What Would the World’s Wealthiest Entrepreneurs Be Earning If They’d Stayed in Their First Jobs?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

They might have private jets and entourages, but many of the world’s wealthiest people come from much more relatable beginnings. It’s hard to imagine a billionaire flipping burgers or hustling for gigs at local clubs, but that’s exactly what Jeff Bezos and Rhianna did at the start of their careers.

The big question is, what would their paychecks look like today if they’d stayed in those first jobs?  To find out, we looked at several of the world’s wealthiest people and compared average earnings today versus that of their original career trajectories.

Highest first-job earners

If he stuck with it, Jay-Z’s first job would have made him the highest earner. But between paychecks then and now, his current career as a rapper, record producer, entrepreneur (and husband to Beyonce) still gets him one of the biggest salary jumps in the world.

EntrepreneurFirst JobCurrent Annual SalaryFirst Job Annual Salary (current average)
Shawn Carter (Jay Z)Salesman£44,000,000£144,000
Mark ZuckerbergSoftware Developer£19,000,000£49,409
Bill GatesComputer Programmer£4,000,000,000£37,096
Larry PageComputer Programmer£16,000,000,000£37,096
Elon MuskFarm Hand£83,000,000,000£28,870
Oprah WinfreyGrocery Clerk£165,000,000£20,030
Jeff BezosMcDonald’s Fry Cook£52,000,000,000£19,396

Biggest salary increases

Imagine starting your career as a Farm Hand or a McDonald’s Fry Cook and then becoming one of the wealthiest people on the planet. That’s the mind-boggling journey of entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who top our list as the entrepreneurs with the largest salaries of all.

Compared to the £28,870 Elon Musk could have earned annually had he continued with his first job, the tech billionaire has seen a salary increase of more than two hundred eighty-seven million percent and is now one of the highest earners in the world. The same can be said for Jeff Bezos, whose paycheck from McDonald’s is two hundred eight-six million times less than what he earns now.  

Oprah started as a grocery clerk with an average earning potential of £20, 000 a year. She now earns around £165,000,000, making her the highest-earning woman on the list.

EntrepreneurFirst JobFirst Job Salary p/aCurrent SalarySalary Increase (%)
Elon MuskFarm Hand£28,870£83,000,000,000287495570%
Jeff BezosMcDonald’s Fry Cook£19,396£52,000,000,000268096415%
Bill GatesComputer Programmer£37,096£40,000,000,0010782734%
Larry PageComputer Programmer£37,096£16,000,000,00043131235%
Oprah WinfreyGrocery Clerk£20,030£165,000,000823664%
Shawn Carter (Jay Z)Salesman£144,000£44,000,00030456%
Mark ZuckerbergSoftware Developer£49,409£19,000,00038355%

Men vs. Women 

Oprah and Rihanna have amassed considerable wealth that far surpasses the earnings they could have ever made in their first jobs. Oprah built a media empire that includes television networks, a production company, and a magazine, making her one of the wealthiest women in the world. Similarly, Rihanna has expanded her influence into the fashion and beauty industries.

Looking at the top earners between men and women, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have seen a combined 277795992% increase in average salaries, compared to a 457076% combined increase for Oprah and Rihanna. 


EntrepreneurFirst JobCurrent Annual SalaryFirst Job Salary p/aSalary Increase (%)Total Ave. Salary Increase (%)
Elon MuskFarm Hand£83,000,000,000£28,870287495570%277795992%
Jeff BezosMcDonald’s Fry Cook£52,000,000,000£19,396268096415%


EntrepreneurFirst JobCurrent Annual SalaryFirst Job Salary p/aSalary Increase (%)Total Ave. Salary Increase (%)
OprahGrocery Clerk£165,000,000£20,030823664%457076%


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *