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What are the Highest Paid Professions in the United States?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

The 2010 United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Statistics Survey looks at more than 800 different occupations, but does not include self-employed positions. The study, done as part of the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, lists the highest paid professions in the United States. The top 20 fall into five categories: medical and dental, business and technology management, airline, law and politics, and engineering and science.

Medical and dental professionals top the list of the highest paid professions, as they hold the top three positions, as well as four other rankings on the list. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are number one, other physicians and surgeons are number two, and orthodontists are number three of the top professional earners in the United States. People in these professions made an average of at least $166,400 US Dollars (USD) per year.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are the highest paid professional, followed closely by other medical surgeons.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are the highest paid professional, followed closely by other medical surgeons.

Both specialist and general dentists are a little lower on the list, making $161,020 USD and $141,040 USD on average per year, respectively. Ninth and tenth on the list are prosthodontists — dentists who specialize in restoring and replacing teeth — and podiatrists, each of which earn more than $118,000 USD per year on average. Pharmacists come in 16th, making an average of $111,570 USD per year.

Business professionals, such as CEO's, are very high on the paid professional list.
Business professionals, such as CEO's, are very high on the paid professional list.

Business and technology management professions occupy four spots on the list, with Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) at number four, earning an average annual salary of $165,080 USD in 2010. Computer and Information Technology (IT) managers rank as the 12th highest earning professionals, with an average income of $115,780 USD. Marketing managers, with average earnings of $112,800 USD, are ranked 14th. At the bottom of the top 20 are financial managers, earning an average of $103,910 USD per year.

Airline industry jobs claim just one spot on the list in 2010. The average salary of air traffic controllers is about $108,040 USD per year.

Pharmacists are among the highest paid professionals in the US.
Pharmacists are among the highest paid professionals in the US.

Law and political-related professions rank seventh, 15th, and 18th on the survey. In 2010, judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates earned an average of $119,270 USD. The average salary for lawyers is listed as $112,760 USD. Political scientists earned an average of $107,420 USD per year.

Engineering and science professions account for four of the 20 highest paid professions. Architectural and engineering managers, with an average annual salary of $119,260 USD, rank as the eighth highest earning professionals. Natural sciences managers are ranked 11th, with an average income of $116,020 USD. Petroleum engineers are listed at number 13 on the list, and have an average income of $114,080 USD. A physicist, with an average annual salary of $106,370 USD, is the 19th highest earning professional.

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Discussion Comments


I really don't believe this report. I have a relative who is the director of nursing for a veteran's hospital and she is making about $150,00. What about all the CEO's making several million a year? I know many people making well over $100,00 who do not hold even as high a position as those mentioned. I think this report is very wrong!


There are plenty of career paths that pay well and don't require a graduate degree (e.g. Dental Hygienists earn on average $69,000 and you only need an AA degree to pursue that career).

The good news is that finding these alternative career paths doesn't require a lot of research. If you have an iPhone, search for an app called “Majors: University, salary, and job search for high school to college” (long name, cool app).

If someone didn't want to go through all the schooling required to be a doctor, but still wanted a high paying position in the medical field, I think being a pharmacist would be a good way to go.

My nephew is currently in pharmacy school, and I think he will be done within 6 years. This is a field where you know there will always be a need for and the hours would be better than what a physician has, while still making a really good living.


When people think about the highest paid professions I think most people automatically think of a doctor or a lawyer. It is true that they can make a lot of money, but some don't make nearly as much as what some people think they do.

When they are just starting out their salary may not be that much and many of them have thousands of dollars in student loans they have to start paying back, mot to mention the high cost of malpractice insurance.

I know the survey mentioned in the article did not take into consideration those who are self-employed or own their own business. I think those who make the most amount of money are those who have built up their own successful business.


I was a little surprised to read that oral surgeons are considered the highest paid health profession. I figured they would be high on the list, but thought that other medical surgeons would be paid more.

That must mean when someone goes to an oral surgeon to get their wisdom teeth pulled, the surgeon is making quite a bit of money. Even though this takes a lot of skill, I would think someone like a heart surgeon would make more money.


@anon119982 -- Lawyers are included in some of the highest paid professions, although judges and magistrates tend to make more. There are also a lot of variables when it comes to how much a lawyer is paid. Depending on experience and what kind of firm they work for, or if they are even on their own, can make a big difference in the amount of money they make every year.


I really feel that list concerning the highest paid professions in the country are a little skewed because people just look at what others are paid and fail to look at other things, such as job security and responsibility concerning the job.

