25 Highest Paid Occupations in the U.S.

Government data show that healthcare dominates the salary ladder

Healthcare jobs topped the list of the highest-paying occupations, and the sector’s future is very bright. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 16% from 2020 to 2030—adding about 2.6 million new jobs. This growth “is mainly due to an aging population, leading to greater demand for healthcare services,” according to the agency.

Key Takeaways

  • Several healthcare jobs topped the list of the highest-paying occupations.
  • Fifteen of the top 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 2020 to 2030 is 8%.
  • 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. Anesthesiologists: $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 has topped the list of highest-earning professions.

Work hours for an anesthesiologist follow the schedule of the operating room, which can be long and unpredictable. That’s because anesthesiologists need to be there for both scheduled surgeries and emergency procedures, such as traumatic events and childbirth.

  • 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.
  • Job Outlook Overall, employment is expected to drop 1% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS.

2. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons: $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 problematic wisdom teeth, misaligned jaws, tumors, and cysts of the jaw and mouth. They may also perform dental implant surgery.

  • 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 2020 to 2030, employment is expected to increase by 8%, according to the BLS.

3. Obstetricians-Gynecologists: $296,210

Doctors specializing in vaginal, ovarian, uterine, and cervical reproductive health and childbirth, known as obstetricians-gynecologists, or OB-GYNs, make slightly more than the annual wages listed for general surgeons.

Successful OB-GYNs are good at communicating information to patients that improve their health and that of their babies. They also excel at handling high-stress situations—most notably childbirth—that can occur at odd hours of the day.

  • Education — Becoming an OB-GYN requires graduation from medical school as well as 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 decrease by 2% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS.

4. Surgeons: $294,520

Although becoming a surgeon requires several years of specialized training, these elite physicians are rewarded with one of the highest-paying careers. Surgeons may find themselves working long, irregular hours, depending on their specialty. While those focusing on preventative and elective surgeries may have a more predictable schedule, surgeons working in fields such as trauma or neurosurgery often work extended, even overnight, shifts.

Surgeons perform operations to treat broken bones and diseases, such as cancer. Surgeons help manage the patient’s care before and after surgery. Even when they’re not scheduled for work, a surgeon may need to address patient concerns over the phone, and on-call surgeons sometimes make emergency trips to a hospital.

  • Education — Becoming a surgeon requires the successful completion of medical school, a multi-year residency program, and sometimes a specialized fellowship.
  • Job Outlook — Overall, employment is projected to increase by 3% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS.

5. Orthodontists: $267,280

Orthodontists specialize in corrective measures for the teeth and are often referred out by the patients’ dentists. These doctors frequently take X-rays, apply braces, create mouth guards, and perform other procedures as needed.

High-achieving orthodontists require good communication skills, as they work with patients directly, plus strong analytical and problem-solving abilities. While some 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. These newly minted doctors must then complete a specialized residency program and sit for a licensing exam.
  • Job Outlook — By 2030, the BLS expects the number of orthodontic jobs in the U.S. to reach 6,900, reflecting an 8% increase from 2020.

6. Physicians (Other): $255,110

If you take the mean salary of all physicians working in all other specialties, they would come in sixth place. This “other” grouping includes jobs as varied as allergists, cardiologists, dermatologists, oncologists (who treat cancer), gastroenterologists (digestive system specialists), and ophthalmologists (eye specialists). It also covers pathologists, who study body tissue for possible abnormalities, and radiologists, who analyze medical images and administer radiation treatment to cancer patients.

  • Education — Any medical doctor (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) is going to require medical school after attaining a bachelor’s degree. Most clinical professions also require the completion of a residency program, although some may go on and receive fellowship training after that.
  • Job Outlook — Total employment among all physicians is expected to increase 5% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS.

7. Psychiatrists: $249,760

While all psychiatrists help treat mental health issues, it’s a field with a vast range of specialties. Some work on child and adolescent psychiatry, for example, while 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 better understand their current feelings.

