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 of healthcare occupations is projected to grow 15% from 2019 to 2029—adding about 2.4 million new jobs. This growth “is mainly due to an aging population, leading to greater demand for healthcare services,” according to the agency.
- Several healthcare jobs topped the list of the highest-paying occupations; the top 10 jobs all belonged to this sector.
- Corporate chief executives are in the highest-paid profession outside of the healthcare fields.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published its most recent list of National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates at the end of March 2019.
The Methodology We Used
Rankings are based on salary data from the BLS. Where possible, we used median salaries for each occupation, which signify the annual wage of a typical employee in that role. However, the BLS only publishes mean, or average, salaries for certain positions; those figures are denoted with an asterisk (*) below.
The salary figures and job outlook projections are based on data collected through May 2019, which is the last time the BLS updated its occupational statistics.
1. Anesthesiologists: $261,730*
The BLS defines anesthesiologists as physicians who “administer anesthetics and analgesics for pain management prior to, during, or after surgery.” This is the third straight year that 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 trauma 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 remain flat over the next decade, according to the BLS.
2. Surgeons: $252,040*
Although becoming a surgeon requires several years of specialized training, these 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 decline 2% over the next decade, according to the BLS.
3. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons: $237,570
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 2019 to 2029, employment is expected to increase just 2%, according to the BLS.
4. Obstetricians-Gynecologists: $233,610*
Doctors specializing in vaginal, ovarian, uterine, and cervical reproductive health and childbirth, known as obstetricians-gynecologists, or OB-GYNs, make slightly below the annual wages listed for oral and maxillofacial 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 childbirths—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. Afterward, these physicians have to pass a licensure exam before they begin to practice.
- Job Outlook — The number of OB-GYN jobs is expected to decrease by 1% by 2029, according to the BLS.
5. Orthodontists: $230,830
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 2029, the BLS expects the number of orthodontic jobs in the U.S. to reach 7,300, reflecting a 2% increase from 2019.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
6. Prosthodontists: $220,840
Prosthodontists fix damaged teeth or missing teeth with artificial devices such as dental implants, dentures, bridges, crowns, and veneers. It’s a pretty exclusive club—there are only about 600 prosthodontists in the U.S., according to the BLS.
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 — The number of prosthodontists is expected to stay flat over the next decade, according to BLS projections.
7. Psychiatrists: $220,430*
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 other 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, who also treat mental health issues, 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. 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 12% from 2019 to 2029.
8. Family Medicine Physicians (Formerly Family and General Practitioners): $213,270*
The BLS defines this category as “physicians who diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases and injuries that commonly occur in the general population.” These medical doctors often refer patients to specialists for advanced treatments.
General practice 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, general practice 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 general internal medicine physicians is expected to drop 1% over the next decade. However, the BLS expects employment among family medicine doctors to grow 6% from 2019 to 2029.
9. Physicians (Other): $206,500*
If you take the median salary of all physicians working in all other specialties, they would come in ninth 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 4% by 2029, according to the BLS.
10. Internal Medicine Physicians: $201,440*
At the No. 10 spot, you guessed it—another medical role. Internists, who often serve as primary care doctors or hospitalists, specialize in the care of adult patients. In 2019, their already strong salary went up by almost $5,000.
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% by 2029, according to the BLS.
11. Chief Executives: $193,850
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 2018 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 4% over the next decade, roughly the average of all roles.
12. Pediatricians, General: $175,310
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 32,500 pediatricians practicing in the United States, although the BLS expects that number to drop by 2% over the next decade.
13. Nurse Anesthetists: $174,790
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% by 2029.
14. Dentists (General): $155,600
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 3% by 2029.
(Tie) 15. Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers: $147,220
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, which generates a median salary of $147,220 in 2019.
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. Even though they’re not maneuvering the aircraft, a flight engineer needs to have a commercial pilot’s license and a minimum of 1,500 hours of flying experience logged.
- Job Outlook — There are roughly 85,500 individuals employed as airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers in the United States. The BLS expects that number to rise by 3% between 2019 and 2029.
(Tie) 15. Dentists (All Other Specialties): $147,220
Dentists who specialize in other practice areas also get compensated quite well. The BLS lumps these other specialists into one grouping, which brings in an average salary of $147,220, according to the bureau’s latest data from 2019.
