Healthcare jobs topped the list of the highest-paying occupations, and the sector's future is very bright. According to the 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.
- Healthcare jobs headed the list of the highest-paying occupations: The top 10 jobs all belonged to this sector. Altogether, 14 out of the top 25 jobs were in this field.
- 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 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additional information comes from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), which was developed under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA).
For clarity and convenience, some overlapping job categories were omitted. The figures and statistics are based on data collected through May 2019. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published its list of National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates at the end of March 2020.
Here are the highest-paying professions, based on the BLS data along with the description for each job. For each, we list the 2019 report's mean annual wage, with the 2018 report's mean annual wage in parenthesis after it so you can compare how the compensation has changed.
The BLS defines anesthesiologists as physicians who "administer anesthetics and analgesics for pain management prior to, during, or after surgery." Anesthesiologists were ranked first the previous year as well. There are approximately 31,000 anesthesiologists in the U.S., per the most recent data.
Following four years of medical school, aspiring anesthesiologists in the U.S. typically complete a four-year residency in that specialization, and possibly even more, depending on the sub-specialty.
The BLS defines this category as "Physicians who treat diseases, injuries, and deformities by invasive, minimally-invasive, or non-invasive surgical methods, such as using instruments, appliances, or by manual manipulation." There are approximately 36,270 surgeons in the U.S., according to the most recent BLS data.
3. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
Somewhat more specialized than dentists, oral surgeons perform complex procedures such as wisdom tooth extraction; maxillofacial surgeons perform procedures relating to the jaw and the face around the jaw. According to O*NET, these dental surgeons' duties include:
- "Administer general and local anesthetics.
- Collaborate with other professionals, such as restorative dentists and orthodontists, to plan treatment.
- Evaluate the position of the wisdom teeth to determine whether problems exist currently or might occur in the future.
- Perform surgery to prepare the mouth for dental implants, and to aid in the regeneration of deficient bone and gum tissues.
- Remove impacted, damaged, and non-restorable teeth.
- Treat infections of the oral cavity, salivary glands, jaws, and neck.
- Remove tumors and other abnormal growths of the oral and facial regions, using surgical instruments.
- Provide emergency treatment of facial injuries, including facial lacerations, intra-oral lacerations, and fractured facial bones.
- Treat problems affecting the oral mucosa, such as mouth ulcers and infections.
- Restore form and function by moving skin, bone, nerves, and other tissues from other parts of the body to reconstruct the jaws and face.
- Perform surgery on the mouth and jaws to treat conditions, such as cleft lip and palate and jaw growth problems."
Doctors specializing in female reproductive health and childbirth, known as obstetrician-gynecologists (OB/GYN), make slightly below the annual wages listed for oral and maxillofacial surgeons. According to the BLS, there are about 18,620 physicians in this field in the U.S.
Orthodontists specialize in braces and other corrective measures for the teeth. There are about 5,990 orthodontists in the U.S., according to the BLS.
According to the BLS, prosthodontists "construct oral prostheses to replace missing teeth and other oral structures to correct natural and acquired deformation of mouth and jaws, to restore and maintain oral function, such as chewing and speaking, and to improve appearance." There are only about 490 prosthodontists in the U.S.; their reported mean annual wage rose slightly from the 2019 report.
Psychiatrists are a sub-specialty of the medical profession (as opposed to psychologists, who are not M.D.s).
8. Family and General Practice Physicians
The BLS defines this category as "Physicians who diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases and injuries that commonly occur in the general population. May refer patients to specialists when needed for further diagnosis or treatment."
This includes a broad category comprising physicians and surgeons. Per the BLS, employment in this field is projected to grow 7% from 2018 to 2028, "due to increased demand for healthcare services by the growing and aging population."
10. Internists, General
The BLS defines an internist as, "Physicians who diagnose and provide non-surgical treatment of diseases and injuries of internal organ systems. Provide care mainly for adults who have a wide range of problems associated with the internal organs." This group's salaries went up from the 2019 report by almost $5,000.
11. Chief Executives
Chief executives are in the highest-paid profession outside of the medical or dental fields. The states with the highest CEO salaries might surprise you: South Dakota ranks first; the District of Columbia ranks second, and Rhode Island third. New York isn't on the list. Neither is California.
12. Pediatricians, General
Pint-size patients mean smaller paychecks: Pediatricians, who treat children, make less than internists and general practitioners. But they still are among the highest-paid professionals.
13. Nurse Anesthetists
Nurse anesthetists are the highest-paid category of nurses. Per the BLS, nurse anesthetists "administer anesthesia and provide care before, during, and after surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic, and obstetrical procedures." Growth potential in this field is staggering: The job growth outlook for the collective category, which also includes nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, from 2018–2028 is 26%.
The growth outlook for dentists is faster than average. According to the BLS, the overall employment of dentists is projected to grow 7% from 2018 to 2028.
15. Pilots and Flight Engineers
You may know that airline pilots and co-pilots are the ones in the cockpit, navigating and flying the plane. What you may not know is that there is also a flight engineer, who uses the plane's instruments to provide navigation guidance. Per the O*NET summary for these jobs, a bachelor's degree is required in many instances, but not always.
