10 highest-paying industries for management executives

Published 2:50 pm Thursday, July 14, 2022


10 highest-paying industries for management executives

As the American workforce emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers are reevaluating their careers. Between Jan. 2021 and Feb. 2022, almost 57 million employees resigned from their job. In that same 14-month period, 89 million workers were hired, meaning that the majority of quitters didn’t decide to take time off, but switched to another job. And with the cost of living showing no signs of declining, many people are looking for ways to not only increase their earning potential, but also advance in their career paths and find job satisfaction.

For many, climbing the ladder in their industry can lead to management positions, which tend to be financially rewarding and often help to further develop leadership skills. These roles vary across industries—each with unique responsibilities—and those who have a business degree often take career paths that end up in a managerial role.

In the U.S., management executives can include roles such as overseeing budget analysis for the federal government, managing a chemical plant that produces fertilizers, leading an architecture consulting firm, auditing operations at a wastewater treatment facility, and more.

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People in leadership roles tend to be college-educated who have built their careers over years or even decades of experience in their industry. When promoting from within or hiring a manager externally, companies generally look for people who are well-rounded and have not only demonstrated deep experience working in a particular field, but also bring qualities including solid communication skills, project management experience, teambuilding leadership, and good character.

Santa Clara University looked at industries where management executives earn the most using Occupational Employment and Wage data from the BLS.

An air traffic controller managing flight arrivals and departures

Gorodenkoff // Shutterstock

#10. Federal, state, and local government

– Annual median wage: $99,690
– 2021 employment: 190,650 people

Some high-paying federal jobs include being an air traffic controller, who monitors aircrafts in flight. Budget analysts, compliance officers, and physicians also fall into this group.

In addition to opportunities to build a career in civil service and help serve communities, a government job has several other advantages. The health insurance and pension plans are usually top-notch compared to other industries. Salaries are competitive, with federal jobs tending to be the most lucrative within the government sector. 

A wholesale trade manager evaluating inventory in a warehouse

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#9. Wholesale trade

– Annual median wage: $102,110
– 2021 employment: 255,020

Wholesale trade managers supervise the daily operations of their company’s division that sells goods in bulk to retailers, manufacturers, or other businesses.

People in this role have a wide range of responsibilities, such as establishing new business partnerships, maintaining existing client relationships, negotiating contracts with vendors, and keeping track of inventory levels.

Salaries in this role vary as wholesale managers may also earn bonuses. The wholesale manager role appears to be promising as this position is expected to grow within the next decade.

School administrators meet to discuss policy

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#8. Educational services

– Annual median wage: $102,130
– 2021 employment: 74,890

People employed in leadership roles in educational services develop and implement school teaching programs. They provide leadership to school principals and head educational research geared toward new approaches in the education system. Administrative knowledge is also beneficial for this role. Qualifications needed for this role include obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher.

A manufacturing manager meets with his team


#7. Manufacturing

– Annual median wage: $121,190
– 2021 employment: 256,150

Manufacturing managers oversee the operations of a facility that produces products and goods. This entails planning and accounting for all the steps involved in the production process.

The director of manufacturing operations (one of the highest-paying manufacturing positions) schedules production and works with designs and quality assurance to verify a product is built to meet operations standards. A chemical plant manager—another high-earning role—oversees the plants that specifically produce and distribute compounds and substances that are used in everything from metals to fertilizers.

Mining managers overseeing operations

Mark Agnor // Shutterstock

#6. Mining

– Annual median wage: $122,420
– 2021 employment: 18,750

Despite supply chain issues and health disruptions due to the pandemic, the mining industry is still going strong. Mining managers oversee miners who transport rocks, ore, and coal. Executives in this industry may also ensure the safety of the miners. They may outline project plans or keep up with staffing needs.

Some of the top-paying leadership positions in the mining industry include project directors and drilling operations directors, who develop oil and gas fields and oversee the drilling production. People in this role can make as much as $400,000 annually. Project site managers can also earn high salaries.

Data analysts working in an office

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#5. Information

– Annual median wage: $127,750
– 2021 employment: 97,360

Information managers help companies incorporate technology into their daily tasks and operations. People in this role monitor the flow of information (electronic or procedural) and usually work in an office setting.

Those employed in this field may work as database developers or data analysts and generally have a bachelor’s degree, though many in leadership positions have a graduate degree.

A couple meeting with a financial advisor


#4. Finance and insurance

– Annual median wage: $129,560
– 2021 employment: 193,040

This sector of the economy comprises a variety of financial firms such as banks, lenders, and insurance companies. Companies that fall under the finance and insurance group manage financial products and funds for consumers. For example, a financial advisor would manage a client’s financial portfolio of assets, doing so without directly offering investments or products. People employed in this area coordinate how funds are saved through securities and may advise clients on how to allocate investments. The financial sector is integral to the nation’s economy.

To become a financial advisor, a bachelor’s degree is required. Some people choose to obtain their master’s or get a professional certificate as this may be beneficial for advancement.

IT managers working on a laptop

SFIO CRACHO // Shutterstock

#3. Professional, scientific, and technical services

– Annual median wage: $129,600
– 2021 employment: 394,130

The professional, scientific, and technical services sector offers businesses, households, and other establishments myriad services that encompass a large range of expertise across many industries. For example, under professional services, the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes legal services, accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and advertising. Scientific and technical roles include architects, engineers, veterinarians, and scientific researchers.

The majority of employees in these roles can be found working in private industry, followed by the federal government. Due to the highly technical and scientific nature of these roles, many employers require a graduate degree or higher. Specialty professional certifications may also be required, such as a doctorate of veterinary medicine.

A manager at a water treatment facility

kittirat roekburi // Shutterstock

#2. Utilities

– Annual median wage: $130,500
– 2021 employment: 15,170

A utilities manager oversees facilities that provide critical services to homes and businesses, such as water, electricity, telecommunications, and sewage treatment in a town or region. The job duties may entail supervising and managing maintenance of systems responsible to keep operations running, ensuring that quality control checks are in place for equipment, and making sure the infrastructure meets the proper standards.

It may be useful to have a bachelor’s degree in public administration or urban planning. Depending on the employer, additional qualifications may be required.


A marketing manager and his team meeting together


#1. Management of companies and enterprises

– Annual median wage: $160,760
– 2021 employment: 118,160

The role of a manager for companies and enterprises is to lead the company’s operations. Some of these positions may entail being a marketing manager, whose responsibilities might include planning marketing campaigns to increase a company’s sales, or a fundraising manager, who helps solicit funds for a nonprofit organization or special campaigns. 

Within this employment sector, general and operations managers are among the most common positions, while architectural and engineering managers see some of the highest wages.

This story originally appeared on Santa Clarita University and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.