Psychiatrists can be found in any number of work environments: private practice, hospitals, community agencies, schools, rehabilitation programs, and even prisons.

  • Education — Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists are medical doctors. After receiving an undergraduate degree, they have to complete medical school, followed by a residency program. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the first year of residency typically involves working in a hospital setting and managing a variety of medical conditions, followed by three or more years focused on mental health and medications. Thereafter, graduates often apply for 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 13% from 2020 to 2030.

8. Internal Medicine Physicians: $242,190

Internists, who often serve as primary care doctors or hospitalists, specialize in the care of adult patients. As with other general practice physicians, internists who work in a primary care capacity see a lot of patients and need to treat a range of ailments, from asthma and diabetes to high cholesterol and hypertension. With visits often lasting 15 or 30 minutes, quick decision-making skills are a must.

  • Education — After receiving a college degree and successfully completing medical school, internists typically complete a residency program where they rotate through multiple healthcare specialties. Some pursue more specialized training in areas such as cardiology, pulmonology, and oncology. Internists who are board-certified have a major edge in the job market.
  • Job Outlook — Employment among general medicine internists is expected to drop 1% between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS.

9. Family Medicine Physicians: $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.

Family medicine physicians, also known as primary care physicians, are typically where patients go for periodic exams and the treatment of common health ailments, such as sinus and respiratory infections, as well as chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.

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 5% from 2020 to 2030.

10. Chief Executives: $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 — Not surprisingly, a Forbes study found that the majority of Fortune 100 CEOs (53%) received a bachelor’s degree in business administration. However, many had undergraduate majors in unrelated fields (though some later received a master of business administration, or MBA, degree). Many executives in tech-related companies studied engineering as undergraduates.
  • Job Outlook — The number of people working as top executives is expected to grow about 8% from 2020 to 2030.

11. Nurse Anesthetists: $202,470

Nursing tends to pay well in general compared with most other career paths, although 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 45% between 2020 and 2030.

12. Pediatricians (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 30,200 pediatricians practicing in the United States, although the BLS expects that number to drop by 2% between 2020 and 2030.

13. Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers: $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 74,700 individuals employed as airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers in the United States. The BLS expects that number to rise by 14% between 2020 and 2030.

14. Dentists (All Other Specialties): $175,160

Dentists who specialize in other practice areas also get 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 get 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 5% between 2020 and 2030.

15. Dentists (General): $167,160

Dentists often show up in lists of the best jobs in healthcare. While the pay tends to be attractive, the combination of relatively low stress and flexible scheduling certainly adds to the appeal.

In a typical week, dental practitioners 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 8% from 2020 to 2030, with over 139,000 in the field.

16. Computer and Information Systems Managers: $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. 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 master of business administration (MBA) or other graduate degrees. MBA programs usually take two years to complete full time, although some employers take courses part-time while they continue to work in an IT capacity.
  • Job Outlook — The BLS projects that total employment will jump 11% between 2020 and 2030, much faster than the economy-wide average.

17. Architectural and Engineering Managers: $158,970

These managers are charged with coordinating all the technical aspects of architecture or engineering projects. That can include consulting with clients and preparing specifications for the project, analyzing the feasibility of work being proposed, and reviewing contracts and budgets.

In addition to having strong administrative skills, managers in these fields need a background in architecture or engineering to understand the demands of a particular project.

  • Education — While some engineering management positions may only require a bachelor’s degree, some employers require a master’s. For positions that are nontechnical in nature, managers often pursue a master’s in business administration. For those in more technical roles, however, degrees such as a master’s in engineering management are often more beneficial.
  • Job Outlook — Jobs in architectural and engineering management are expected to grow 4% between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS.

18. Natural Sciences Managers: $156,110

Moving up the organizational chart is the ticket to a good payday in just about any field, and the sciences are no different. Professionals who supervise chemists, physicists, biologists, and other scientists are in the top 25 of all occupations when it comes to mean pay.