People need to keep in mind that if they are unsure of what profession they want to go into that unless they are lucky and are really good at what they do, then they will probably not become a CEO of a company or get an incredibly high paying job.

I think the best field to go into to guarantee high pay is the medical field, but it all depends on what the person wants to do and what skills they have.

If someone wants to be a teacher, then they have fairly decent job security in most states and after awhile can make a good amount of money, even if they do not make as much to qualify as one of the top earners. I think a good job someone likes is better than what they are paid.


I am really surprised that CEO's do not make more money, but I guess this is taking every CEO in the country into account, which can even include small scale businesses.

When I think of a CEO I always think of a big wig that is in charge of thousands of employees and is extremely wealthy.

I once worked at a factory and the plant manager for the factory, not the CEO mind you, made 250,000 a year and that does not include his bonuses or other ventures related to the company.

That is just the head of one factory for a company and I heard that the CEO of the company made over 12 million dollars last year.

@JimmyT - That is pretty interesting, and to be totally honest I really never felt that politicians got paid a whole lot of money to begin with.

Sure, politicians at the national level will make around 175,000, but in the grand scheme of things there are only 535 senators and representatives that make that much money in the nation.

That being said it is not surprising that this job pays that kind of money, considering there are so few people that actually qualify or can hold the position.

Another thing to keep in mind is that contrary to popular opinion most politicians are not extremely wealthy.

Although there are some incredibly wealthy politicians, at least half at the national level are not millionaires, and even Vice President Joe Biden said that he always saved his salary as a Senator to be used in his next re-election campaign, and besides that he only made about 50,000 dollars a year in his private businesses.


@cloudel - That is true that politicians do get paid quite a bit, but they only do at the national level and there are very few states in which the politicians get paid well.

I live in Illinois and whether you are a state senator or state representative you will get paid the same which is somewhere around 58,000 dollars.

Now this does sound like a fairly decent salary, but in the gran scheme of things it is not a really high salary, just a good one.

The other thing to take into account is that Illinois's politicians are the 4th highest paid among state politicians in the country, with only a few states paying them more, such as California.

For the most part, state politicians are not paid a whole lot and are usually paid by the day. In fact, some states do not even pay their politicians 10,000 throughout the year or even meet every year!


Politicians get paid a lot, regardless of how much they actually accomplish. As long as they can manage to get elected and keep from getting in legal trouble, they will be guaranteed their high salary for their term of office.


I'm noticing that a lot of these high paying careers require people to work long hours and come in at a moment's notice. CEOs have to travel, and they may be called in at odd times, since they are the ones in charge.

Even some engineering positions require long or odd hours. My dad was an electrical engineer for thirty years, and he had to be on call twice a month. This often meant he would have to get up in the middle of the night to answer the phone and drive 45 minutes to work to fix a problem.

This would be really hard on a single parent. My dad could do it, because he had my mom there to watch me, but many of these high paying careers seem best suited to people who either have no children or who have someone who can stay at home to watch them.


@healthy4life – Also, think about what doctors have to do on a daily basis. They have to be in the presence of sick people and germs, and they have to do examinations that would gross most people out.

It may be a high paying job, but they really do earn their money. I would not want to do what they do, even if I were well compensated, because I would hate going to work every day!


There is a reason that doctors hold the highest paid occupations. They have extensive training, since they had to go to medical school for many years.

Also, they have completed internships and residencies. They are extremely well-trained, and they have plenty of debt to pay off from all that schooling. I've heard that they don't make much at all when they start out, so even once they do begin to earn the big bucks, they have years of debt to work off before they can really enjoy their incomes.


I thought lawyers would be up there in terms of high average income?


how about bioengineers?


HOw much does an electrical engineer with a bonus MBA qualification earn on an average?


what about the metallurgical engineering ??


what is middle income in usa 2008?


How much do biomedical engineers earn with a BS and/or MS degree. What is the best way to maximize earnings..that is..above 150K?

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    • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are the highest paid professional, followed closely by other medical surgeons.
      By: yanlev
      Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are the highest paid professional, followed closely by other medical surgeons.
    • Business professionals, such as CEO's, are very high on the paid professional list.
      By: FotolEdhar
      Business professionals, such as CEO's, are very high on the paid professional list.
    • Pharmacists are among the highest paid professionals in the US.
      By: mangostock
      Pharmacists are among the highest paid professionals in the US.
    • Orthodontists rank third in the highest paid professions in the U.S.
      By: nobeastsofierce
      Orthodontists rank third in the highest paid professions in the U.S.
    • Airline professionals make a relatively high salary.
      By: dutchpilot22
      Airline professionals make a relatively high salary.