List of High Paying Careers

Oral Surgeon

When selecting a career path, salary often plays a large role in your decision. If you're looking for ways to increase your earning potential, a list of some of the high paying careers may offer a few useful insights and may help you make plans.

High Paying Careers

Many of the highest paying careers require specialized training or preparation before you can get hired.

Doctors and Surgeons

Doctors and surgeons have some of the highest salaries in the health professions and of all occupations in general. These positions require a significant amount of training - four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical school, at least three years of postgraduate residency training and a state license to practice medicine.

The amount of money a physician earns in salary depends on the medical specialty. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average amount of pay for primary care physicians in 2010 was $202,392 and the average for specialists was $356,885. Salary also can also depend on:

  • Location
  • Number of hours worked
  • Whether the doctor works in a self-owned practice or if he/she works for someone else

The job outlook for doctors and surgeons is that of growth with an expected expansion of 24% between the years 2010-2020.

Dentists and Orthodontists

Dentists and orthodontists help diagnose and care for our teeth. For these services, they earn a high salary as well. These professionals have to complete four years of undergraduate work, four years of dental school, and a residency program which might take one to two years.

The mean salary for dentists is $146,920 and for orthodontists is $204,670. The job outlook for 2010-2020 for this career path is 21% growth, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineers develop ways to get gas and oil out of deposits underground; they also can oversee drilling operations. This position requires at least a bachelor's degree in engineering, and employers consider any work experience in the area when hiring for these jobs.

According to PayScale, the median salary for this job is $107,969 with a top salary of $209,944. Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana hire the most petroleum engineers. The 2010-2020 job outlook for this position is around 17% growth, which is a little above average for all jobs in the U.S.

Chief Executive Officers

Chief executive officers (CEO) help develop the vision of a company and lead the execution of this plan. There are CEOs in almost every industry and at almost every company. While it is possible to become a CEO without a degree, most executives have at least a bachelor's degree and have spent significant time working in a particular industry before they get hired for this position.

The average salary for this job is $160,977 according to PayScale; however, people in this position can earn a lot more - even millions -- depending on the company for which they work. The job outlook for 2010-2020 is slower than the average industry with only 5% growth.

Sales Managers

Sales managers ensure that the sales goals of a company are met each quarter and year; they also oversee the sales force and help with their training sessions. Sales managers often have to travel, work long hours, and may work weekends as well. A bachelor's degree and work experience are typically needed to get hired for this job.

The median salary for sales managers is $98,530 according to the BLS; however, the top salary can go up to more than $160,000. Sales managers who make their sales targets and other goals may receive performance bonuses on top of their salaries. The growth outlook over ten years 2010 to 2020 is about 12% growth, which is around the same as other occupations in the United States.

Lawyers and Judges

Lawyers work with individuals, organizations, or companies to deal with legal matters and can work in private or corporate legal offices or for the government. Judges oversee legal proceedings in courts and help resolve negotiations and disputes. People who want to become lawyers have to finish four years of undergraduate education, three years of law school, and pass the bar examination to get licensed in their state. You generally need a law degree and some work experience as a lawyer to become a judge.

The salary for lawyers varies with the type of law practiced but the average salary is around $130,490, as noted by NBC The areas of law with the highest salaries are:

  • Petroleum and oil attorneys at $215,760
  • Motor vehicle manufacturing attorneys at $187,360
  • Lawyers for specialty hospitals at $184,610 each year

The job outlook through 2020 for lawyers is expected to be around the average level of growth of all professions (10%). Since judges work for governments, their average salary may be a little less than the average for lawyers -- around $92,000 according to BLS. The growth of positions for judges is expected to be a little less than average at 7%.

Nurse Anesthetists

In a significant number of surgeries, the anesthesia may be administered and monitored by certified registered nurse anesthetists. A nurse anesthetist generally makes significantly more than a registered nurse; according to PayScale, the average salary is around $138,000 per year.