16. Petroleum Engineers
According to the BLS, "Petroleum engineers design and develop methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits below the Earth’s surface. Petroleum engineers also find new ways to extract oil and gas from older wells." The growth outlook for petroleum engineers is slower than average; the number of jobs in this field is expected to increase by 3% between 2018–2028. Growth and salaries in this field partly hinge upon the price and demand for gas and oil.
If the six-figure salary seems high, take a look at the top tools a petroleum engineer needs to master, according to O*NET:
- Analytical or scientific software, e.g., IHS PETRA; Schlumberger Petrel; TRC Consultants PHDWin; Well Flow Dynamics Wellflow
- Database user interface and query software, e.g., Landmark Graphics TOW/cs; Microsoft Access
- Financial analysis software, e.g., DFA Capital Management GEMS; GeoGraphix ARIES Portfolio; IHS QUE$TOR
- Graphics or photo imaging software, e.g., Microsoft Visio
- Project management software, e.g., Microsoft Project; Oracle Primavera Systems
17. Information Systems Managers
In the IT field, rich software developers get all the attention, but many of the high-paying jobs belong to managerial types. According to the BLS, computer and information systems managers "plan, direct, or coordinate activities in such fields as electronic data processing, information systems, systems analysis, and computer programming." Typical job titles for this occupation include, per O*NET: "Application Development Director, Computing Services Director, Data Processing Manager, Information Systems Director (IS Director), Information Systems Manager (IS Manager), Information Systems Supervisor (IS Supervisor), Information Technology Director (IT Director), Information Technology Manager (IT Manager), MIS Director (Management Information Systems Director), Technical Services Manager."
18. Architectural and Engineer Managers
Per O*NET online, architectural and engineering managers "plan, direct, or coordinate activities in such fields as architecture and engineering or research and development in these fields." Their duties include:
- Manage the coordination and overall integration of technical activities in architecture or engineering projects.
- Direct, review, or approve project design changes.
- Consult or negotiate with clients to prepare project specifications.
- Prepare budgets, bids, or contracts.
- Present and explain proposals, reports, or findings to clients.
- Confer with management, production, or marketing staff to discuss project specifications or procedures.
- Assess project feasibility by analyzing technology, resource needs, or market demand.
- Review, recommend, or approve contracts or cost estimates.
- Develop or implement policies, standards, or procedures for engineering and technical work.
- Establish scientific or technical goals within broad outlines provided by top management.
19. Marketing Managers
Spin, they say, is everything, so it may not be a surprise that marketing managers are among the highest-paid professions in the U.S. The salaries for marketing managers vary wildly by industry, though. The five top-paying industries for marketing managers are:
- Scientific research
- Cable/subscription programming
- Motion picture/video
- Oil and gas extraction
- Apparel manufacturing
20. Financial Managers
This job category comprises treasurers and controllers as well as financial managers. Despite the increased availability of online brokers, self-guided financial software, and robo-advisors, the field of financial management is expected to grow a very healthy 16% between 2018–2028.
Treasurers and controllers are responsible for the following tasks, per O*NET:
- "Supervise employees performing financial reporting, accounting, billing, collections, payroll, and budgeting duties."
- "Coordinate and direct the financial planning, budgeting, procurement, or investment activities of all or part of an organization."
- "Develop internal control policies, guidelines, and procedures for activities such as budget administration, cash and credit management, and accounting."
- "Maintain current knowledge of organizational policies and procedures, federal and state policies and directives, and current accounting standards."
- "Prepare or direct preparation of financial statements, business activity reports, financial position forecasts, annual budgets, or reports required by regulatory agencies."
- "Provide direction and assistance to other organizational units regarding accounting and budgeting policies and procedures and efficient control and utilization of financial resources."
- "Analyze the financial details of past, present, and expected operations to identify development opportunities and areas where improvement is needed."
- "Advise management on short-term and long-term financial objectives, policies, and actions."
- "Monitor financial activities and details, such as cash flow and reserve levels, to ensure that all legal and regulatory requirements are met."
- "Evaluate needs for procurement of funds and investment of surpluses and make appropriate recommendations."
21. Natural Sciences Managers
Per O*NET, natural sciences managers "plan, direct, or coordinate activities in such fields as life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, statistics, and research and development in these fields." This can include the following titles: "Environmental Program Manager, Fisheries Director, Health Sciences Manager, Laboratory Manager, Natural Science Manager, Research and Development Director, Research Manager, Senior Investigator, Senior Scientist, Water Team Leader."
The growth outlook for lawyers between the years 2018–2028 is 6%, about the average for all occupations in general.
Podiatrists are foot doctors, but rather than a traditional medical degree, podiatrists get a DPM (Doctor Podiatric Medicine) degree. O*NET claims that this field has a "bright outlook" in terms of future job growth.
24. Sales Managers
Per the BLS, sales managers "plan, direct, or coordinate the actual distribution or movement of a product or service to the customer. Coordinate sales distribution by establishing sales territories, quotas, and goals and establish training programs for sales representatives. Analyze sales statistics gathered by staff to determine sales potential and inventory requirements and monitor the preferences of customers."
25. Compensation and Benefits Managers
Within the field of human resources, compensation and benefits managers are the highest-paying positions. Per O*NET, this job category can comprise titles such as "Benefits Coordinator, Benefits Manager, Compensation and Benefits Manager, Compensation Director, Compensation Manager, Compensation Vice President, Employee Benefits Coordinator, Employee Benefits Director, Employee Benefits Manager, Payroll Manager."