There is a common misconception about millionaire professions: people usually believe that most millionaires are either in the show business or professional sports. Yet, the reality is very different. According to Dr. Thomas Stanley, only 9% of all millionaires in the US work in entertainment and professional sports. Almost all the rest have “ordinary” non-glamorous occupations in businesses, hospitals and clinics, schools, and so forth.
The most common of millionaire professions in the US, according to Dr. Stanley’s research, is business owner/ self-employed. More than a quarter of millionaires (28%) fall into this category. This makes perfect sense: investing in your own business (or a partnership or other closely held business) tends to provide higher rates of return than any other kind of investment. In real estate business, for example, it is not difficult to get continually above 20% returns on equity, and achieving 30% is not impossible – and these are returns during normal non-boom market conditions. Similarly, many small businesses in other industries can provide equally high or even higher returns. Of course, setting up and managing these businesses is hard work and involves risk-taking of various kinds, and the returns reflect the fact that not many people are prepared to put in the effort and carry the risks. Yet, if you are one of the few who are ready for this, the returns can really reward you and help make you affluent.
Corporate jobs are the second most common profession for millionaires in the US. Corporate executives and middle managers represent over a quarter (27%) of millionaire professions. This, again, should be no surprise: given the high number of people that work in this kind of jobs, and given the fact their salaries tend to be more than decent by most people’s standard, you would expect that these people are well represented in the millionaire count, too. In fact, if you add engineers (9%), marketing /sales professionals (7%), and accountants (2%) to this group, you could say that the biggest share of millionaires actually work in corporate and small-business jobs of various kinds, representing almost half (45%) of the total millionaire population.
The professions above represent three quarters of all US millionaires. Three largest of the remaining other primary occupations for millionaires, according to Dr. Stanley, are physicians (9%), attorneys (7%), and educators (3%). The rest are homemakers, (2%) and others (9%) including tradesmen and craftsmen, artists and entertainers, among others.
When looking at primary occupations of millionaires, two things seem immediately obvious. First, almost all of these professions require a higher level of education. Indeed, according to Dr. Stanley, 90% of millionaires in the US are college graduates. Second, these professions seem to reflect to a great extent the range and commonness of jobs that people (with college degrees) typically have, with the exception of business owners and self-employed being clearly over-represented.
Based on all this, I have three recommendations for aspiring future millionaires. First, if you really want to become a millionaire, the way to start is to get a college degree. Second, if you want to get wealthy sooner, start your own business (but you don’t have to do this right away – do it when you are ready). Third, even if you don’t want to start your own business – like most people don’t – you can still become a millionaire: just keep working hard in your job and bring home the paychecks and bonuses, live below your means and save money on regular basis, and invest your savings in a profitable way. This is how virtually all millionaires do it, no matter what their occupation or profession. Almost any job can be a millionaire profession –it’s up to you what you make of it.