Healthcare jobs top the list of the highest-paid jobs, and the sector’s future is bright. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 13% from 2021 to 2031. This should add about 2 million new jobs. This growth is due to "the need to replace workers who leave their occupations permanently,” according to the agency. For comparison, the BLS projects overall job growth in the U.S. of 5.3% between 2021 and 2031.
Here's a snapshot of the highest-paid jobs. Be sure to read on for the details of each.
- Healthcare professions top the list of highest-paid jobs with projected growth of 13% by 2031.
- Twenty-two of the 25 highest-paying occupations are healthcare positions.
- Corporate chief executives are in the highest-paid profession outside of the healthcare field.
- The average projected growth rate for all jobs between 2021 to 2031 is 5.3%.
- Being your own employer, or owning your own practice, will significantly affect salary potential. However, that is not considered here outside of chief executive officers (CEOs).
The Methodology Used
Rankings are based on salary data from the BLS. Instead of using median salaries for each occupation, which signify the annual wage of a typical employee in that role, the BLS uses mean, or average salaries in the annual report, National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates.
1. Cardiologist: $353,970
Cardiologists are surgeons who "diagnose, treat, manage, and prevent diseases or conditions of the cardiovascular system," according to the BLS. Some specialize in procedures designed to intervene in heart conditions, including balloon angioplasty and stent placement. Others center their work around echocardiography, the use of electrodes to examine and treat the chambers of the heart, or electrophysiology, which involves the heart's electrical system.
Cardiologists are often scheduled to work during normal business hours, but that can turn into a 50 to 60-hour work week based on patient load and the heart-related events over which they have no control. Even with regular scheduling, somebody has to be available or on duty for evenings, weekends, and holidays.
- Education: Following completion of an undergraduate degree program—preferably in chemistry, mathematics, engineering, or psychology—an aspiring cardiologist must complete four years of medical school and four years of residency. Being a qualified cardiologist also requires passing a certification exam administered by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
- Job Outlook: Overall, employment is expected to grow 3% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.
2. Anesthesiologist: $331,190
The BLS defines anesthesiologists as physicians who “administer anesthetics and analgesics for pain management prior to, during, or after surgery.” This highly specialized career is second on the list of highest-earning professions.
Work hours for an anesthesiologist can be long and unpredictable since they follow the schedule of the operating room. Anesthesiologists need to be there for both scheduled surgeries and emergency procedures, adding to the unpredictable nature of the work day.
- Education: Following four years of medical school, aspiring anesthesiologists in the U.S. typically complete a four-year residency in anesthesiology and possibly even more, depending on the subspecialty and pass a licensing exam.
- Job Outlook: Overall, employment is expected to grow 1% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.
3. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: $311,460
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons treat a wide range of diseases, injuries, and defects in and around the mouth and jaw. Among the more common problems they’re likely to manage are wisdom teeth, misaligned jaws, and tumors and cysts of the jaw and mouth. They may also perform dental implant surgery.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons work for hospitals, large medical centers, and dental practices. They may be professors at dental schools or supervisors of residents in training. Many oral and maxillofacial surgeons open their own practices. They work very long hours performing intricate and complex surgeries. Oral surgeons may also need to be on call for emergencies that require immediate treatment.
- Education: Typically, oral and maxillofacial surgeons require an undergraduate degree, a four-year dental degree, and at least four years of residency. After their training, surgeons often take a two-part exam to become certified in the United States by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
- Job Outlook: From 2021 to 2031, employment is expected to increase by 5%, according to the BLS.
4. Emergency Medicine Physician: $310,640
As the title implies, emergency medicine physicians must make on-the-spot medical decisions to prevent death or serious injury. They have to act immediately to evaluate, stabilize, and care for patients who have often suffered trauma. They may supervise emergency medical staff in an emergency department.
ER physicians are often called to work irregular or long hours to care for patients, especially in an emergency situation. They may work overnight or weekends to care for a constantly shifting patient load.
- Education: Following a path similar to other physicians, a would-be ER doctor must earn a bachelor's degree, gain entrance to medical school, complete that four-year degree, complete a four-year residency as an ER physician, pass a licensing exam, and ultimately earn Emergency Medicine Certification.
- Job Outlook: The BLS projects 3% job growth between 2021 to 2031 for ER doctors or the addition of 1,300 positions during the decade.
