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Five surprising salaries

  • Story Highlights
  • Court reporters cash in a big check for keeping up with every word in court
  • Astronomers make $96,000 but there are only 1,700 of them in the U.S.
  • Despite high stress, fast nature of their job, paramedics have a low salary
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By Anthony Balderrama
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Much has been made of people who live beyond their means. When you see a neighbor bring home a fancy new car, you can't help but wonder how she can afford it on her salary. However, you can't assume you know how much she (or anybody) makes unless you've seen her tax returns.

Searching the heavens for stars, planets or black holes can pay very well.

Plenty of people earn surprising paychecks -- some higher and others lower than you expect. For this reason we've put together a list of jobs and their unexpected salaries. It's good information to know just to satisfy your curiosity (or nosiness).

Plus, the next time you're job hunting, use the list as a reminder not to make a snap judgment about any job before you do your research.

Court reporters

What they do: Court reporters transcribe court proceedings, meetings, speeches and other events where verbatim documentation is necessary. Any time someone says "Strike that from the record," court reporters are the ones writing that record.

Surprising salary: $59,970*. You might not have thought typing could earn you so much money, but once you realize court reporters can't miss a word -- often in fast-talking situations -- it makes more sense.

Elementary school principals

What they do: Elementary school principals ensure that students are meeting education requirements by communicating with other administrators, evaluating teachers, monitoring the curriculum and interacting with parents on a regular basis.

Surprising salary: $79,310. Careers in education, particularly those not at the college level, are notorious for being underpaid. Principals, however, earn significantly higher salaries than you might expect, sometimes as much as forty percent more than an elementary school teacher.


What they do: Paramedics respond to emergency situations and attempt to provide the necessary medical care, whether it involves transporting participants to a hospital or treating them on the scene.

Surprising salary: $27,070. Seeing as paramedics have high stress jobs that require them to be on call and ready to save lives at a moment's notice, you might expect their mean annual salary to be higher.


What they do: Astronomers use their physics and math skills to study the universe and its origin, which includes galaxies, solar systems and the planets within. They use this research to analyze and solve problems dealing with satellites and space travel.

Surprising salary: $95,740. Though maybe it shouldn't be all that surprising considering a doctorate is the standard level of education and there are only 1,700 astronomers in the U.S.

Fashion designers

What they do: Fashion designers design and create new clothes and other fashion accessories to be sold to the public in retail stores. Depending on whether they work for their own label or for someone else's, they might set new trends or follow existing ones.

Surprising salary: $69,270. Aspiring fashion designers are warned that few people can be the next Marc Jacobs, with runway shows at Fashion Week, actresses wearing their dresses at awards shows and millions in the bank -- but the less famous fashion designers, which include those working for retail chains, are earning more than you probably thought.

*Mean annual salary information based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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