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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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+
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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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