5. Orthopedic Surgeon, Except Pediatric: $306,220
Orthopedic surgeons "diagnose and perform surgery to treat and prevent rheumatic and other diseases in the musculoskeletal system," according to the BLS.
Most orthopedic surgeons work in a hospital setting or in private clinics. This can involve both scheduled and emergency surgery, resulting in a sometimes hectic schedule and long hours. For example, back or neck surgeries can sometimes take an entire day without breaks.
- Education: Orthopedic surgery is a medical specialty that begins with earning a bachelor's degree, followed by admission to medical school and postgraduate training in orthopedic surgery. Residency in a surgery center or clinic is followed by a state-administered exam and successful board certification in the state where the surgeon plans to practice.
- Job Outlook: The BLS projects 3% job growth between 2021 to 2031 for orthopedic surgeons.
6. Dermatologist: $302,740
Dermatologists diagnose and treat diseases relating to the skin, hair, and nails.
They may perform both medical and dermatological surgery functions.
Dermatologists can either work in private practice and/or attend clinics at major teaching hospitals and institutions. Dermatologists rarely work unscheduled or erratic hours. The majority work a set schedule and have normal work hours of between 30-40 hours a week.
Education: Like other physicians, dermatologists typically need a bachelor’s degree as well as a degree from a medical school, which takes an additional 4 years to complete. Depending on their specialty, they also need 3 to 9 years of internship and residency, and must pass certification exams. Specialization requires additional training in a fellowship of 1 to 3 years.
Job outlook: The number of dermatologist jobs is expected to increase by 3% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.
7. Radiologist: $301,720
A radiologist is a physician who diagnoses and treats diseases and injuries using medical imaging techniques, such as x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, and ultrasound. They may perform minimally invasive medical procedures and tests.
Most of a radiologist's work is done in an office setting and involves interpreting images, reading reports, and going over the results and diagnosis with other physicians. Most communication is is done through a patient's physician, who is responsible for applying the results and making treatment decisions.
- Education: Becoming a radiologist requires about 13 years of education and training. bachelor's degree, four years of medical school, residency, a fellowship, and ultimately licensure and board certification.
- Job Outlook: Overall employment of radiologists is projected to grow 4% from 2021 to 2031.
8. Surgeon, Other: $297,800
A surgeon is responsible for operating on patients with injuries or illnesses. Duties include reviewing patient x-rays and communicating with the patient about the procedure, preparing for surgery, and completing surgeries with the assistance of other surgeons, nurses, and surgical technicians,
On average, a general surgeon works 50-60 hours per week (not including time available for on-call duty). Depending on the practice, surgeons can be on call nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Education: All physicians, including surgeons, must first complete an undergraduate degree program, usually in a science area such as biology or chemistry. This is followed by four years of medical school and a three-year residency. After that, a multi-year internship in the surgery department of a hospital is required, plus licensing and certification.
- Job outlook: The number of surgeons is expected to increase by 3% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.
9. Obstetrician-Gynecologist: $296,210
Doctors who specialize in vaginal, ovarian, uterine, and cervical reproductive health and childbirth are known as obstetricians-gynecologists or OB-GYNs. This is a medical specialty that focuses on providing medical care related to pregnancy or childbirth. OB-GYNs also diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases of people with female reproductive systems, particularly those affecting that system.
While the work schedule usually involves seeing patients on a regular scheduled basis, attending to a patient giving birth to a child can occur at any time of the day or night and requires being on call for these events throughout a career.
- Education: Becoming an OB-GYN requires a bachelor's degree, graduation from medical school, and the completion of an obstetrics program and a gynecology residency program, which typically last four years. After two years of clinical practice, these physicians have to pass a licensure exam.
- Job Outlook: The number of OB-GYN jobs is expected to increase by 2% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.
10. Pediatric Surgeon: $290,310
Pediatric surgeons diagnose and perform surgery to treat fetal abnormalities and birth defects, diseases, and injuries in fetuses, premature and newborn infants, children, and adolescents. This can include many pediatric surgical specialties and subspecialties.
In most cases, pediatric surgeons get jobs at children's hospitals, community hospitals, or university medical centers. They work with a team of professionals that includes pediatricians, nurses, and surgical technicians.