Natural sciences managers can have any number of titles, including health sciences manager, laboratory manager, research and development director, research manager, senior investigator, and senior scientist. What they have in common is a responsibility to coordinate activities such as testing, quality control, and production and to oversee research and development.

  • Education — The typical career path for managers begins as a scientist. In some cases, that may only require a bachelor’s degree, although many roles necessitate a master’s degree or Ph.D. in a scientific field. Some managers pursue a professional science master’s (PSM) degree program, which fuses advanced scientific learning with business coursework.
  • Job Outlook — The 2020 to 2030 outlook for natural sciences managers looks bright, with 6% employment growth expected by the BLS.

19. Financial Managers: $153,460

The finance department plays a pivotal role, especially in medium- and large-sized organizations. Among their responsibilities are planning investment activities and assessing market trends to maximize profits while controlling risk. They also create financial reports that help the senior management team make decisions and inform shareholders.

Jobs that fall within the fast-growing financial manager category include controllers, who prepare financial reports such as income statements and balance sheets; treasurers, who devise investment strategies for the organization; and risk managers, who use various measures to limit the company’s exposure to financial or currency risk.

  • Education — According to the BLS, financial managers usually need a bachelor’s degree or higher in fields such as finance, accounting, economics, or business administration. Before assuming a manager role, most finance professionals have several years of experience in jobs such as loan officer, accountant, securities sales agent, or financial analyst.
  • Job Outlook — The need for financial managers is likely to grow much faster than the job market overall. The BLS foresees a 17% increase in total employment between 2020 and 2030.

20. Marketing Managers: $153,440

Products and services don’t sell themselves. It takes talented professionals to analyze how much demand there is for a particular offering and find ways to bring it to market. These functions are crucial to a business's bottom line, so it may not be a surprise that marketing managers are among the highest-paid professions in the U.S.

To flourish, marketing managers have to demonstrate a blend of creativity and business acumen. Day-to-day activities include everything from acquiring market research to planning promotional activities to developing websites and social media campaigns.

  • Education — Marketing managers typically need a bachelor’s degree, with classwork in areas such as management, economics, finance, computer science, and statistics being particularly helpful. Highly competitive jobs may require a master’s degree.
  • Job Outlook — The BLS expects the job market for marketing managers to grow faster than average, with an estimated 10% growth from 2020 to 2030.

21. Physicist: $151,580

Physicists can often be the most important person on a project as they conduct research into physical phenomena, develop theories on the basis of observation and experiments, and devise methods to apply physical laws and theories. In short, they make sure things both work and work well.

While many work in an office environment, it isn't always desk work. Physicists can find themselves jockeying between paperwork and working in research labs.

  • Education — It is a common requirement for positions that a physicist possess a Ph.D. in physics, astronomy, or a related field, which is usually concerned with advanced mathematics or engineering. Common courseload will include courses such as quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and electromagnetism.
  • Job Outlook — Physicists are in demand, as much as any other occupation. Between 2020 and 2030, the BLS states that physicists should expect to see employment projections of 8%.

22. Judges: $148,030

Judges don't only swing the gavel. They preside over hearings, determine the relevance of information presented, apply laws and precedents to seek judgments, and write opinions on their decisions regarding cases and disputes.

Judges are also required to guide a jury when a jury is selected to decide the case. When there is no jury, the judge makes the final ruling. They ensure that hearings and trials are conducted fairly and that the legal rights of all involved parties are protected.

  • Education — Many judges were successful as lawyers before they became judges. Law school is a requirement for the position, as well as a clean record of practicing. Most judges are appointed or elected, which means there is a fair bit of politics when it comes to pursuing the bench, taking terms between 4 and 14 years. Certain judges are appointed for life.
  • Job Outlook — The job growth rate for judges is slower than the average of all occupations. Judges can expect to see a growth of 3% from 2020 to 2030, significantly slower than the national average of 8%.

