The 10 Highest-Paying Jobs in America: Why Do They Pay So Much?

FT Contributor  | 

The thought of being paid anywhere from $80 to well over $100 per hour is an exciting proposition for any motivated job-seeker. However, rather than simply gunning for the first high-paying gig that comes along, it’s always wise to take stock of your options. It’s also important to consider the costs associated with those high paychecks. Education, industry experience, and stiff competition all factor into the mix. 

The Top 10 Highest-Paying Jobs in America

There are a plethora of lucrative jobs available, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are absolutely the highest paying vocations in the 2019 market:

1. Anesthesiologists

Anaesthesiologists prepare patients for surgery by administering drugs to prevent pain. They monitor the patient before, during, and after surgery and decide when they’re ready to leave the recovery room.

The complicated science, medical knowledge, and high level of responsibility for patient wellbeing all contribute to an anaesthesiologist’s high salary.

Along with the educational expenses, those considering a career in the field of anesthesiology should ensure that they enjoy chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics.

2. Surgeons

  • Median Pay: $270,561
  • Entry-Level Education/Experience Requirements: A bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school, followed by at least three to 10 years of residency training.
  • Number of Jobs: 34,390
  • Job Outlook: The growing needs of the healthcare industry forecast a bright future for surgeons.

Surgeons are healthcare professionals that treat diseases, deformities, and injuries via surgical methods.

The occupation pays very well because it requires well over a decade of expensive education and training and involves a great deal of responsibility as surgeons deal with life or death situations on a regular basis.

Becoming a surgeon requires copious amounts of costly education and includes ongoing expenses to maintain professional insurance and certifications.

3. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

  • Median Pay: $238,876
  • Entry-Level Education/Experience Requirements: A bachelor’s degree (or other required classes to enter dental school), three to five years of dental school, and two to four years in a residency program.
  • Number of Jobs: 4,830
  • Job Outlook: As with most healthcare industry professions, the job outlook for oral and maxillofacial surgeons is positive for the foreseeable future.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform surgeries on both hard and soft tissue in the mouth, jaw, and face. These surgeons treat injuries, defects, and diseases and can improve both function and overall appearance.

Success in this field tends to be difficult, as it is dictated by both education and experience. However, those who do manage to satisfy both of these requirements are generously compensated.

Apart from educational costs, potential oral and maxillofacial surgeons should consider the continuing costs of licenses, certifications, and insurance throughout their career. They also should keep in mind that this is a very social profession within the healthcare industry and requires a good deal of compassion and direct interaction with patients.

4. Orthodontists

  • Median Pay: $232,500
  • Entry-Level Education/Experience Requirements: A bachelor’s degree (or other required classes to enter dental school) followed by 3-5 years in dental school and an additional two to four years in a residency program, at which point further, state-specific training and licensing may still be required.
  • Number of Jobs: 5,350
  • Job Outlook: This healthcare industry profession is positioned to grow at an above-average pace in the near future. This promises a very good outlook for those who choose it as their profession.

Orthodontists are healthcare professionals trained to deal with dental malocclusions (askew teeth) as well as oral cavity concerns and issues. Orthodontists help with both appearance and function.

Orthodontist are compensated highly for multiple reasons, such as the fact that their education can be very expensive. Along with the costs of training, additional costs for continuing to remain licensed and insured should be considered as well.

In addition, they are chiefly concerned with medical procedures that affect both physical health and appearance, which allows them to contribute to both a person’s health and quality of life.

5. Obstetricians and Gynecologists

  • Median Pay: $220,790
  • Entry-Level Education/Experience Requirements: A bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school, a one-year internship, and a three-to-seven-year residency are required.
  • Number of Jobs: 18,590
  • Job Outlook: There is a severe shortage of OBGYNs, and it is projected that there will be 8,000 fewer professionals in this field than are needed by 2020. This bodes well for anyone considering it as their profession.

OBGYNs are doctors who specialize in prenatal care, birth, and postnatal care. Working as an OBGYN requires a great deal of bedside manner, with empathy, emotional intelligence, and compassion factoring into day-to-day business.

Employment as an OBGYN should remain both available and well-compensated thanks to the severe shortage of OBGYNs. Their salary is high for a number of reasons. OBGYNs work long hours, have to deal with countless regulations, and must protect themselves from the threat of being sued.

6. Psychiatrists

  • Median Pay: $202,682.
  • Entry-Level Education/Experience Requirements: A bachelor’s degree is required, followed by four years of medical school and a minimum of four years as a resident.
  • Number of Jobs: 25,630
  • Job Outlook: The field is expected to grow at an above-average pace due to the rising need of professionals in the healthcare industry and the aging of the current generation of psychiatrists actively practicing.

Psychiatrists are physicians of the mind. They work in hospitals, physician’s offices, the government, and academia, diagnosing and tending to mental illnesses, substance abuse, and emotional and behavioral disorders.