- Education: Pediatric surgeons are medical doctors who have completed: at least 4 years of medical school, 5 years of adult general surgery training, and two additional years of fellowship training in pediatric surgery, with licensing and certification.
- Job Outlook: The number of pediatric surgeons is expected to increase by 3% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.
11. Ophthalmologist, Except Pediatric: $270,090
Ophthalmologists diagnose and perform surgery to treat and help prevent disorders and diseases of the eye. They may also provide vision services for treatment, including glasses and contacts.
Ophthalmologists generally work in private practice—seeing patients in their offices as well as performing surgery. Usually this means working regular hours with relatively few emergencies.
- Education: Ophthalmologists require a bachelor's degree, preferably science-based, and completion of a four-year medical school program. This is followed by internship and residency of between 3 and 8 years. Finally, upon passing the state medical board exam, a medical license to practice ophthalmology is issued.
- Job Outlook: The number of ophthalmologists is expected to increase by 6% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.
12. Neurologist: $267,660
Neurologists diagnose and treat those with disorders of the brain and nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and epilepsy.
Neurologists, like all surgeons may stand for long periods throughout the day. Other working conditions may vary by specialty.
- Education: The general path to becoming a neurologist includes: a degree from a 4-year college, an MCAT exam, medical school graduation, residency, board certification, and a fellowship, followed by licensure.
- Job Outlook: The number of neurologist jobs is expected to increase by 3% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.
13. Orthodontist: $267,280
Orthodontists specialize in corrective measures for the teeth and often receive referrals from patients’ general dentists. These doctors frequently take X-rays, apply braces, create mouth guards, and perform other procedures as needed.
Some orthodontists work for large orthodontic offices; others own their own practice, which requires strong management skills.
- Education: After earning a college degree, future orthodontists need to complete a dental-school program that involves classroom and clinical experience. They must then complete a specialized residency program and sit for a licensing exam.
- Job Outlook: By 2031, the BLS expects the number of orthodontic jobs in the U.S. to reach 6,300, reflecting a 5% increase from 2021.
14. Physician, Pathologist: $267,180
Pathologists are physicians who diagnose diseases and conduct lab tests using organs, body tissues, and fluids. Pathology includes the work done by medical examiners.
Most clinical pathologists are employed by clinical laboratories of general hospitals and clinics, though some work in university research clinics. Pathologists often work full-time hours. Due to the nature of their industry, facilities that run 24-hour laboratories will have pathologists on staff overnight and on weekends.
- Education: Pathologists require extensive education and training, including four years of undergraduate training, four years of medical school, and three to four years in a pathology residency program, plus passing licensing exams.
- Job Outlook: Total employment among pathologists is expected to increase 4% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.
15. Psychiatrist: $249,760
Psychiatrists help treat mental-health issues, though there are many sub-specialties. Some work on child and adolescent psychiatry, others specialize in forensic (legal) psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, or consultation psychiatry, which occurs in a medical setting. Others specialize in psychoanalysis, where the psychiatrist helps the patient remember and examine past events and emotions to understand their current feelings better.
Psychiatrists can be found in any number of work environments: private practice, hospitals, community agencies, schools, rehabilitation programs, and prisons.
- Education: Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists are medical doctors. After receiving an undergraduate degree, they have to complete medical school, followed by a residency program. This is followed by certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
- Job Outlook: Among physicians, psychology is expected to be one of the fastest-growing specialties over the next several years. The BLS predicts that employment will grow 9% from 2021 to 2031.
16. General Internal Medicine Physician: $242,190
Internists, who often serve as primary-care doctors or in hospitals, specialize in the care of adult patients. As with other general-practice physicians, internists see many patients and need to treat a range of ailments, from asthma and diabetes to high cholesterol and hypertension.
- Education: After receiving a college degree and successfully completing medical school, internists typically complete a residency program where they rotate through multiple healthcare specialties. Like all physicians, they need to be licensed.
- Job Outlook: Employment among general-medicine internists is expected to grow 2% between 2021 and 2031, according to the BLS.
17. Family Medicine Physician: $235,930
The BLS defines this category as physicians who "diagnose, treat, and provide preventive care to individuals and families across the lifespan." These medical doctors often refer patients to specialists for advanced treatments.
