8 professions with surprising paychecks

Professions with surprising paychecks 2

Don't judge these jobs until you see how much they pay.

Paychecks can vary based on factors including industry, location and company, though there's generally a standard pay range for every job function. Yet, many people have a preconception of what workers in certain fields earn across the board. For example, it's a common assumption that all doctors and lawyers have high incomes.

Not every job earns the high -- or low -- pay you may expect, however. Here are eight professions with annual wages that may surprise you.

1. Air traffic controller*
2016 median annual pay: $122,410
What they do: Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of air traffic to ensure that planes stay safe distances apart.
Why the surprise: While the excitement may be on the planes, the big salaries are in the air traffic control towers. The skills air traffic controllers need – coordination, organization and attention to detail —give them a major pay bump. As a comparison, airline and commercial pilots get paid $105,720 annually, and flight attendants make $48,500.

2. Announcer
2016 median annual pay: $30,830
What they do: Announcers present music, news and sports and may provide commentary or interview guests about these topics or other important events. Some act as a master of ceremonies or DJs at weddings, parties or clubs.
Why the surprise: Celebrity announcers and emcees may have the coveted paychecks, but theirs are usually due in part to their celebrity status. Events and parties often require announcers, no matter the size, and the paycheck tends to get bigger as your talent and notoriety grow.

3. Legislator
2016 median annual pay: $23,470
What they do: Legislators are elected officials who develop laws for the federal government or for local or state governments.
Why the surprise: Legislators and politicians often have a reputation for being wealthy, though this median pay would suggest otherwise. While each state has its own standard for paying its legislators, many lower salaries are supplemented with a per diem, meaning they are given an allowance for daily expenses.

4. Model
2016 median annual pay: $21,870
What they do: Models pose for artists, photographers or customers to help advertise a variety of products, including clothing, cosmetics, food and appliances.
Why the surprise: TV and magazines would have us believe otherwise, but working as a model doesn't necessarily come with free travel opportunities, luxurious perks and six-figure paychecks per photo shoot (unless you're Kendall Jenner or Gigi Hadid, that is). Many models work part time and most experience periods of unemployment. This role requires spending a considerable amount of time on self-promotion by putting together and maintaining portfolios, printing composite cards and traveling to meet potential clients.

5. Multimedia artist and animator
2016 median annual pay: $65,300
What they do: Multimedia artists and animators create animation and visual effects for television, movies, video games and other media. They create two- and three-dimensional models and animation.
Why the surprise: Multimedia artists are most often hired by the motion picture and video industries, followed by software publishers, computer systems design and related services and advertising, public relations and related services industries. While these industries may be known for big budgets, the Hollywood-worthy salaries usually go to on-camera stars.

6. Pharmacist
2016 median annual pay: $122,230
What they do: Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer advice on their safe use.
Why the surprise: Education levels often make a big difference in job responsibilities and paychecks. Pharmacists require a doctoral degree and can make six-figures, while pharmacy technicians, who help licensed pharmacists dispense prescription medication, require a high school diploma or equivalent and make $30,920.

7. Political scientist
2016 median annual pay: $114,290
What they do: Political scientists study the origin, development and operation of political systems. They research political ideas and analyze the structure and operation of governments, policies, political trends and related issues. Many people with a political science background become professors and teachers.
Why the surprise: While the subject matter may differ, sociologists, who study society and social behavior by examining the groups, cultures, organizations, social institutions and processes that people develop, also often become professors and teachers. Yet they don't see the six-figure paycheck of political scientists, making a notably lower $79,750 a year.

8. Technical writer
2016 median annual pay: $69,850
What they do: Technical writers, also called technical communicators, produce instruction manuals and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather and disseminate technical information among customers, designers and manufacturers.
Why the surprise: When it comes to salaries for writing jobs, technical writers are at the top of the food chain, earning almost $10,000 more than other writers and almost twice as much as reporters. Editors earn a median pay of $57,210, writers and authors make $61,240, and reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts make $38,870.

*All median annual pay figures and job descriptions are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook.

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