While it may seem odd for a career in mental health to have pay comparable to the salary for a surgeon or an orthodontist, a psychiatrist’s salary is partly due to the fact that they are heavily involved in the medical field as part of their vocation — as is borne out by their hefty four-year stint in medical school. They have larger amounts of patient-responsibility and risk than, say, a psychologist might have.

The industry is suffering from a lack of qualified professionals, which can make it an excellent career path for those ready to take on the educational requirements involved.

7. Family and general practitioners

  • Median Pay: $201,100
  • Entry-Level Education/Experience Requirements: Typically, at least a doctoral degree is required.
  • Number of Jobs: 114,130
  • Job Outlook: Employment will be very likely in the future as the healthcare industry continues to grow.

Family and general practitioners are focused on caring for the general population as a whole. They diagnose, treat, and help to prevent common diseases and injuries and will refer patients to more specific healthcare professionals when necessary.

An increased interest in consumer use of family doctors has helped to put this career in high demand in recent years and has doubtlessly contributed to its high salary.

Interpersonal skills are highly important for this occupation, and the costs of maintaining licenses and certifications should be considered as well.

8. Internists

  • Median Pay: $194,500
  • Entry-Level Education/Experience Requirements: A bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school, and three to seven years spent participating in internship and residency programs are required.
  • Number of Jobs: 37,820
  • Job Outlook: Employment for internists is projected to grow significantly over the next few years and should provide ample opportunities for hard workers.

Internists are physicians who focus on internal medicine and provide non-surgical internal medical treatments. Significant time is spent diagnosing patients.

As with most medical professions, internists must invest a great deal of money into their education and training, which is compensated by their larger salary. In addition, many internists feel an extra level of compensation specifically from the gratitude that they experience from helping their patients.

9. Chief Executives

  • Median Pay: $189,600
  • Entry-Level Education/Experience Requirements: Requirements vary. However, most executives have a bachelor’s degree and a significant amount of experience.
  • Number of Jobs: 2,639,500
  • Job Outlook: The employment of chief executives will likely grow at an average pace and stiff competition can be expected within the field.

Chief executives lead companies, small and large, and are focused on overall strategy and policy creation. A chief executive’s goal is to help a company or organization reach its goal.

CEOs chart the direction and vision of an organization and help provide the momentum to reach organizational goals. The sheer level of responsibility that rests on the shoulders of all CEOs is typically enough to justify their salary.

Along with the competitive nature of the position, those looking for this kind of job can expect to work long hours and may be required to travel often.

10. Prosthodontists

  • Median Pay: $176,540
  • Entry-Level Education/Experience Requirements: A bachelor’s degree (or other required classes to enter dental school) followed by dental school and two to four years in a residency program.
  • Number of Jobs: 430
  • Job Outlook: The demand for prosthodontists is expected to increase significantly in the future, providing additional work opportunities for those looking to enter this field.

Prosthodontists specialize in creating oral prostheses such as crowns, bridges, and dentures. Their focus can be on both function and appearance.

Prosthodontists do hands-on work, creating the actual prosthetics that go into a patient’s mouth. In addition, there are very few of them in their field, which tends to naturally justify their higher salaries. As with most careers on this list, the salary is also indicative of the extensive educational and experiential requirements, with fledgling prosthodontists often making less than half of the reported salary.

Potential prosthodontists should keep in mind that after they pay for the cost of education they will also continue to have to pay for things like licenses and certifications, many of which are specific to the state in which they choose to practice.

Important Considerations When Choosing a Field of Work

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind as you go about choosing the field of employment that you wish to focus on.

The Highest-Paying Jobs May Not Provide the Highest Value

Just because a job pays well doesn’t mean it’s going to provide the best value. Higher salaries may be indicative of additional certification, licensure, or insurance costs associated with a profession. A doctor, for instance, may be required to pay for expensive liability insurance to safeguard them from lawsuits. These additional costs should be considered before you embark on the long journey towards a career with the highest take-home pay.

High-Paying Jobs Tend to Be Competitive

While the path to a particular career may be clear, that doesn’t mean it will be easy to land a job with the full salary you are expecting. The highest-paying jobs are typically the most fiercely competitive in nature.

Even in areas where there is rapid growth, such as the healthcare industry, it’s difficult to rise to the top of the candidate list. Often only a handful of specialists of one kind or another is required, while the rest of the personnel hired by a hospital or doctor’s office will be given other jobs with lower pay.

In addition, experience can be a deciding factor with elite positions, which could mean a very long wait before you qualify over others who have been in your field for much longer.

The Threat of Automation

Automation doesn’t only affect the lower rungs of society. The ripples of automated work can even be felt at the top of the pay scale. Tasks such as creating prosthetics or performing surgery may be easily automated in the future.

Make sure that you choose a career field and then approach your education with this in mind. Always be ready to adapt to changes and try to avoid specializing in an area that may be automated in the near future.


Image Source: https://depositphotos.com/

This post was updated November 6, 2019. It was originally published November 6, 2019.