Some primary-care doctors specifically work with adults (internists) or children (pediatricians). Those who treat patients of all ages—from childhood to advanced age—are known as family physicians. Because of their varied patient population, family practice doctors generally manage a wider range of medical conditions.
- Education: After graduation from medical school, family medicine physicians complete a residency program. Doctors are required to complete a certain number of months in each training area before applying for board certification.
- Job Outlook: According to the BLS, employment among family medicine doctors is expected to grow 3% from 2021 to 2031.
18. Physician, Other $231,500
Physicians work in both clinical and nonclinical settings. Clinical settings include physicians' offices and hospitals; nonclinical settings include government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and insurance companies.
Education: Physicians typically need a bachelor’s degree as well as a medical degree, which takes an additional four years to complete. Depending on their specialty, they also need three to nine years in internship and residency programs. Subspecialization can include additional training in a fellowship of one to three years. They also need to be licensed.
Job Outlook: Overall employment of physicians and surgeons is projected to grow 3% from 2021 to 2031, slower than the average for all occupations.
19. Chief Executive: $213,020
Chief executives represent the highest-paid profession outside of the medical or dental fields. As the highest-ranking employee of a company, the CEO’s job is to make critical decisions regarding the management team, steer the organization toward new markets or product areas, and interface with the board of directors.
While highly paid, many chief executives have daunting schedules. A Harvard Business Review survey found that the average CEO spends 62.5 hours per week on the job, with about half their time spent in the office and half traveling.
- Education: Chief executive officers are generally well-educated professionals. Worldwide, according to a study by Study.eu, 98% have at least a bachelor’s degree; 64% hold at least a master’s degree or equivalent (including MBAs); and 10% have earned a doctorate.
- Job Outlook: The number of people working as top executives is expected to grow by about 6% from 2021 to 2031.
20. Nurse Anesthetist: $202,470
Nursing tends to pay well in general compared with most other career paths, and nurse anesthetists do particularly well. Per the BLS, nurse anesthetists “administer anesthesia and provide care before, during, and after surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic, and obstetrical procedures.”
While their role is similar to that of an anesthesiologist, they don’t complete the same level of training. That means becoming a nurse anesthetist takes less time and money than going to medical school and becoming a physician. Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) may work in a broad array of different settings, including hospital surgical suites, obstetrical delivery rooms, ambulatory surgical centers, doctor’s offices, and pain-management centers.
- Education: Candidates have to graduate with a master’s degree from an accredited program, which typically takes 24 to 51 months. Some go on to complete a fellowship program, particularly if they’re specializing within the field. To become a CRNA, candidates also need at least one year of full-time experience working as a registered nurse in a critical-care setting.
- Job Outlook: It’s hard to find a job that will grow faster than nurse anesthetists over the next several years; the BLS expects employment to grow 40% between 2021 and 2031.
21. Pediatrician (General): $198,420
Pediatricians—physicians who specifically treat children—make less than internists and general practitioners but are still among the highest-paid professionals. These general practitioners perform checkups and exams for younger patients, treat common ailments, and administer immunizations. They often refer patients to a specialist when their health issues are more complex.
Pediatricians require strong critical-thinking skills, especially given the large number of patients they often serve, as well as excellent interpersonal skills and empathy.
- Education: After medical school, pediatricians enter residency programs that allow them to develop their skills in a clinical environment. They must pass licensing exams to practice, and most receive board certification to boost their prospects in the job market.
- Job Outlook: There are currently around 36,800 pediatricians practicing in the United States. The BLS expects that number to grow by 1% or 400 practitioners between 2021 and 2031.
22. Airline Pilot, Copilot, and Flight Engineer: $198,190
Working in the aviation industry can mean a lot of time away from home, but it also leads to a nice paycheck in many cases. The BLS lumps airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers into one category.
The pilot, or captain, typically has the most experience operating a plane and oversees the other members of the flight crew. The copilot is the second in command during the flight and helps the captain with responsibilities in the cockpit.
Flight engineers do preflight checks, monitor the plane’s cabin pressure, assess how much fuel is being burned, and perform other important duties. However, because of the increased amount of automation in new aircraft, there are fewer jobs for flight engineers than there used to be.
- Education: Airline pilots usually require a bachelor’s degree and have an Airline Transport Pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. They often start out as commercial pilots and accrue thousands of hours of experience in the cockpit before gaining employment with an airline.
