The 27 Highest-Paying Jobs In The US

Young people across the United States are constantly searching for an excellent career that will support their life goals, aspirations, and financial needs. The Washington Post reports that job experience throughout the formative years of high school can be crucial to later success. After all, even a part-time high school job can help teach you a lot about working, beyond the trickle of income it brings.


Finding a great job takes patience, research, and an understanding of your own personal sense of accomplishment, enjoyment, and workplace needs. Not everyone will be well suited to every job, and so finding a great job that works for you requires knowledge of your own capabilities and interests. One thing that can be incredibly helpful for high school and college students looking to understand the job market is salary data. Information about earnings potential can help sway someone toward one career or another. This information can also help a job seeker gain a more nuanced understanding of the kinds of jobs available, and their unique perks within certain fields of interest.

One important caveat: In creating these rankings we compared only base salaries, and did not include the myriad forms of variable compensation many lucrative careers offer. Without performance bonuses included in the calculation, most finance careers got shoved off the edge of the stage.


Key findings and the brass tacks

Of the 27 highest paying jobs in the American job market, 13 fall within the medical field — and every one of the top 10 is categorized in medicine. Highly trained and specialized medical practitioners can expect to make larger salaries as they continue to progress through their careers. This is to be expected, though, largely because each one of these highly paid medical professionals must spend many years of schooling perfecting their understanding of human anatomy, medical care, and life-saving treatments.


Another major category when it comes to high salaries lies in the sciences (with eight of the 27 roles). Professionals categorized as scientists can work on a variety of different problems facing humans. Physicists, data scientists, architectural engineers, and economists each approach their craft through the same sort of scientific lens even as they perform wildly different functions.

80,000 Hours reports that the highest mean incomes by general profession fit within this overarching hierarchy: Medicine provides the highest annual incomes of all, with law, finance, and others sitting alongside engineering, programming, and research.

1. General surgeon

General surgeons make the most money of all high-earning professionals, on average. The earning capability of a surgeon is significant, but alongside this large paycheck comes great responsibility. Surgeons must train for many, many years to develop critical skills and quick thinking in order to provide essential services to patients. Surgeons are natural problem solvers, and they put this straight to work on a daily basis. No two individual patients will ever be alike, and unique problems in a surgical setting can occur at a moment's notice. This requires a steely demeanor, quick thinking, and immense confidence.

  • Average Salary: $430,159 per year
  • Education: 13 years of collegiate and specialized training

2. Anesthesiologist

An anesthesiologist works directly alongside a surgeon and the rest of their team. Anesthesiologists perform one of the core functionalities of a surgical suite's routine. Professionals administer medication to patients undergoing surgery to ensure that they remain knocked out and free of pain throughout the entire duration of the procedure. But, this isn't the only responsibility that an anesthesiologist takes on: They also have to wake patients up at the end of surgery in a safe manner.


Anesthesiologists spend the entire duration of a surgical procedure monitoring the well-being of the patient undergoing the operation, and adjusting medication accordingly. As such, these professionals must be highly trained and extremely thorough in their work. 

  • Average Salary: $380,299 per year
  • Education: 12 years of collegiate and medical school training, including residency

3. Radiologist

Radiologists often go somewhat unnoticed in the world of medicine. A radiologist is a professional who interprets the results of X-rays, CAT scans, angiograms, MRIs, and other diagnostic tests for patients of all types. They provide doctors with a baseline diagnosis, from which the medical team can provide treatment options and support to patients in need. Radiologists perform a crucial function in the overall treatment cycle for patients with minor injuries, and those with significant health concerns alike.


These professionals must rely on a massive mental library of information to make accurate and timely decisions regarding indicators they see on a patient's imaging. They play a vital role in the diagnosis and treatment of various conditions, and the salaries commanded by specialized radiologists, and those in team management positions, reflect that important work.

  • Average Salary: $353,247 per year
  • Education: Up to 13 years of college, medical school, residency, and specialized training

4. Gynecologist and obstetrician

Gynecologists and obstetricians provide the frontline of care for pregnant women, and all women when it comes to general sexual and reproductive health. These medical professionals guide women through the complex processes involved in the creation of new life, and help them make the best decisions for their bodies, needs, and future plans.


These doctors are there for some of the most important moments in the lives of women and families, and are therefore trusted partners in the ongoing family planning that takes place in countless households around the nation.

  • Average Salary: $312,800 per year
  • Education: 12 years of schooling and residency

5. Orthodontist

Orthodontists work with those experiencing tooth alignment issues. They are close colleagues with dentists and may even work in the same or adjacent practices. Orthodontists are primarily concerned with straightening teeth, and their field involves the use of braces and other alignment tools.


