The Six Figure Salary: How You Can Get It And Why You Don’t Need It

A six-figure annual salary has long been the “I’ve made it” status symbol for anyone in the workforce. Something special happens to our psyche between a $99,999.99 salary and even 100k. We feel better, stand taller, and are more satisfied with our jobs overall. 

There is nothing wrong with being proud of a six-figure yearly income, as it’s certainly an accomplishment. However, it’s not everything. For one, you don’t need one to become wealthy, and if just because you have one doesn’t make you rich. 

What Is a 6-Figure Salary?

A six figure salary is exactly what it sounds like. Your salary has at least six digits. At a minimum, that’s $8,333 per month or $48.08 hourly, but this can be a large range. Technically speaking, it is anything from exactly 100k all the way up to 999,999 a year.

Obviously, there is a large range of lifestyles within that range. When thinking about a 6 figure salary, most of us think about the lower end as it is much more obtainable.

Related: Who Is the Richest Family in the World?

How To Get a 6 Figure Salary

Now that we know what a six-figure salary is, what most people want to know is how to get one. There are many different routes one could take on their way to making 100k or more. Here are some of the most common.

Being Educated

It’s no secret that even though fewer and fewer people think college is worth the price, you’ll be compensated with a higher salary if you have a college degree. Having more education on your resume will allow you to get your foot in the door at more companies and earn a higher starting salary.

Not only will this give you more opportunities, but with a higher starting salary, each subsequent raise will widen the gap between you and those without a degree. 

Not only does a bachelor’s degree give you a leg up, but continuing your education will increase your chances of achieving a six figure salary.

Acquiring an MBA, Doctoral, Master’s degree, or other higher degrees will help your chances of earning six figures.  The bottom line is the most common way to a higher wage is higher education.

Hard Work

Look, not everyone has the same opportunities in life. Just because education gives you an advantage doesn’t mean you can’t earn $100,000 without one. More often than not, once you are past your first job, the degree, GPA, and basically your whole four years at college go out the window.

Companies will value hard workers without a degree over lazy ones with a degree any day. By being good at what you do and being able to prove your worth every day, you’ll certainly be on track to earn that six-figure salary. You may have started behind others, but you can certainly come out ahead.

Own Your Own Business

Probably one of the more challenging and definitely scarier ways to earn six figures is by owning your own business. Running a business takes a lot of time and effort, and even with that, there is no guarantee of success.

If you are able to run a successful and profitable business, you’ll still have your work cut out for you in order to earn a six-figure salary. However, being your own boss is sometimes worth the difference in pay, and on the plus side, it’s very possible to out-earn the 9-5er’s. 

Trade Work

Trade workers will always be in high demand. Electricians, plumbers, HVAC workers have specialized skills most of us don’t. When something happens in our home, we call them. Because their skills are so technical and specialized, there is an opportunity for trade workers to make excellent salaries as well.

Like any other job, there is no guarantee you’ll reach a six-figure salary, but it’s certainly a possible route. Many will start out as workers and then eventually open their own businesses to achieve this status.

All Kinds of Professions

The point of the above is that there are many ways to start earning a six figure salary. Most of us immediately think of doctors and lawyers and believe that in order to get a high-paying job, you must attend medical school or law school.

In fact, there are plenty of other professions and occupations that are high paying jobs and commonly earn over 100k. Many only require a high school diploma or an Associate’s Degree. Here are just a few:

  • Actuary
  • Dentists
  • Architects
  • Registered Nurse
  • Physician Assistant
  • Anesthesiologist
  • Accountants
  • Commercial Airline Pilots
  • Air Traffic Controllers
  • Detectives
  • Writers
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Human Resources Manager
  • Pharmacist
  • Petroleum Engineers
  • Software Engineers
  • Therapists
  • I’m not even going to get into all the online stuff(twitch, youtube, sales)
  • Tons of others 

Income and Wealth Are Not the Same

Having a high salary and six figure income is great, but it doesn’t automatically equate to being wealthy and happy. If you aren’t using your wages wisely, you won’t see a rise in your net worth and wealth. There could be several factors at play here:

Keeping Up With the Joneses Mindset

One of the most significant determinants to anyone’s salary, happiness, and overall well-being can be the “Keeping Up With the Joneses” mindset. The need to do what you think we show status or wealth to others will do just the opposite.

