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How Long Til You Earn Your First Million?

Anthony Balderrama, CareerBuilder.com writer

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If you know that Hollywood's top stars can earn $20 million dollars per film and that the average time to shoot a movie is six months, you won't be surprised to see that their paychecks make the average person's income look minuscule in comparison. In fact, if these celebrities worked standard 8-hour workdays, it would take them less than seven days to earn $1 million.

In all likelihood, you and I – the little people – aren't making that kind of money. In fact, it will take some people their entire careers to cross the million-dollar mark even once.

With that in mind, we looked at a variety of jobs to see just how long it would take to earn $1 million working in each position. We used the median annual salary of each profession, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and broke down the earnings based on a 40-hour workweek.

Here are 30 jobs with earnings anywhere from below minimum wage to six-figure salaries and how long it would take to earn $1 million in terms of hours, eight-hour workdays and years.

Architects, except landscape and naval: $64,150*
32,425 hours**
4,053 days
16 years

Automotive service technicians and mechanics: $33,780
61,576 hours
7,697 days
30 years

Bartenders: $16,350
127,226 hours
15,901 days
61 years

Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks: $30,560
68,074 hours
8,508 days
33 years

Carpenters: $36,550
56,915 hours
7,113 days
27 years

Child, family and school social workers: $37,480
55,494 hours
6,937 days
27 years

Choreographers: $34,660
60,024 hours
7,501 days
29 years


Computer and information systems managers: $101,580
20,475 hours
2,560 days
10 years

Computer applications software engineers: $79,780
26,069 hours
3,259 days
13 years

Computer support specialists: $41,470
50,150 hours
6,260 days
24 years

Dental hygienists: $62,800
33,124 hours
4,140 days
16 years

Desktop publishers: $34,130
60,938 hours
7,618 days
29 years

Elementary school principals: $82,414
25,240 hours
3,155 days
12 years

Executive secretaries and administrative assistants: $37,240
55,866 hours
6,982 days
27 years

Hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists: $21,320
97,561 hours
12,195 days
47 years

Librarians, local government: $44,960
46,254 hours
5,783 days
22 years


Network systems and data communications analysts: $64,600
32,154 hours
4,032 days
15 years

Personal financial advisers: $66,120
26,896 hours
3,932 days
15 years

Photographers: $26,170
79,491 hours
9,935 days
38 years

Pharmacists: $94,520
22,007 hours
2,751 days
11 years

Physical therapists: $66,200
31,417 hours
3,927 days
15 years

Police and sheriff's patrol officers: $47,460
43,821 hours
5,479 days
21 years

Post-secondary teachers: $56,120
37,064 hours
4,633 days
18 years

Retail salespersons, department stores: $19,610
106,045 hours
13,259 days
51 years


Technical writers: $58,050
35,829 hours
4,479 days
17 years

Travel agent: $29,210
71,225 hours
8,900 days
34 years

Veterinarians: $71,990
28,893 hours
3,611 days
14 years


*Salary data based on median annual salary data as reported by the BLS.
**Hours, days and years figures are rounded to the nearest whole number.


Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.


Last Updated: 06/06/2008 - 4:12 PM


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