High-paying jobs in the US
When it comes to salaries, not all jobs are created equal. There are many occupations and careers that offer superior monetary compensation, even compared to others that require a similar degree. The highest-paying jobs in the U.S. typically require the highest levels of education, many years of training and an impressive resume. However, the payoff for the time and effort you put in can be extraordinary. In general, careers in health care dominate the list of jobs that pay best. However, there are many more well-paid jobs in other industries. Business and finance jobs, careers involving science, technology, engineering and math, and law are traditionally well-compensated, too. The following list highlights 10 of the top-paying jobs in the U.S., their average annual salaries as of May 2013 and what these professions entail.
1. Anesthesiologists: $235,070 annually
Anesthesiologists undergo intense and specific training that qualifies them to administer drugs before, during and after medical procedures, such as surgeries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that these doctors were the highest-paid both within the medical profession and overall in the U.S., with their average annual salary coming in at well over $200,000.
Medical school is a long process to begin with, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists reports that physician anesthesiologists have significantly longer and more extensive training than other jobs in this field, such as nurse anesthetists. They're responsible for a patient's well-being and safety, and their ability to create the safest possible anesthesia plan for each individual is crucial.
2. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons: $218,960 annually
Beyond the scope of a dentist's duties, oral and maxillofacial surgeons use their specific training to operate on the mouth, jaw, teeth, gums and neck. They might be treating diseases or injuries, or these surgeons could be performing reconstructive or plastic surgery to help improve someone's facial function or appearance.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons earned a median annual wage of $218,960 nationally in 2013, according to the BLS, and they are most commonly employed in dentists' or doctors' officers, or in hospitals or outpatient care centers. The states with the highest number of these dental surgeons employed are:
- Florida (annual mean wage: $226,740)
- California (annual mean wage: $222,270)
- New York (annual mean wage: $229,540)
3. Obstetricians and Gynecologists: $212,570 annually
These professionals deal with issues relating to women's health in general, particularly with respect to their reproductive systems, and they also treat pregnant women before, during and after childbirth, according to Career OneStop. Like many health care professions, this job is generally a well-paid one, with the BLS reporting that OBGYNs earned a mean annual wage of $212,570 nationally in 2013.
Almost 70 percent of OBGYNs in the U.S. are employed in doctors' offices, with a further 13 percent in outpatient care centers, according to BLS data. In addition to these professional settings, OBGYNs are most commonly employed in colleges, universities or professional schools, and in local government.
4. Orthodontists: $196,270 annually
Orthodontists are specialized dentists whose main focus is straightening teeth with the use of pressure, braces or other appliances. The BLS reports that orthodontists earned a median annual wage of $196,270 nationally in 2013, and according to labor department data, the job growth for orthodontists is expected to be quite strong through 2020, particularly in certain states. These include:
- Indiana: 34.6% projected growth
- Georgia: 26.8% projected growth
- Florida: 23.2% projected growth
To find out more about the salary and career outlook for orthodontists, click here.
5. Psychiatrists: $182,660 annually
Psychiatrists are physicians who focus on the mental health of their patients, and they can do so both by prescribing drugs and by recommending talk therapy and other treatments (unlike psychologists, for instance, who can't prescribe psychiatric drugs). The American Psychiatric Association notes that because of their extensive medical training, psychiatrists are the best qualified among mental health professionals to tell the difference between physical and psychological causes of mental health issues.
The BLS reports that in May 2013, psychiatrists earned an average annual wage of $182,660 nationally, and certain states had even higher salaries than that. Maine, Arizona, Oregon and Wyoming all had mean wages of more than $225,000 per year, as of 2013.
6. Family and General Practitioners: $183,940 annually
Family practitioners and GPs are doctors, but unlike physicians who specialize, they treat a wide range of illnesses and conditions, and they typically focus on long-term family care. A GP or family practitioner is the doctor most people call when they need an annual physical or a routine checkup for something like the flu.
According to government data, family and general practitioners earned a mean annual wage of $183,940 in 2013. The states with the highest concentration of family doctors and GPs employed include Missouri, Hawaii, South Carolina, Florida and North Dakota.
7. Chief Executives: $178,400 annually
Chief executives, otherwise known as CEOs, provide the overall direction for organizations and companies, and they work to ensure that company procedures are followed and organizational goals are met. The BLS reports that chief executives earned a median annual wage of $178,400 nationally in 2013, but that amount can vary tremendously across industries and based on the size of the company in question. In addition, professionals from a variety of different backgrounds can work toward this career point, though having a degree or at least some prior experience in business can be tremendously helpful.
8. Dentists: $168,870 annually
Dentists provide essential care to patient's teeth, gums and mouth. Unlike orthodontists or oral surgeons, who treat specific problems, dentists focus on basic day-to-day care and might see a patient regularly for many years. Dentists earned an average annual wage of $168,870 nationally as of 2013, according to the BLS, and it's also a career that's expected to see faster-than-average growth from 2012 through 2022. Dentists are projected to have 16 percent career growth over that decade, which comes out to about 23,200 new jobs nationally over that period.
9. Nurse Anesthetists: $157,690 annually
Nurse anesthetists provide anesthesia, pain management and related care before, during and after various surgical procedures, according to the BLS. These health care providers are classified as advance practice registered nurses (APRNs), a group that also includes nurse practitioners and nurse midwives. Because there is so much additional training for these professions relative to regular registered nurses (RNs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs), the annual average salaries are significantly higher. As of May 2013, the annual average wage for nurse anesthetists was $157,690 nationally, the BLS reports, compared with $68,910 for RNs and $42,910 for LPNs.
10. Petroleum Engineers: $149,180 annually
These professionals specialize in coming up with innovative ways to extract oil and gas from beneath the Earth's surface. Unlike many of the highest-paying jobs in the U.S., being a petroleum engineer typically only requires a bachelor's degree, according to the BLS, and the average annual salary is still well over $100,000.
It's also a job with significantly better than average growth (26% through 2022, per the BLS), and some states — specifically, those with booming petroleum industries or oil reserves — are expected to have even better job growth for the decade between 2010 and 2022, according to Projections Central. These include:
- North Dakota: 73.5% projected growth
- Colorado: 66.9% projected growth
- Utah: 25.7% projected growth
To find out more details about the salary and projected career growth for petroleum engineers, click here.
What Is a Psychiatrist, American Psychiatric Association,
About the Profession, American Society of Anesthesiologists,
Long-Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central,
May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Employment and Wages: Chief Executives, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
Occupational Employment and Wages: Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
Occupational Employment and Wages: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
Occupational Employment and Wages: Psychiatrists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
Dentists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-2
Petroleum Engineers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/petroleum-engineers.htm