High-Paying Sales Jobs: What Are They?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Explore the highest-paying sales jobs in the United States. Learn about the skills needed to be successful and if a career in sales is a good fit for you.

[Featured image] A sales development representative sits at a desk in an office.

Sales is a dynamic career that often leads to high-paying jobs. Virtually every company needs to sell, which broadens your career choices so you can choose an industry you're passionate about. Your passion for a product or service can impact your effectiveness as a salesperson.

Let’s assume you work in the golf section of a sporting goods store. If you're genuinely interested in golf, you’ll likely have a more compelling argument to sell golfing equipment that could ultimately end with a sale. Someone interested in fishing may not show the same enthusiasm for golfing products.

Hard work and strong interpersonal skills can help you succeed in a sales career. Continue reading to explore some of the highest-paying sales jobs in the US.

What is sales?

Sales involves identifying a customer’s problem and offering a service or product as a solution. As a salesperson, you’ll present thoughtful and informed solutions that align with the customer’s needs.

You have various career options in the sales field. Your first step in selecting your career path is to identify your interests. Medical, software, or digital advertising sales jobs are some areas you can pursue, but the options are practically endless.

It’s also essential to determine your strengths. If you're a proactive and service-oriented person, a role in account management, which involves working extensively with returning customers, might be a good fit for you in the sales field.

7 of the highest-paying sales jobs in the US

A career in sales can offer substantial earning potential, often influenced by commissions.

Explore the seven sales jobs listed below to gain further insight into the roles, salary expectations, and projected outlook for each.

We’ve provided the annual base salary data and additional pay, including commissions, cash bonuses, and tips, as sourced from Glassdoor as of December 2023. Job outlook information, defined for 2021 to 2031, is sourced from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

1. Sales manager

Average annual salary: $119,946 ($74,891 base pay, $45,055 additional pay)

Job outlook: 4 percent

What you'll do: As a sales manager, you’ll be responsible for members of an organization's sales team. Sales managers typically work 40 hours a week, sometimes after regular hours and even on weekends. In this position, you’ll constantly learn new things and interact with new people each day.

Requirements: A bachelor’s degree is highly recommended but not essential to become a sales manager. Courses that can help you succeed and stand out include business law, management, statistics, and finance. Employers will also look at previous sales experience and sales occupations held. Employers tend to hire someone who has one to five years of experience. This could potentially be in retail sales, manufacturing, and wholesale representatives.

2. Pharmaceutical sales representative

Average annual salary: $123,097 ($77,208 base pay, $45,889 additional pay)

Job outlook: 1 percent

What you'll do: It will be your responsibility as a pharmaceutical sales representative to sell pharmaceutical products to hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices. There is a lot of pressure on pharmaceutical sales representatives because their income highly depends on the inventory they can sell.

As challenging as this role is, it can be a great way to explore new places you have never visited before. If you enjoy traveling, a pharmaceutical sales representative job could be a good fit for you. Most of the time, you’ll have to meet with the customers in their location, rather than them coming to you.

Requirements: A bachelor’s degree is customary to begin a career as a pharmaceutical sales representative, as well as previous pharmaceutical sales experience. This combination will prepare you for the scientific and technical aspects of the job.

3. Medical device sales representative

Average annual salary: $108,395 ($68,022 base pay, $40,373 additional pay)

Job outlook: 4 percent

What you'll do: Much like a pharmaceutical sales representative, a medical device sales representative’s job is to sell devices and instruments that can be used in a medical setting. For example, a hospital bed could be sold from a medical device representative to a hospital. 

Some US companies currently dominating the medical devices industry are Medtronic, Johnson & Johnson, and Stryker. Expect to travel as a medical device sales representative, although you will generally be able to maintain a particular territory.

Requirements: Earning your bachelor’s degree is key. The medical device world is highly competitive due to the worldwide rapid technological advances. A background in health care or medical sales will help distinguish you from other candidates.

4. Sales engineer

Average annual salary: $129,072 ($90,499 base pay, $38,573 additional pay)

Job outlook: 5 percent

What you'll do: As a sales engineer, it’ll be your job to sell sophisticated technological and scientific products to other businesses. Staying updated with the product specifics and critical functions is essential to fulfill your client’s needs.

Some typical responsibilities of a sales engineer include preparing and delivering technical presentations to current or prospective customers, or partaking in research for developing innovative new products. Some sales engineers work for independent sales firms and others work for the company that designs and builds the technical product.

Requirements: Employers typically seek candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field such as business. It's possible to become a sales engineer without a typical four-year college degree. Still, prior technical experience and training will generally give you an advantage over candidates for specific roles. Universities typically provide different engineering paths for students—electrical, civil, mechanical, computer, biomedical, and chemical engineering are among the most common programs.

