The Top 10 Paying Jobs in the U.S.

dentist looking at chart

What are the highest paying jobs in the U.S., based on median annual salaries? We checked with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to get the lowdown, and the top ten occupations are listed below. Some of the jobs aren't unexpected, but some may surprise you -- as it turns out, CEOs aren't #1 on the list. See the full details on each job in the list below, and get the skinny on what it takes to qualify for the job.

10. Lawyer

Lawyers (also known as attorneys) act as both advocates and advisors in our society. As advocates, they represent one of the parties in criminal and civil trials by presenting evidence and arguing in court to support their client. As advisors, lawyers counsel their clients about their legal rights and obligations and suggest particular courses of action in business and personal matters. Whether acting as an advocate or an advisor, all attorneys research the intent of laws and judicial decisions and apply the law to the specific circumstances faced by their clients.

  • About 26 percent of lawyers are self-employed, either as partners in law firms or in solo practices.
  • Competition for admission to most law schools is intense.
  • Competition for job openings should be keen because of the large number of students graduating from law school each year.

Typical Training: 4-year college degree, 3 years of law school and a passing score on a written bar examination (required to be licensed).

Median Annual Salary: $110,590

Top Annual Salary: $164,060+

9) Airline Pilot, Copilot, and Flight Engineer

Pilots are highly trained professionals who fly airplanes or helicopters to carry out a wide variety of tasks. Most are airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers who transport passengers and cargo. However, 34 percent are commercial pilots involved in dusting crops, spreading seed for reforestation, testing aircraft, flying passengers and cargo to areas not served by regular airlines, directing firefighting efforts, tracking criminals, monitoring traffic, and rescuing and evacuating injured persons.

  • Regional and low-cost airlines offer the best opportunities; pilots face strong competition for jobs at the major airlines, which offer better pay and benefits.
  • Many pilots have learned to fly in the military, but growing numbers have college degrees with flight training from civilian flying schools that are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • Newly hired pilots at major airlines typically have about 4,000 hours of flight experience

Training Needed: 2-4 years of college education, at least 250 hours (4,000 hours for commercial airlines) of flight experience, and a passing grade on the FAA written test (required to be licensed).

Median Annual Salary: $111,680

Top Annual Salary: $150,250+

8) Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers work within the National Airspace System (NAS) to coordinate the movement of air traffic to make certain that planes stay a safe distance apart. Their immediate concern is safety, but controllers also must direct planes efficiently to minimize delays. Some regulate airport traffic through designated airspaces; others regulate airport arrivals and departures.

  • The vast majority of air traffic controllers are employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an agency of the Federal Government.
  • Applicants without prior air traffic control experience must be 30 years of age or younger.
  • Replacement needs will continue to account for most job openings, reflecting the large number of air traffic controllers who will be eligible to retire over the next decade.
  • Competition for jobs will remain keen.

Training Needed: Prior experience through FAA or Dept of Defense, 4 year degree, or 2-4 year specialized AT-CTI program degree. 2-4 years of on-the-job controller training is then required.

Median Annual Salary: $111,870

Top Annual Salary: $165,660+

7) Computer and Information Systems Manager

Computer and information systems managers play a vital role in the implementation and administration of technology within their organizations. They plan, coordinate, and direct research on the computer-related activities of firms. In consultation with other managers, they help determine the goals of an organization and then implement technology to meet those goals. They oversee all technical aspects of an organization, such as software development, network security, and Internet operations.

  • Employment is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations.
  • Many managers possess advanced technical knowledge gained from working in a computer occupation.
  • Job prospects should be excellent

Training Needed: 4-year bachelor's degree, 2-year MBA or graduate degree (for best advancement opportunities).

Median Annual Salary: $112,210

Top Annual Salary: $207,840+

6) Natural Sciences Manager

Natural sciences managers oversee the work of life and physical scientists, including agricultural scientists, chemists, biologists, geologists, medical scientists, and physicists. These managers direct research and development projects and coordinate activities such as testing, quality control, and production. They may work on basic research projects or on commercial activities. Science managers sometimes conduct their own research in addition to managing the work of others.

  • Most engineering and natural sciences managers have formal education and work experience as engineers, scientists, or mathematicians.
  • Opportunities will be best for scientists and engineers with strong communication and business management skills.
  • Thirty-six percent of jobs are in manufacturing industries, and 33 percent are in professional, scientific, and technical services

Training Needed: 4-year bachelor's degree in science, several years experience as a scientist (specialist in field), and graduate or PHD in scientific field (for best advancement opportunities).