You might not be consciously doing it either. Being content to live with what is reasonable and what brings value to your life can be challenging to do, but it’s liberating to say the least. Big houses, fancy cars, and expensive vacations don’t build wealth, they destroy it.


Usually going hand in hand with the KUWTJ mindset is our arch-nemesis, debt. Pouring money into liabilities instead of assets will crush even those making six figures. Interest eats away at your earnings and will leave you with less to do what you want.

Which then typically leads to taking out more debt, and the cycle repeats itself. By ridding yourself of debt, you can begin to invest and really start to build your wealth. 

Where You Live

Where you live can have a significant impact on how far that six figure salary goes. Typically places that have a high cost of living will have higher salaries to go with it.

That means a 100k wage in NYC might be the equivalent of a 60k salary in, say, Iowa. Basics like food, other groceries, rent, and the cost of transportation can all contribute to making one area cost more or less than others.

For example, the average two-bedroom apartment to rent can vary greatly depending on the area:

  • Chicago, Illinois – $2,243
  • Portland, Oregon – $1,761
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – $2,241
  • Baltimore, Maryland – $1,812
  • Los Angeles, California – $3,091
  • Denver, Colorado – $1,867
  • Seattle, Washington – $2,950
  • New York City – $3,092
  • Washington DC – $2,672

The difference between the high-end Metro-Area and low end more rural area here is about $1300 a month, or almost 16k a year! That will drastically change how far your 100k goes.

How Many Hours You Work

Not all six figure salaries are created equal. Some require you to work a typical 40-hour work week, while others might require much more. Owning your own business might be right for you, but you’re also more likely to put in long hours, upwards of 60 hours a week.

When striving for that six figure salary, keep in mind what you are giving up for it. Could you have spent time with friends or loved ones instead? Don’t forget about your health, too, many times when working long hours, sleep and exercise go by the wayside, which can end up costing you much more than you could ever earn.

Does the Job Make You Happy?

In the end, you’ll have to be the one to decide if making a six figure salary at your job is worth it. Would you rather be at a job you enjoy for less or one you hate for more? At the very least, you should be able to do your job without hating it.

The mental strain alone is not worth all the money in the world if you ask me.

Related: Your Best Guide on How To Become a Millionaire, Are You up to the Challenge?

Do You Need 6 Figures To Build Wealth?

The simple answer here is hell no. Remember before when I said earning six figures doesn’t automatically mean you become wealthy? Well, the same goes for the opposite. Following the tried and true method for your finances and building wealth will get you there no matter what your job title and earnings are:

Pay off Debt – As mentioned above, debt is a wealth killer. By paying off any debt you have, you’ll be jumpstarting your journey to wealth, no matter what your salary.

Budget –  Making a budget is vital when building your wealth. If you don’t have a plan for your money, more than likely, you’ll end up using it in the wrong places. Having a vision and goals of what you want to achieve will help guide you, and a budget is a big part of that.

Live Within Your Means –  Living within your means simply means spending less than you make. If you aren’t overspending, you’ll have less debt and more money to spend on what you love, which brings value to your life.

Invest – Investing is simply the best way to build wealth, and the sooner you start, the better. There is no wrong time to be investing, and using low-cost index funds can have considerable benefits to you. Of course, it won’t happen overnight, but 10,20, and 30 years down the line, you’ll be happy you did. 

Boost Income – Ok, you might not need the six-figure salary, but if you follow the guidelines above, any boost in income will only accelerate you toward your goals. Take any raises\bonuses or other income boosts and invest more or pay off more debt, and you’ll be well on your way to financial freedom.


Being well paid with a six figure salary has long been a status symbol for the workforce in this country. It’s certainly an achievement worth starving for, but there is nothing magical about the number.

Earning more money won’t solve existing problems, and not having six figures doesn’t mean you won’t be able to build wealth. You don’t need a doctorate or a high-paying job to build wealth. Being smart with money(having millionaire habits) and having it bring value to your life is the key to everything!


Jeff is a fan of all things finance. When he's not out there changing the world with his blog, you can find him on a run, a Mets game, or just playing around with his kids