Orthodontics makes use of highly specialized technology, and the field is constantly changing. This gives practitioners a vibrant workplace, alongside a cadre of patients who experience dentition problems in a variety of unique ways. These medical professionals may not seem like an obvious inclusion in this list, but their work is indeed both invaluable and highly lucrative.

  • Average Salary: $274,880 per year
  • Education: 10 to 11 years of collegiate and specialized medical education

6. Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists treat patients for any number of unique mental health issues. Psychiatrists are highly specialized medical professionals who spend years working to understand the interplay between the human mind and the body that it both controls and serves. 


Many people approaching the field of mental health may not understand the difference between a psychiatrist and other mental health professionals, like psychologists or therapists. In the most basic terms, a psychiatrist is a medical doctor, whereas a psychologist is a mental health professional who holds a Ph.D. rather than a medical doctorate. As a result, psychiatrists are able to prescribe medicine to their patients, while psychologists cannot.

  • Average Salary: $220,380 per year
  • Education: 12 years including medical school and residency

7. Physician

Physicians are the first line of defense when it comes to the medical needs of patients. Simply put, a physician is a doctor that tends to patients without relying on surgical or highly technical procedures that might occur in a hospital environment. Your physician is the person you call when you have an ear infection, scratchy throat, or generalized pain. Physicians can work with adult patients or children, and as a child, you probably saw your physician when you had chickenpox, a fever, or needed your standard vaccines and yearly checkups.


Because of the nature of this type of medical career, physicians must be highly personable and knowledgeable.

  • Average Salary: $226,690 per year
  • Education: 10 to 14 years of education and residency (with three to seven years as a resident)

8. Dentist

Dentists are responsible for cleaning teeth and ensuring proper gum and tooth health for their patients over the long term. Oral health is a core component of a fulfilling life. Those who have neglected their tooth health may be less likely to smile, leading ultimately to a more dour demeanor. Similarly, mouth health has been linked to heart health, suggesting that mouth health is about more than simply maintaining white teeth and a straight smile.


Dentists work closely with large teams of oral hygienists and may partner with orthodontists to provide their patients with a range of specialized services to protect their gums and teeth.

  • Average Salary: $226,565 per year
  • Education: At least eight years of collegiate training, and an additional potential year for residency

9. Oral and maxillofacial surgeon

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are another type of doctor focused on mouth, tooth, and gum health. As the name implies, oral surgeons are the dental experts responsible for the extraction of wisdom teeth, implanting of new false teeth, and many other technical and surgical processes involved in routine mouth health. Oral surgeons work closely with dentists and orthodontists to provide tailored services to each and every patient they see. No two mouths are the same, and so no two procedures that an oral surgeon might perform will be the same, either.

  • Average Salary: $208,000 per year
  • Education: 12 to 14 years of education and residency

10. Family medicine practitioner

Family medicine practitioners are a type of general physician. But, a family medicine specialist is someone who treats most or all members of local families in their community. They not only work to provide health services to their clients, but they also get to know the individuals they treat on a more personalized level. As a result, family medicine practitioners are involved in the successes and setbacks of their patients. They can act as a guiding light for children as they make their way in the world, and provide advice on a wide range of medical and sometimes non-medical facets of life.

  • Average Salary: $204,987 per year
  • Education: Seven years of education and residency

11. Internal medicine specialist

Internal medicine is focused on long-term health concerns that affect the daily lives and routines of patients. Medical professionals in this field engage with a wide range of patients (typically adults, but not always) who are experiencing acute and lasting diagnoses such as diabetes, heart disease, lung issues, and more.


These professionals are diagnosticians by nature and work to support the ongoing needs of their patients in more hands-on ways. Typically, physicians and other more generalized doctors will refer patients with lasting, chronic concerns to internal medicine specialists for more tailored treatment plans.

  • Average Salary: $162,704 per year
  • Education: 11 years of schooling and residency

12. Corporate CEO

The job of a CEO is hard to pin down. Chief executives work in a variety of challenging circumstances and situations, and their jobs are largely determined by the type of industry and competitive nature of the marketplace that they work within. CEOs of large conglomerate enterprises make astronomical sums of money, but the average CEO might work within the confines of a small to medium-sized business in their chosen field of expertise.


In essence, the CEO's responsibility is to ensure a safe and prosperous work environment for his or her employees and a fantastic product for clients. This job is immensely challenging, even in the smallest of marketplaces. Yet the work of a CEO is highly rewarding for those who helm their companies.

