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BIG BUCKS

Which jobs make the most money?

Anesthesiologists serving a patient.
Reuters/Rick Wilking
Anesthesiologists make the most money in the US, on average, according to government statistics.
By Dan Kopf
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

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

1
Anesthesiologists
267,020
31,060
2
Surgeons, general
255,110
34,390
3
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons
242,370
4,830
4
Obstetricians and gynecologists
238,320
18,590
5
Orthodontists
225,760
5,350
6
Psychiatrists
220,380
25,630
7
Family and general practitioners
211,780
114,130
8
Physicians and surgeons (other specialists)
203,880
389,180
9
Chief executives
200,140
195,530
10
Internists, general
196,490
37,820
11
Prosthodontists
191,400
380
12
Pediatricians, general
183,240
28,490
13
Dentists, all other specialists
178,800
4,490
14
Dentists, general
175,840
113,000
15
Nurse anesthetists
174,790
43,520
16
Airline Pilots and flight engineers
169,560
82,890
17
Petroleum engineers
156,370
32,510
18
Computer and information systems managers
152,860
391,430
19
Architectural and engineering managers
148,970
188,290
20
Podiatrists
148,220
9,500

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

1
Petroleum engineers
156,370
217%
32,510
2
Natural sciences managers
139,680
55%
60,260
3
Law teachers, postsecondary
130,710
79%
16,990
4
Physicists
125,280
96%
17,620
5
Health specialties teachers, postsecondary
122,320
154%
199,480
6
Personal financial advisors
121,770
159%
200,260
7
Optometrists
119,980
56%
37,220
8
Actuaries
116,250
61%
20,760
9
Medical and health services managers
113,730
62%
372,670
10
Education administrators, postsecondary
111,210
55%
143,430
11
Physician assistants
108,430
107%
114,710
12
Veterinarians
105,240
76%
71,060
13
Art directors
104,590
96%
40,210
14
Financial analysts
100,990
92%
306,200
15
Commercial pilots
96,530
110%
37,870
16
Medical scientists, except epidemiologist
96,420
238%
120,320
17
Biomedical engineers
95,090
187%
18,970
18
Management analysts
94,390
91%
684,470
19
Statisticians
92,600
128%
39,920
20
Industrial engineers
91,630
63%
279,550
21
Agents and managers of artists and athletes
90,930
125%
14,830
22
Financial examiners
90,310
149%
58,590
23
Physical therapists
88,880
90%
228,600
24
Psychology teachers, postsecondary
88,490
57%
37,630
25
Operations research analysts
88,350
74%
104,200

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