Median Annual Salary: $112,800

Top Annual Salary: $200,560+

5) Podiatrist

Podiatrists, also known as doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs), diagnose and treat disorders, diseases, and injuries of the foot and lower leg. Podiatrists treat corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, bunions, heel spurs, and arch problems; ankle and foot injuries, deformities, and infections; and foot complaints associated with diabetes and other diseases. To treat these problems, podiatrists prescribe drugs and physical therapy, set fractures, and perform surgery. They also fit corrective shoe inserts called orthotics, design plaster casts and strappings to correct deformities, and design custom-made shoes.

  • Job opportunities should be good for entry-level graduates of accredited podiatric medicine programs.
  • Opportunities will be better in group medical practices, clinics, and health networks than in traditional, solo practices.
  • Podiatrists enjoy very high earnings.

Training Needed: 3-4 years college education, completion of a 4-year podiatric college program, and passing scores on national and state examinations (required to be licensed).

Median Annual Salary: $113,560

Top Annual Salary: $219,330+

4) Engineering Manager

Engineering managers may supervise people who design and develop machinery, products, systems, and processes. They might also direct and coordinate production, operations, quality assurance, testing, or maintenance in industrial plants. Many manage research and development teams that produce new products and processes or improve existing ones. Others are plant engineers, who direct and coordinate the design, installation, operation, and maintenance of equipment and machinery in industrial plants.

  • Most engineering and natural sciences managers have formal education and work experience as engineers, scientists, or mathematicians.
  • Opportunities will be best for scientists and engineers with strong communication and business management skills.
  • Thirty-six percent of jobs are in manufacturing industries, and 33 percent are in professional, scientific, and technical services

Training Needed: 4-year bachelor's degree in engineering specialty, several years experience in their field, and MBA or MEM (for best advancement opportunities).

Median Annual Salary: $115,270

Top Annual Salary: $175,460+

3) Chief Executive Officer

The chief executive officer meets frequently with the other top executives to ensure that the overall operation of the corporation is conducted in accordance with these goals and policies. In a governmental or nonprofit organization, top executives oversee budgets and ensure that resources are used properly and that programs are carried out as planned. Chief executive officers in government often nominate citizens to boards and commissions, encourage business investment, and promote economic development in their communities. To do all of these varied tasks effectively, top executives rely on a staff of highly skilled personnel.

  • Keen competition is expected because the prestige and high compensation of these jobs attract a substantial number of applicants.
  • Top executives are among the highest paid workers; however, long hours, considerable travel, and intense pressure to succeed are common.
  • The formal education and experience of top executives vary as extensively as the nature of their responsibilities, but many of these workers have at least a bachelor's degree and considerable experience.

Training Needed: 4-year college degree, MBA (for best opportunities), extensive managerial experience, or exceptional entrepreneurial spirit (think Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg).

Median Annual Salary: $158,560

Top Annual Salary: $102,000,000 - CEO of UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH)

2) Physician/Surgeon

Physicians and surgeons diagnose illnesses and prescribe and administer treatment for people suffering from injury or disease. Physicians examine patients, obtain medical histories, and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare.

  • Many physicians and surgeons work long, irregular hours.
  • Acceptance to medical school is highly competitive.
  • Formal education and training requirements—typically 4 years of undergraduate school, 4 years of medical school, and 3 to 8 years of internship and residency—are among the most demanding of any occupation, but earnings are among the highest.
  • Job opportunities should be very good, particularly in rural and low-income areas.

Training Needed: 4-year college degree, 4 years of medical school, 3 to 8 years of internship and residency and a passing score on the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination.

Median Annual Salary: $186,044+

Top Annual Salary: $339,738+

1) Dentist, Prosthodontist and Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon

Dentists diagnose and treat problems with teeth and tissues in the mouth, along with giving advice and administering care to help prevent future problems. They provide instruction on diet, brushing, flossing, the use of fluorides, and other aspects of dental care. They remove tooth decay, fill cavities, examine x rays, place protective plastic sealants on children's teeth, straighten teeth, and repair fractured teeth. They also perform corrective surgery on gums and supporting bones to treat gum diseases. Dentists extract teeth and make models and measurements for dentures to replace missing teeth. They also administer anesthetics and write prescriptions for antibiotics and other medications.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons operate on the mouth, jaws, teeth, gums, neck, and head.

  • About 3 out of 4 dentists are solo practitioners.
  • Faster than average employment growth is projected.
  • Job prospects should be good, reflecting the need to replace the large number of dentists expected to retire.

Training Needed: 4-year college degree, 4-year dental school degree, and passing scores on dental school written and practical examinations (required to be licensed).

Median Annual Salary: $137,970 to $214,120+

Top Annual Salary: $243,900+

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