10 Highest Paying Jobs in America

By Christian Hudspeth
June 22, 2011

The American economy unfortunately has not seen a consistently roaring recovery and in many parts of the country unemployment exceeds the 10% mark. But despite a recession still plaguing areas of the U.S., there are still jobs that are heavily in demand and shine through with salaries of over $100,000 each.

Part of that reason is because the top paying jobs typically require the most education, training, and experience. It's no secret that education is still the key to higher earning potential and staying employed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, holders of a doctoral degree and a professional degree make median weekly earnings of $1,550 and $1,610, respectively.

Did the recession hurt their job prospects? If this group were to be asked that question, they would probably respond, "What recession?" Doctoral degree holders had an unemployment rate of only 1.9% in 2010 and professional degree holders had an unemployment rate of mere 2.4%.

Compare this to the average American whos median wage is less than half of the professional and doctoral degree holder ($782 per week) and who currently suffers from an unemployment rate of more than 9%. It just goes to show you that investing in your education can yield some incredible returns.

 

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But do you necessarily have to have a professional or doctoral degree to make the highest salary in America? To find out, we put together a list of the 10 highest paying positions along with their education and training requirements, and then ranked them based on their median salaries.

10) Lawyer
Lawyers hold a position of great responsibility and are obligated to uphold a strict code of ethics while protecting their clients in court or advising them on their rights according to the legal system. The competition for admission to a law school is extremely cut-throat and job competition is fierce for this coveted profession due to a high number of students graduating each year.

Training/Education: 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
Most people know airline pilots as the people responsible for getting them to their destination safely on a commercial flight, but pilots can also be involved in crop dusting, spreading seeds for reforestation, directing firefighting efforts or even tracking criminals. Copilots and flight engineers generally assist the pilot in flying, communications and air traffic control.

Training/Education: 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
Who earns even more than pilots? The people who guide them. Ai traffic controllers efficiently direct planes to minimize delays and ensure that planes stay a safe distance apart from each other. Without experience, the FAA requires that applicants are younger than 30 years of age to qualify (perhaps due to the demanding training sessions).

Training/Education: 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
If you're at your desk reading this article on your internet enabled computer, you can thank the Computer and Information Systems Manger (Also called IT manager) of your company. They work with management to find out how technology can be used to help employees reach company goals. They acquire the new technology (think projectors and video chat in meetings), ensure that this technology helps the company and repair the technology if it breaks.

Training/Education: 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 operations of physical and life scientists, such as biologists, medical scientists, and chemists. They advance scientific research through planning, coordinating, and directing the research done by scientists under them. Their efforts create new manufacturing processes of medicines and products that we use every day.
 
Training/Education: 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
If you're constantly on your feet, you'll want to know one of these specialists for the future. Podiatrists diagnose and treat diseases, disorders and injuries of the foot and lower leg. They treat everything from corns and calluses to athlete's foot or a broken ankle. Because walking is such an important part of life in America, their skills in treating foot problems are valuable to society and they are duly compensated for it.

Training/Education: 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 are in charge of supervising people who design and develop products, machinery, systems, and processes. They may work as the head of an R&D of a company to improve and make the next version of the Iphone for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), or create an all new device for a company. They uphold the quality of improved and/or new products by ensuring that manufacturing processes meet their specifications.

Training/Education: 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
Being a chief executive officer may offer the highest prestige in a company along with a healthy paycheck, but it isn't easy. Chief executives are in charge of creating the key strategies and policies necessary for an organization to reach goals and achieve overall success. They have long hours (up to 100 hours per week), travel long distances, and the pressure to succeed is high.

Training/Education: 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)

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2) Physician/Surgeon
Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat our diseases and make the second highest annual salary on our list. Most work more than 50 hours per week and are called any time of the day as needed. Medical school admission is difficult to achieve and demanding educational and experience qualifications make this job unapproachable for most people.

Training/Education: 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
Our top slot includes three oral doctor specialists. Dentists, who people see every year, perform teeth cleanings and treat oral disease. Prosthodontists specialize in making replacements for missing teeth (like crowns and dentures) and restore patients' oral appearance.

Topping our list as the highest paying job in the United States is the position of oral maxillofacial surgeon. These surgeons perform surgery on tissues of the mouth to treat diseases, injuries and oral defects. They are the ones who remove your wisdom teeth or fix a broken jaw.

Training/Education: 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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The Investing Answer: We hope you enjoyed reading our list of the top 10 highest paying jobs in America. Consider a profession in dentistry if you're looking for shorter hours and a great paycheck. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most dentists own their own business, have a steady flow of clients and typically spend only four to five days working (less than 40 hours per week). It's tough to get into these professions, but for many, the earnings more than make up for it.