  • Average Salary: $162,669 per year
  • CEO salaries can vary tremendously, with most earning a high wage and the top earners skewing most data wildly — for example, Expedia's Peter Kern and Amazon's Andrew Jassy earned truly absurd-sounding figures of $296,247,749 and $212,701,169 respectively in 2021, according to AFL-CIO.
  • Education: Potentially none, but Crimson Education notes that most CEOs have a bachelor's degree and many have earned an MBA, amounting to roughly five years in higher education to go along with relevant industry work experience.

13. Physicists

Physicists are some of the highest-paid scientists across all research-focused fields. A physicist spends their time considering the rules and standards of the physical world around them. Physicists think about some of the most elusive questions that plague them in society. It is physics that explains why bodies in space move the way they do, and why humans remain rooted to the Earth's surface. Physicists work to propel aircraft to the moon and beyond, and they devise ways of making cars safer, or air travel more effective. Virtually everything that moves can be explained in some way or another through the discipline of physics. As a result, physicists are involved in the design and rollout of consumer products both large and small.

  • Average Salary: $152,400 per year
  • Education: Physicists will typically earn a Ph.D. which can last between four and 10 years

14. Podiatrists

Podiatrists are foot specialists in the medical field. These doctors work with patients to support daily movement and the general mobility concerns that can throw a wrench in even the simplest of plans. Humans use their feet to do just about everything in life. Walking from place to place is the most obvious use of these extremities, but humans also use their feet to root themselves in chairs while sitting, to drive from place to place, and in a million other ways throughout the day.


These doctors specializing in feet help people suffering with foot pain and other mobility issues to regain ease of movement and access to the world at large.

  • Average Salary: $148,220 per year
  • Education: Up to eight years including medical school and residency

15. Software architects and engineers

Software architects and software engineers perform a variety of different roles. One branch of this profession is responsible for creating and maintaining cloud storage and sharing solutions that would become the standard in the modern world. Internet and digital architecture rely on software architects, and so the modern world of communication technology and information sharing rests on these professionals' shoulders. Software engineers also work to build tailored solutions to all kinds of problems that exist in the workplace and in the commercial market. From game design to tax calculation software, these professionals play an essential role.

  • Average Salary: $137,353 per year
  • Education: Bachelor's degree in a STEM or software-related program

16. Airline pilots

Airline pilots are responsible for bringing people and goods from place to place in a rapid fashion. An airline pilot lives an exciting and fast-paced life. They might fly to three separate cities over the course of an average workday, and spend a night or two in a brand new country or state at the end of every shift. As a result, airline pilots are some of the most adventurous people in the world. Not only are they tasked with moving people and cargo quickly from place to place, they have to do it safely and therefore rely on specialized experience and knowledge to perform their duties. Airline pilots must take off with confidence, cover the distance of their flight plan in the air, and then land safely at the end of the journey.

  • Average Salary: $134,630 per year
  • Education: 1,500 hours of flight experience, which can be completed in about two years

17. Aeronautical engineers

Aeronautical engineers play an important role in all things air travel. These professionals design and test flightworthy vessels and are responsible for the creation and maintenance needs of aircraft both large and small. Aeronautical engineers make it possible for private and commercial aircraft to fly domestically and internationally. These engineers have designed some amazing machines that make international trade, tourism, and the free flow of ideas possible. These professionals also work in the context of outer space, building flight-capable rockets that can launch from our atmosphere and continue the human pursuit of exploring the cosmos.

  • Average Salary: $134,231 per year
  • Education: A bachelor's degree, and potentially an area-specific master's addition, totaling roughly 5-7 years

18. Financial managers

Financial managers govern the daily expense processes of businesses both large and small. Professionals who work in finance ensure that brands are managing their money safely while producing the goods and services that consumers rely on. Fiscal responsibility is quite a difficult task when it comes to large enterprise applications. Many consumers have difficulty in basic budget-balancing operations and other financial planning tasks, and the same goes for businesses that work through much more complex fiscal calculations. A financial manager is responsible for ensuring that businesses are consistently making smart decisions with their money in an effort to continue operating for the long term.

  • Average Salary: $134,180 per year
  • Education: Bachelor's degree and roughly five years experience in accounting or a related finance occupation

19. Judges

A judge has a unique job in our modern society. Judges are tasked with upholding the laws and moral authority of our judicial system. Judges are handpicked after careful scrutiny, and come from the ranks of practicing lawyers with a long track record of moral excellence and legal proficiency. Many lawyers aspire to be judges for years or even decades, and only the best among them are selected for this prestigious role in shaping the legal norms of society and upholding the rights of everyday citizens.