5. Real estate agent

Average annual salary: $202,577 ($118,567 base pay, $84,010 additional pay)

Job outlook: 3 percent

What you'll do: It’s a real estate agent’s job to assist clients in selling, renting, or purchasing property. For this role, you must be knowledgeable about the real estate market in the area, as every area has different property values. For example, a home for sale in a small town in northern Michigan will not be priced like a home in Los Angeles, California. A large percentage of a real estate agent’s income is earned from commissions made on sales.

Real estate agents promote properties through open houses, advertisements, and listing platforms. Social media is a great way to spread the word and market property listings. The more people can see what you're selling as a real estate agent, the better your chance of finding a potential buyer.

As a real estate agent, you’ll play the middle-man between a buyer and a seller. Your marketing efforts will have produced value when you can present a purchase offer to the seller for a potential sale. While residential real estate agents make up a large sum of all agents, you can also sell commercial, industrial, or agricultural property.

Requirements: To become a real estate agent, you must earn a license. Be sure to check and see what your state's rules are, since each one is different. Candidates applying for their license must be 18, complete several real estate courses, and pass the exam. Everyone can move forward at their own pace, which is beneficial to those who have a busy or flexible schedule. Some people get their real estate license right out of college, while others get them later in life during a career change.

6. Digital sales manager

Average annual salary: $159,540 ($93,331 base pay, $66,209 additional pay)

Job outlook: 5 percent

What you'll do: If you're interested in digital advertising, then a digital sales manager may be the right career for you. You’ll be responsible for leading the digital sales team or working as a third-party vendor. Vendors are often hired to help assist a digital team in executing their initiatives by providing a certain service or technology that the team is unable to do in-house.

Becoming well-versed in quickly and constantly identifying changes in the market that could affect your digital advertising plan will be essential for this role. Your goal as a digital sales manager is to direct sales processes to generate the most revenue and plan and execute all digital marketing efforts through social media, email, and display advertising for campaigns.

Requirements: Seventy-nine percent of digital sales managers obtain a bachelor’s degree, according to Zippia [1]. Some of the most popular bachelor’s degrees you can earn to become a digital sales manager are in business, marketing, and communications.

7. Software sales representative

Average annual salary: $120,253 ($74,631 base pay, $45,621 additional pay)

Job outlook: 4 percent

What you'll do: A software sales representative sells software products to potential clients. Software is sold in two ways: business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B). B2C consists of selling to a potential consumer for their personal use, whereas B2B refers to selling to another business. Salesforce, a software company that sells customer relationship management (CRM) software to other businesses to help them keep track of clients and find potential prospects, uses the B2B sale strategy.

Like other sales representatives, software sales representatives rely heavily on the commission made from inventory sold. If you're a goal-oriented individual and perform well in high-stress situations, this may be a good role for you.

Requirements: Most employers seeking a software sales representative will prefer you have a bachelor’s degree. If not, two to three years of experience in the field might be enough, depending on the company. In any new job, there could be a training period of up to one year. Typically, new trainees will shadow their colleagues, gain field experience, and receive some office training. For this role, you’ll gain more responsibilities with time, and eventually, you’ll develop the skills to work independently.

Skills and qualities needed to increase your earnings in sales

Sales is a field strongly dependent on interpersonal skills. It's essential to communicate things to others effectively. You’ll need empathy to put yourself in your client’s position. How would you want to be spoken to? What kinds of questions would you ask? After all, sales are simply conversations and transactions between humans.

Practicing active listening can go a long way. The client wants to know that you're a subject-matter expert on the product or service you're selling. Your delivery of the “sales pitch” will be crucial to build trust between different parties, so be sure to present yourself confidently.

You’ll need to prepare for situations when a sale may not work out. Successful people in sales understand that not everything will always end with a sale. Train yourself to take what you learned from the previous experiences and apply those lessons.

Working under pressure is also common in a sales role. Most jobs are partially or fully commission-based. You may have a sales quota to reach during a calendar year. While sales can be stressful at times, it can be very rewarding, both financially and professionally.

Ready to get started?

If you’ve made it this far, you’re closer than you think to the beginning of your career in sales. Take this course in Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills Course (UMich) offered by the University of Michigan on Coursera to learn about the necessary negotiation strategies and skills for your success. There’s no better time than now to take action.

Article sources

  1. Zippia. Digital Sales Manager Educational Requirements.  https://www.zippia.com/digital-sales-manager-jobs/education/. Accessed December 14, 2023.

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