn't. Computers are all-prevalent and control many, many different facets of our daily lives.

In any of the roles mentioned above, you might be creating new computer-related products from websites and bits of downloadable software (such as the browser you're using to read this) to intelligent tags which tell you that the milk in your fridge is about to run out. Hell, there are guys working in IT who have helped to explore the seismic depths of our planet, built robots and even map the surface of Mars. Computers rock! And if you can work with them, do it!

How easy is it to get in to?

It's not easy but it's not ridiculously difficult either. As long as you have the wit, the time and the energy to learn a couple of programming languages (e.g. HTML, Java, C++ etc.) then you can start using these skills to write “code” which tells computers what to do.

If you don't fancy learning any languages, you can become an IT Project Manager by co-ordinating and running IT projects at your existing company. The more projects you can see through to their completion, the better-looking your CV will be. Augment your practical experience with specialist courses like “Prince 2”.

How can I use my existing skills to get into it?

For IT development work you WILL have to learn some computing languages and there's no way round that. For project management work, any managerial experience will come in handy. Diplomacy, an attention to detail and a drive to get stuff done on time and on budget will also be extremely useful.

 

6. Accountant

Entry level qualifications

Strictly speaking, no degree is necessary although it is preferable. A minimum of 2 ‘A' levels and 3 GCSE's plus good grades in English and Maths is essential however.

Annual salary

Starting salaries if you join the Graduate Recruitment Program for one of the big firms (e.g. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, KPMG etc.) is around the 30k mark. Qualified and experienced accountants with certain specialities (like Tax) can earn anything up to £150,000 a year.

Description

Book-keeping, drawing up company accounts, auditing, mergers, takeovers, acquisitions and planning budgets. This is all bread and buter to yuour regular accountant. Plus the ability to calculate tax so that your client pays as little as possible (generally). There'll be lots of meeting people but even more head down at your desk stuff poring over facts, figures and spreadsheets ad nauseum.

How easy is it to get in to?

Not too tough although, like with most of the other jobs in this list, there is the requisite period of training and on-the-job practical work to go through. If you're already in another career, you can take the ACCA course (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) to get you into the industry.

How can I use my existing skills to get into it?

A head for numbers, research and being able to use Excel are all good signs if you're thinking about becoming an accountant. People skills and the ability to explain complex issues in plain language are also extremely valuable.