Top Ten Highest Paying Government Jobs

FT Contributor  | 

When considering high-paying jobs, government jobs aren’t usually what comes to mind first. It’s often assumed that government jobs offer great benefits but require long hours,  and hard work, while offering little pay. However, government jobs can be meaningful and offer high salaries.

In addition to generous benefits packages, government jobs can also offer lifelong career paths and variety in the types of work performed. For example, you could take a government job as a nurse anesthetist for the Veteran’s Health Administration or as a program manager for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The highest paying government jobs listed below are ranked by average pay.

1. Securities Compliance Examiner

Median Salary and Job Growth

A securities compliance examiner can earn between $68,372 and $244,184, with an average salary of $181,013. Employment in this field is expected to grow at about 7%, faster than average.

Job Description

Securities compliance examiners are employed by the Securities and Exchange Commission to examine finances and uncover financial scams or inconsistencies relating to individuals or companies. They focus on all industries, but mainly the banking, trading, and investment fields. These employees are required to hold bachelor’s degrees and have financial experience, as well as advanced mathematical and investigative skills, which earns them top pay.

2. Patent Attorney

Median Salary and Job Growth

A patent attorney can earn between $76,178 and $190,444, with an average salary of $170,078. Attorneys are experiencing job growth at about 6%, which is average.

Job Description

Patent attorneys use their experience and analytical skills to impose changes to patent laws and analyze trade agreements. Most government-employed patent attorneys work for the Patent and Trademark Office, while some may be hired by the Department of Energy or other offices, boards, and divisions of the government. For example, patent attorneys may be employed by space or research centers. Patent attorneys are offered high compensation because they must have law degrees and complete apprenticeship programs before being hired.

3. Nurse Anesthetist

Median Salary and Job Growth

A nurse anesthetist can earn between $24,936 and $207,800, with an average salary of $167,817. The nursing field is experiencing a growth rate of 26%, much faster than average.

Job Description

Nurse anesthetists work for the government with the Veteran’s Health Administration. They’re tasked with administering anesthesia to patients before they undergo surgery. To become a nurse anesthetist, you must earn a master’s degree in anesthesia, pass a national certification exam, and obtain on-the-job training. With extensive education and experience, it’s no wonder these high-pressure jobs earn high salaries.

4. Administrative Law Judge

Median Salary and Job Growth

An administrative law judge can earn between $117,392 and $183,425, with an average salary of $163,112. The demand for judges is growing at about 3%, slower than average.

Job Description

An administrative law judge deals with cases filed against government programs and agencies, such as Medicare. Most administrative law judges employed by the government work for the Social Security Administration, but some also work for the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals, and other agencies or programs. Administrative law judges are offered generous pay because they’re required to be licensed attorneys with at least seven years of experience practicing law before they’re hired.

5. Patent Administrator

Median Salary and Job Growth

A patent administrator can earn between $119,775 and $187,148, with an average salary of $161,308. The legal assistant field is experiencing growth at a rate of 12%, which is much faster than average.

Job Description

Patent administrators are responsible for dealing with the paperwork for patents, including filing patent applications and ensuring patent laws are followed. The Patent and Trademark Office employs all government patent administrators. These workers earn high salaries because they’re required to have bachelor’s degrees and technical experience in specific fields, such as engineering.

6. Technical Systems Program Manager

Median Salary and Job Growth

A technical systems program manager can earn between $71,837 and $199,548, with an average salary of $153,430. The demand for technical program managers is expected to grow by about 12%, much faster than average.

Job Description

Technical systems program managers are employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and are tasked with ensuring the nation’s airports are complying with all safety standards. They work with other government employees who oversee the finances and engineering of aviation-related projects. Since this position requires a great deal of technical oversight and attention to detail, compensation is high.

7. General Mathematician/Statistician

Median Salary and Job Growth

A general mathematician or statistician can earn between $48,320 and $241,600, with an average salary of $153,213. The demand for mathematicians and statisticians is growing much faster than average, at 30%.

Job Description

Most government-employed general mathematicians and statisticians work for the Food Safety and Inspection Service or Securities and Exchange Commission, but some work for other agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They analyze data to learn about trends and assist with other calculations or mathematical formulas as needed. To become a mathematician or statistician with the government, you must possess a bachelor’s degree, analytical skills, and other special skills related to the department you work for, which attributes to the high salary.

8. Chief Engineer

Median Salary and Job Growth

A chief engineer can earn between $66,066 and $165,164, with an average salary of $150,802. The marine engineering field is experiencing growth at 9%, which is faster than average.

Job Description

Most chief engineers are employed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also hires engineers. They supervise the functionality of the electronic systems, staffing, and supplies on research and surveying ships for these government agencies. Chief engineers must earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as marine biology or engineering, and prove they have experience, which earns them higher pay than other government jobs.

9. Astronomer

Median Salary and Job Growth

An astronomer can earn between $65,362 and $181,562, with an average salary of $141,981. The astronomy field is growing at a rate of 9%, which is faster than average.

Job Description

Astronomers research space and solar systems to help government agencies complete successful space missions. Military branches, including the Army and Air Force, hire astronomers. There are also many government agencies that employ astronomers, including:

Astronomers must have a bachelor’s degree in physics, engineering, math, or another science-related field before being hired by a government agency. They’re usually paid based on experience and the depth of the project they’re working on.

10. Program Manager

Median Salary and Job Growth

A program manager can earn between $39,000 and $325,000, with an average salary of $141,594. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the management field will experience growth at 7% from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than average.

Job Description

Most government-employed program managers work for the IRS, while others are employed by the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection or the Forest Service. A project manager is responsible for overseeing the tasks and logistics for several programs at once within a respective agency. The program manager must ensure these projects are completed successfully and on time. With many duties, deadlines, and goals to juggle, a program manager has a stressful and demanding job, which explains the competitive salary.


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This post was updated December 5, 2019. It was originally published December 5, 2019.