  • Average Salary: $133,840 per year; $267,000 per year for a Supreme Court Chief Justice
  • Education: A bachelor's degree and law school along with two years of practical experience at a bare minimum (University of the People notes that many judges obtain this honor only after a decade or more of practice as an attorney)

20. Petroleum engineers

A petroleum engineer is someone who works in the extraction and exploitation of petroleum products from the ground. Petroleum is the core element used to power cars and heat homes with gas products all across the globe. Extracting petroleum from the Earth is an astronomical task. These nuanced processes require the expertise of large teams of professionals. This is because oil trapped in the Earth is under immense pressure and the substance is highly flammable. Petroleum engineers are relied on to safely and efficiently extract this product from beneath the surface of the Earth for use in countless daily applications.

  • Average Salary: $130,850 per year
  • Education: Typically an engineering degree (five years)

21. Pharmacists

Pharmacists are responsible for administering prescription medication to patients in need. Professionals who work in a pharmacy work closely with doctors and others in the medical field to provide the appropriate advice and medication to patients suffering from a wide variety of ailments and issues. Pharmacists must maintain a vast mental library of information about dosages, drug interactions, and allergy considerations. Their expertise is invaluable in saving and prolonging the lives of patients all across the United States.

  • Average Salary: $128,570 per year
  • Education: At least six years, including pharmacy school

22. Data scientists

Data scientists evaluate trends within a variety of different disciplines and topics. A data scientist might work for an energy company, ensuring that energy supply remains consistent across the entire grid, or they might work within a field more akin to the hobbyist. Data science can be applied to a vast number of different fields, such as music, sports, gaming, or agriculture. A person with a pension for data science and analytical reasoning can leverage their expertise to further any field that they have a passion for. At its core, data science is simply the collection and exploration of information about the topic and it can be used in virtually any subject.

  • Average Salary: $128,425 per year
  • Education: Bachelor's degree, plus a probable master's program, totaling about six years

23. Political scientists

Political scientists enjoy an interesting field of career opportunities. Political scientists work to understand the way that people work together and how governments can better collaborate to provide for their citizens. A political scientist might work at a university, teaching and researching whatever their particular discipline revolves around. These professionals might also work in thinktanks or government agencies, working to advance policies that make life better for the people they serve. Political science is all about understanding human needs and government responses to those requirements. It's a complex field, but one that provides immense satisfaction.

  • Average Salary: $128,020 per year
  • Education: At least a master's degree in your related specialization, totaling about six years at a minimum

24. Lawyers

Lawyers work in a number of unique and interesting fields. Lawyers can participate in the defense of a client accused of wrongdoing, thereby protecting their constitutional rights to a fair trial. They might also work in corporate law, ensuring that businesses are performing their responsibilities and working within the confines of the law. The tasks of a lawyer are widespread and those working in this profession can expect daily challenges that are often unique with every new morning commute to the office.

  • Average Salary: $127,990 per year
  • Some of the highest-paid lawyers easily earn over $1,000,000, with Business Insider reporting that Qualcomm's General Counsel, Donald Rosenberg, earns nearly $10,000,000 per year.
  • Education: Seven years including a bachelor's degree and law school

25. Marketing managers

A marketing manager is someone who works with a team of individuals on branding issues for companies and products. Professionals within the marketing industry might work in-house for a specific company or on specific company projects. These professionals are specialized in their field and have developed techniques and tools for use in a limited window of applications. These are specialists at what they do and focus solely on the performance of a singular product or brand. Others in the marketing field might work for hire and tackle projects laid out by a variety of different businesses across industrial lines.


Marketing is all about understanding the human psyche and delivering a pitch that is compelling and entertaining. Marketing managers are creative problem solvers who leveraged their wide-ranging experience to promote businesses and services.

  • Average Salary: $116,933 per year
  • Education: At least a bachelor's degree in a business-focused program

26. Computer and information systems managers

Computer and information system managers develop frameworks for maintaining data and key resources that businesses require to perform their daily activities. One field that has grown exponentially in the last few years is cloud computing. Cloud-based systems are now relied on as a premium service for storing and distributing data. Information system managers provide the backbone for this system of data usage and storage.


It might be hard to recognize, but computer systems managers are consistently working to solve problems and improve efficiency and reliability across networks. They are proficient programmers and critical thinkers who flexed their mental muscles on a daily basis.

  • Average Salary: $111,094 per year
  • Education: A bachelor's degree in computer engineering or a related field

27. Architectural engineers

Architectural engineers design the roadways, bridges, and infrastructure that support our modern world. Architectural engineers have to understand the way materials interact with each other and the elements, solving problems that often don't yet exist. These professionals are highly intelligent and have succeeded in specialized training to anticipate the needs of society and to account for growth in populations, infrastructure needs, and much more. These professionals work in hydrodynamics, roadway maintenance, and energy utility applications among many other specializations.

  • Average Salary: $105,163 per year
  • Education: An engineering degree; Zippia notes that some architectural engineers have also earned master's degrees