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For Love and Money: The Highest Paying Jobs in the USA

Updated on June 15, 2013


© Copyright 2013 by Aurelio Locsin.

Entertainment, finance, sports and real estate are industries we all associate with high income. However, the million-dollar salaries earned in these fields belong to superstars whose talent, drive, ambition and persistence have propel them to the top. For the rank-and-file workers, income is far less. For example, the average real estate broker makes $80,220 per year. And the average actor earns $35.97 per hour, and doesn’t work enough to garner yearly averages.

Fortunately, the ordinary person can enter many professions to earn an excellent living, with enough education and experience. The U.S. Department of Labor officially lists the highest paying jobs in the USA as of May 2012.

Top Jobs

Not to anyone’s surprise, the top jobs go to medical practitioners, who are listed with their annual salaries:

  1. Anesthesiologists: $232,830
  2. Obstetricians and Gynecologists: $216,760
  3. Surgeons: $230,540
  4. Oral Surgeons: $216,440
  5. General Internists: $191,520
  6. Orthodontists: $186,320
  7. Other Physicians and Surgeons: $184,820
  8. General Practitioners: $180,850

Just as well, since these positions require long and demanding education: four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, and three to eight years of medical residency. Subspecialties, such as geriatrics for internal medicine, can add another one to two years of residency. Even orthodontists require at least four years of dental school after at least two years of undergraduate study. Most pursue their bachelor’s degrees while studying dentistry.

Top Non-Medical Jobs

As for non-medical jobs, which would continue from number nine on the previous list, the highest paying jobs in the USA belong to the following:

  1. Chief Executives: $178,840
  2. Petroleum Engineers: $147,470
  3. Architectural and Engineering Managers: $133,240
  4. Lawyers: $130,880
  5. Natural Sciences Managers: $130,400

All require at least a bachelor’s degree. Chief executives as well as natural sciences, architectural and engineering managers typically reach their positions only after many years of experiences. They often have masters degrees in either business administration or a technical field related to their company specialty. For chief executives, compensation beyond salaries can include stock options and performance bonuses. Lawyers need three years of law school beyond their college degrees.


The BLS organizes jobs into groups with similar functions. These are the highest-paying groups and their yearly average salaries.

  1. Management: $108,570.
  2. Law: $98,570
  3. Computers and Math: $80,180
  4. Architecture and Engineering: $79,000
  5. Healthcare Practitioners and Technicians: $73,540.

Educational requirement vary by individual job. For example, the architects and engineers group includes engineers who need at least a bachelor's degree and sometimes, a professional engineering license. It also covers engineering technicians, who require only an associate degree.

Close to Average

The lowest of the highest salaries in the USA runs almost three times the average $45,790 earned by all workers in the U.S. The following jobs earn the closest amounts to that average income:

  1. Audios-Visual and Multimedia Collections Specialists: $45,820
  2. Heating, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics: $45,830
  3. First-Line Supervisors of Gaming Workers: $46,010
  4. Audio and Video Equipment Technicians: $46,040

These jobs usually require a minimum high school diploma or equivalent. Formal technical training, not lasting more than two years, comes from a vocational institute or junior college. Some jobs, such as heating and air-conditioning mechanics, can be learned through formal apprenticeships administered by local unions or trade associations. To rise their positions, supervisors of gaming workers need years of experience as a gaming worker.

How much do you earn per year?

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By Jordan Griffith
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