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 remain flat over the next decade.
17. Computer and Information Systems Managers: $146,360
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.
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.
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.
- 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 degree. 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 10% by 2029, much faster than the economy-wide average.
18. Architectural and Engineering Managers: $144,830
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 3% by 2029, or about average for all occupations, according to the BLS.
19. Petroleum Engineers: $137,720
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 over the next decade, at 3%.
20. Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates: $136,910
Judges preside over trials and hearings in a local, state, or federal courthouse. At the local level, they can have a range of different titles, including municipal court judge, county court judge, and justice of the peace. According to the BLS, some of their primary duties include handling traffic violations, misdemeanors, small-claims cases, and pretrial hearings.
Judges serving in federal and state court systems, on the other hand, have titles such as district court judge and general trial court judge and preside over criminal or civil cases within their jurisdiction. Appellate judges review cases from lower courts to ensure that the law was applied correctly at the trial level.
Magistrate judges work within the federal system and are appointed by the district judges of their district court. They do not have authority to handle felony cases but can oversee misdemeanor trials with the defendant’s prior approval and can assist district judges in duties such as pretrial and discovery proceedings.
Magistrates are not judges; rather, they hold a ministerial role in some local and state courts. In certain jurisdictions, they review criminal complaints and issue arrest and search warrants, summonses, and emergency protective orders. They may also oversee bail hearings.
- Education — With few exceptions, judges need a law degree to serve on the bench. In addition to maintaining their law license, they need to be in good standing with the bar association in their state. These professionals often practice for several years as an attorney before seeking appointment or election as a judge. Federal administrative law judges are required to pass the exam from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Local magistrates may or may not be required to hold a law degree, depending on where they serve. In some states, only a bachelor’s degree is required.
- Job Outlook — The BLS projects that the number of judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates will grow by 3% between 2019 and 2029.
21. Marketing Managers: $136,850
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. Marketing departments also determine the price that will maximize profit for the company.
These functions are crucial to a business’ bottom line, so it may not be a surprise that marketing managers are among the highest-paid professions in the U.S. In 2019, the median annual wage for this title was a cool $136,850.
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 7% growth by 2029.
22. Financial Managers: $129,890
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 15% increase in total employment between 2019 and 2029.
23. Natural Sciences Managers: $129,100
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 median 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 2019–2029 outlook for natural sciences managers looks bright, with 5% employment growth expected by the BLS.
24. Pharmacists: $128,090
Looking for a career that requires a strong scientific aptitude as well as good people skills? Becoming a pharmacist might just fit the bill. It pays respectably, too, with the typical professional earning $128,090 in 2019.
Pharmacists have to know about the appropriate dosing and side effects of a wide range of medications, making excellent knowledge retention skills and attention to detail imperative. Pharmacists also need to articulate their expertise effectively, particularly when working directly with patients.
While you may tend to think of pharmacists as the white-robed individuals working at a retail pharmacy, clinical pharmacists work in hospitals and other medical settings, where they typically accompany physicians on their patient rounds. Some also work for pharmaceutical companies, where they may design drug trials or work on research and development for new medications.
- Education — To practice as a pharmacist, an individual needs a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) post-graduate degree. These degrees typically take three to four years to complete, depending on the program. To gain acceptance in a Pharm.D. program, students generally need to complete minimum coursework requirements for chemistry, biology, and physics and take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).
- Job Outlook — One drawback of a future career in pharmacy is a potential lack of job openings. Employment is expected to shrink 3% over the next decade, according to the BLS.
25. Sales Managers: $126,640
Sales managers play a vital role in most companies—creating sales territories, identifying goals for salespeople, and developing training programs that help team members sell products and services more effectively. They also pore over sales data to identify the most promising products and markets and to assess the performance of sales employees.
While the pay tends to be very good, sales managers often have to travel to visit local sales offices and meet with distributors. Because they shoulder a lot of the responsibility for generating revenue within an organization, serving as a sales manager can also be stressful.
- Education — Companies generally look for individuals with several years of sales experience for their sales manager positions. While some jobs may not require a college education, many demand a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- Job Outlook — The BLS projects employment growth to be about average over the next decade, with a 4% increase in the number of working sales managers.
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.
* The Bureau of Labor Statistics only reports the average salary, not the median salary, for this occupation.