The top pay can be over $200,000 per year. For this position, you have to:

  1. Complete a bachelor's degree in science or nursing
  2. Become a registered nurse
  3. Work as a nurse in an intensive care unit
  4. Complete a 24-36 month program in nurse anesthesia for a master's degree.

The need for nurse anesthetists will continue to grow over the next few years at a rate higher than average (19%).

Computer and Information Systems Managers

A computer and information systems manager works to coordinate an organization's computer-related activities. These people determine the computer-oriented goals for the company and make sure that appropriate steps are taken to achieve these goals. At least a bachelor's degree in computer science is required for this job but many managers have a graduate degree as well; work experience in computer science is usually necessary for this position too.

As noted on, the average salary for this position is $136,566. Many companies in different industries have people managing computer tasks so the job growth in this area is close to the average for the US at 18%.

Airline Pilots

Airline pilots fly and navigate helicopters and airplanes. While this is a well-compensated position, it can be very stressful. Many people become pilots after time in the military, but you can also attend civilian flight school. You also have to obtain a commercial pilot's license and an instrument rating.

The average salary for airline pilots is approximately $120,000 a year, as noted by PayScale. BLS does estimate around 11% job growth in this industry going forward toward the year 2020.

Air Traffic Controllers

Air traffic controllers coordinate air traffic to make sure that planes stay far enough away from each other to be safe. Because of the level of concentration needed and the importance of the position, air traffic controller is also considered a very stressful position. To become an air traffic controller, you have to:

  1. Get an air traffic management degree from a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified school
  2. Pass the preemployment test
  3. Take a training course at the FAA Academy

Some air traffic controllers get their experience in the military, so they may not have to take all of the tests.

The average salary for air traffic controllers is $108,040 per year, as noted by BLS. The BLS also estimates a slight decline (-3%) in job growth moving forward to 2020; there will be fewer of these types of positions available.


Pharmacists play an important role in health care by dispensing prescription medications and counseling patients about drugs, side effects, and drug interactions. To become a pharmacist, you have to finish at least 2 to 3 years of undergraduate school, complete a four year postgraduate PharmD program, and to earn a license to practice.

For pharmacists, the median salary is $111,570 but the top salaries can be above $130,000 a year. Pharmacists can work in a number of locations from grocery stores, drug stores, hospitals, and universities; the expected growth of pharmacist jobs is 25% over the next few years, which is robust.

Architectural and Engineering Managers

Architectural and engineering managers plan and orchestrate various activities in engineering and architecture. They also lead research teams, propose budgets, and hire and supervise staff. To get hired in one of these jobs, you have to get a bachelor's degree in an engineering specialty or in architecture. Some people go on to earn a master's degree to supplement their education, but you usually have to work for a period of time to advance to a position of leadership.

The average salary for these managers is $119,260 a year, according to the BLS. This position is expected to grow at a slower pace over the next few years compared to other positions in the United States.

Natural Science Managers

Natural science managers supervise the work of scientists in different settings. They manage and plan research and development projects as well as assess quality levels of all work. Natural science managers need a bachelor's degree in science and some experience working as a scientist before a person can get promoted to a managerial position.

The average salary for this position is $116,020. This position is also expected to grow at a slower pace than the average position in the U.S.

Other Positions

There are other positions that may have individuals who earn significantly more, such as entertainers. Some actors make millions of dollars per movie while other actors are barely able to make ends meet. Famous singers may make millions while on tour and other may only play local clubs and parties. Although the salaries in these jobs can be astronomical for certain people, the average salary for these occupations is not as high as the jobs listed here. You have to be at the upper end of these professions to make really high salaries.

Factors to Consider

Most of the jobs noted on this list require college degrees and often additional education on top of that. If you are interested in one of these jobs, you have to start planning your path now. Use the Internet to get information about school programs, admission to schools, and financial aid if needed; you can also speak with people who already work in that particular job to find out more about the job and how to get ready for it.

While average salary of a particular occupation is certainly a factor to consider when choosing a career, remember that money is not the only variable involved in job satisfaction. People who report the highest levels of professional fulfillment have chosen jobs that make the most of their interests and talents.

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List of High Paying Careers