Which jobs make the most money?

Anesthesiologists make the most money in the US, on average, according to government statistics.
Anesthesiologists make the most money in the US, on average, according to government statistics.
Image: Reuters/Rick Wilking
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Imagine your goal in life was simply to make as much as much money as possible. What should you do? According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you should become a doctor.

Every other year, the BLS conducts the Occupational Employment Statistics survey. For the survey, companies are asked what their employees do and how much they are paid. The data is used by the government to track the number of people in different jobs, focus government education programs, and forecast which jobs will grow in the future.

It’s an astonishing trove of information for people looking for a job. If, for example, you are considering becoming a graphic designer, but don’t know how much they typically make, what industry employs these people, and where these jobs are typically located, this is the government website for you.

It’s also the best place to figure out which jobs pay the big bucks. The 2018 data showed that anesthesiologists make the most of the 804 occupations tracked, with an average annual salary of about $267,000. Of the 10 highest-paid jobs, nine of them were types of doctors. The only exception was “chief executive.”

The highest paying jobs in the US in 2018

For those looking to get rich, simply knowing that a certain type of job is well-paid may not be enough. It’s useful to know if that job is going to be there once you finish your training.

To find the the best-paid jobs that are expanding, Quartz identified jobs with the highest average salaries that also expanded in number by more than 50% from 2000 to 2018. This analysis only includes about 504 of the 804 jobs listed for 2018 because the definitions of some jobs changed since 2000, and some new jobs were added (for example, anesthesiologist was not in the 2000 dataset).

Due to fracking and new drilling technologies, petroleum engineer tops our list of fast-growing, high-paying jobs. Most of the other jobs that make the list are in science (“natural sciences managers,” “physicists”), health (“physician assistants,” “medical and health services managers”, “biomedical engineers”), and finance (“personal financial advisors”, “actuaries”, “financial analysts”). They all involve intensive education to qualify for positions. It may take decades to pay off the student debt to get one of these jobs, but in the end it is almost certainly worth it.

The highest-paying jobs in the US, with job growth greater than 50% from 2000 to 2018