23. Podiatrists: $145,840

Podiatrists diagnose and treat diseases and deformities of the foot, ankle, and lower leg. They provide medical and surgical care.

Most podiatrists work in offices of podiatry, either on their own or with other podiatrists or health practitioners. Others work in private and public hospitals, in outpatient care centers, or for the government at a federal executive branch.

  • Education — Podiatrists must have a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree from an accredited college of podiatric medicine. A DPM degree program takes four years to complete. After earning a DPM, podiatrists must apply to and complete a three-year podiatric medicine and surgery residency (PMSR) program. Residency programs take place in hospitals and provide both medical and surgical experience. They may need to complete additional training in specific areas, such as podiatric wound care or diabetic foot care.
  • Job Outlook — One drawback of a future career as a podiatrist is a potential lack of job openings. According to the BLS, employment in this sector is projected to grow 2% from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations. An average of 900 openings for podiatrists are projected each year. Most of these openings may result from the need to replace workers who transfer or retire.

24. Petroleum Engineers: $145,720

Energy sources, including fossil fuels such as oil and gas, are the lifeblood of the economy. However, extracting those important resources efficiently requires some serious know-how, and petroleum engineers play a big role.

Their main goal is to develop methods to pull oil and gas from new deposits below the Earth’s surface and design new ways to extract fossil fuels from existing wells. Typically, the responsibilities of a petroleum engineer include ascertaining operational methods, performing a cost-benefit analysis for a given project, and analyzing survey or geographic data.

Among the titles they may possess are completions engineers, who help devise the optimal way to finish a well; drilling engineers, who figure out how to efficiently and safely drill the well; production engineers, who evaluate oil and gas production after the well has been created; and reservoir engineers, who estimate the amount of oil and gas available in underground deposits, which are known as reservoirs.

  • Education — Future petroleum engineers benefit from taking extensive coursework in math and science as early as high school. Entry-level jobs in the field require at least a bachelor’s degree, with coursework generally focusing on engineering principles, thermodynamics, and geology. Some universities offer five-year combined programs that lead to a bachelor’s and a master’s, which may be necessary for some employers or for those hoping for greater advancement.
  • Job Outlook — When it comes to employment growth, the BLS expects petroleum engineering to be roughly average between 2020 and 2030, at 8%.

25. Prosthodontists: $143,730

Prosthodontists fix damaged teeth or missing teeth with artificial devices such as dental implants, dentures, bridges, crowns, and veneers. Physicians who thrive in this specialty have a strong inclination toward science, are able to diagnose complex dental problems, and possess the mechanical acumen to properly address ailments. Many of them work with cancer patients, making it important to understand the needs of surgical patients and treat individuals going through radiation or chemotherapy.

  • Education — A career in prosthodontics requires a college degree, followed by completion of a dental school program, where they become either a doctor of dental surgery (DDS) or a doctor of dental medicine (DDM). Candidates follow that up with a residency program and ultimately apply for certification from the American Board of Prosthodontics.
  • Job Outlook — It’s a pretty exclusive club—there are only about 700 prosthodontists in the U.S. However, the number of prosthodontists is expected to grow 8% from 2020 to 2030, according to BLS projections.

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: anesthesiologist. They are also the only job 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 Tim Cook, Apple CEO, who cashed in some stock options and took home an enormous $265 million. That's slightly over $1 million for each working day. Tim Cook took home almost $100 million in 2021.

How Can I Get a High-paying Job?

Most high-paying jobs require advanced degrees such as a Ph.D. or medical degree. Although some of the jobs on this list require only an undergrad, the reality is that it's increasingly more difficult to land a coveted position when you are competing against someone with secondary degrees.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to high-paying jobs, 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, then careers such as engineering and management can also lead to lucrative jobs.

Article Sources
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  81. Bloomberg. "Highest Paid CEOs."

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