In 2016, Cleveland Basketball great LeBron James made over $77 million between his pay ($23 million) and endorsements, Forbes reports. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning made $45 million, and LA Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw made $32 million.
There’s no question being an elite pro athlete pays very, very well.
But consider this: The career span for an athlete is short and the rank-and-file pros don’t get paid nearly so much as the top players. In the NFL, the average career length is 3.5 years with the lifetime earning potential of $3,010,000, according to tech job site Paysa. In the MLB, the average career length is 5.6 years with the lifetime earning potential of $2,912,000. Things are better in the NBA, where the average career lasts 4.8 years with the lifetime earning potential of $12,027,456.
None of that is chicken scratch. But if you factor in the number of people who try to become pro sports players and don’t ever get a decent contract at all, the percentages would be far lower.
Now, compare that to becoming an engineer, Paysa suggests. If you try to become an engineer, odds are good that you will succeed. The average acceptance rate at engineering schools is 63 out of 100, Paysa says. Plus, 6 out of 10 engineering students graduate, and 97 out of 100 find jobs, Paysa says.
And once you’re out in the workforce, the average career span is 40 years with an average annual salary at $125,418. The lifetime earnings potential adds up to $5,016,723, better than both the typical pro NFL player and typical pro MLB athlete.
Plus, those that land in “elite” ranks will do far better. A career at Facebook could give you overall lifetime earnings of $13,533,236, Paysa calculates. A career tech employee at Google could make as much as $10,674,690.
And that’s enough to stand tall, even against a pro NBA player.