One of the most lucrative occupations in America doesn't require an advanced degree, but it does take some specialized skills.
Professionals working in sales can make well into the six figures, according to a new survey from the employment site Glassdoor. The top-paying sales positions share a trait: They are available at technology firms, with most of those companies selling business-to-business products, such as SAP and Cisco Systems.
These companies may not require new sales hires to know their products, given that management will train salespeople after they join the company. But they do want to see one crucial skill: the ability to sell. Sales may be a bright spot for people looking for remunerative work, especially at a time when higher-paying jobs can be hard to come by. Glassdoor notes there are more than 125,000 open sales positions.
"The good news is there's a wide experience level to become qualified for a an entry-level salesperson," said Scott Dobroski, associate director of corporate communications at Glassdoor. "If you can sell a product and sell to a niche market, you are in a good position to become an account executive."
The highest-paying company for salespeople is SAP, a German technology company that makes software for businesses. While it's not a household name, its software helps run businesses ranging from sportswear brand Adidas to the cereal maker Kellogg. Salespeople at SAP have a median pay of $235,000, including both base pay and commission.
While that may sound enticing to many workers, there is a "dark side" to a sales role, Dobroski noted. "These salaries are not guaranteed," he said. "So much of the pay is based on commission. If you aren't closing, your whole livelihood is going to stink."
Not all sales jobs pay as well as business-to-business tech companies, either. Across all professions, the median total pay for a salesperson is $80,000, with about $50,000 coming from salary and $25,000 from commission. The remainder stems from bonuses or other compensation.
That's still higher than many other professions, especially given that the median annual pay for Americans was $28,031 in 2013, according to the Social Security Administration.
When considering a sales job, there are a few issues to keep in mind during the interview process, Dobroski noted. It's important to understand how accounts are structured and distributed, as well as commissions. Given that the tech world is constantly changing, also make sure employers have a clear view about how they -- and their products -- will evolve. "If they don't have a great answer, that could be a red flag," he said.
Below are the 10 highest paying companies for sales jobs. The gap between total pay and salary and commission are due to other compensation, such as stock options or bonuses.
1. SAP -- $235,000 (salary: $110,000/commission: $100,000)
2. Cisco -- $211,000 (salary: $93,000/commission: $100,000)
3. CA Technologies -- $210,000 (salary: $110,000/commission: $100,000)
4. EMC -- $200,000 (salary: $100,000/commission: $100,000)
5. Symantec -- $197,500 (salary: $197,500/commission: $76,250)
6. Microsoft -- $191,000 (salary: $118,000/commission: $50,000)
7. Salesforce -- $173,500 (salary: $90,000/commission: $68,000)
8. Adobe -- $162,500 (salary: $90,000/commission: $50,000)
9. Avaya -- $160,000 (salary: $95,000/commission: $60,000)
10: IBM -- $150,000 (salary: $100,000/commission: $45,000)