- Job Outlook: There are roughly 87,600 individuals employed as airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers in the United States. The BLS expects that number to rise by 6% between 2021 and 2031.
23. Dentist (All Specialties): $175,160
Dentist specialists who are not oral surgeons or orthodontists also are compensated quite well. The BLS lumps these other specialists into one group. Among the practitioners included in this category are endodontists, who perform root canals and other procedures dealing with the inside of the tooth, and periodontists, who treat the gums and bones around the teeth.
- Education: Most dental programs require a bachelor’s degree with coursework in biology and chemistry. Like other dental professionals, specialists must take the Dental Admission Test to be accepted into an accredited dental program. After dental school, specialists typically complete two to three years of additional training in the field of their choice.
- Job Outlook: The BLS expects employment in the specialties listed above to increase 6% between 2021 and 2031.
24. Dentist (General): $167,160
Dentists often show up in lists of the best jobs in healthcare. In addition to attractive pay, the combination of relatively low stress and flexible scheduling adds to the appeal of this field.
In a typical week, a general dental practitioner might find themselves analyzing X-rays, filling cavities, extracting damaged teeth, and administering sealants. It’s a job that requires a strong grasp of best practices in the field, attention to detail, and the ability to develop a good rapport with patients.
- Education: While not always required to do so, dentists often select biology or other science majors as an undergraduate. After college, they take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) to get into a dental school, where they learn about subjects such as local anesthesia, anatomy, periodontics, and radiology. They also receive clinical experience under the supervision of a practicing dentist.
- Job Outlook: The BLS expects overall employment among dentists to increase by 6% from 2021 to 2031, with more than 154,600 in the field.
25. Computer and Information Systems Manager: $162,930
Computer and information systems (IS) managers oversee functions such as electronic data processing, information systems, systems analysis, and computer programming. They evaluate the information technology (IT) needs of a business or government body and work with technical staff to implement computer systems that meet those objectives.
Successful managers need to develop sound plans that mesh with the goals of the organization, as well as the ability to motivate employees who are under their supervision.
Before becoming IS managers, individuals generally have several years of experience under their belt in a related field. In general, larger organizations require more-seasoned IT managers than smaller companies or startups do. According to the BLS, a chief technology officer (CTO), who supervises the entire technology function at a larger organization, will often need more than 15 years of IT experience.
- Education: Most computer and information systems managers have received a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related major. Some have graduated from management information systems (MIS) programs, which add business coursework to the normal computer programming and software development classes. To advance into a managerial role, IT professionals sometimes work toward a masters of business administration (MBA) or other graduate degree. MBA programs usually take two years to complete full time, although some employees take courses part-time while they continue to work in an IT capacity.
- Job Outlook : The BLS projects that total employment will jump 16% between 2021 and 2031, much faster than the economy-wide average for job growth.
What Is the Highest Paying Job in the World?
The highest-paying job in the world, in a traditional sense, holds the number-one spot in this article: cardiologist. They are also one of only three jobs listed above $300,000 a year. The list, however, does not take into account mega-CEOs like Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos, who make considerably more than that.
Who Gets the Highest Salary in the World?
CEOs of massive companies always top the list. In 2020, that was Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, who received a historic pay package of $6,6 billion. That's $25.6 million for each working day.
How Can I Get a High-Paying Job?
Most high-paying jobs require advanced degrees such as a PhD or medical degree. Although some of the jobs on this list require only an undergraduate degree, the reality is that it's increasingly more difficult to land a coveted position when competing against job candidates with higher-level degrees.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to high-paying salaries, it’s hard to beat a career in healthcare. Specialists tend to earn the largest paychecks, but general practitioners and even nonphysician roles, such as nurse anesthetists, certainly bring in attractive salaries. If the medical field isn’t for you, careers such as engineering and management can also lead to lucrative jobs.
Note that compensation beyond salary can bring high renumeration in fields not on the Bureau of Labor Statistics top jobs list. With bonuses, pay for Wall Street mutual fund managers can easily exceed $1 million. And of course the bulk of the world's wealthiest individuals are entrepreneurs or heirs of entrepreneurs. Healthcare isn't the only route. So if you're uncomfortable with jobs involving blood (or flying), there are other choices.