How does a job earning more than $150,000 a year sound? The first step to pursuing a six-figure career is identifying which careers have that earning potential — even if they don’t start at that pay, according to Cheryl Palmer, a certified career coach and owner of Call to Career. “If the potential is there to make six figures, then you can put this career on your list and then decide out of all the careers that have this type of earning potential which one(s) you are most interested.”
If you’re looking to get into a career that is growing and pays well, consider these high-paying jobs that have lots to offer.
Last updated: Sept. 21, 2020
Average pay: $267,020
An anesthesiologist is a doctor who administers drugs to ease patients into unconsciousness before surgery or reduce pain for other medical procedures.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists anesthesiologists as the highest-paid occupation in its database of medical professionals. The Medscape’s Anesthesiologist Compensation Report states $391,000 as the average salary for a U.S. anesthesiologist.
To pursue this career, you’ll have to complete four years at the undergraduate level following a pre-med course of study, then four more years of medical school. There are also several more years of residency, possibly followed by a fellowship for another year, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists.
2. Nurse Anesthetist
Average salary: $113,930
For fewer years in school but still phenomenal pay, you can opt to be a nurse anesthetist. People in this profession provide anesthesia care and oversee patient recovery from anesthesia. The BLS reports a higher than average growth outlook at 26%.
It takes at least approximately eight calendar years of education and experience to prepare for a career as a nurse anesthetist, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree in nursing, registered nurse licensure, at least one year of acute-care experience in an emergency room or intensive care unit, plus completing an accredited nurse anesthesia program and passing the national certification exam.
Average salary: $255,110
Surgeons can be paid exceptionally well for their specialty. In fact, the Medical Group Management Association found that physician compensation is on the rise. Looking for a job should be rather easy. Employment for surgeons is expected to grow 7% from 2018 to 2028 — a much faster rate than the average for all jobs, according to the BLS.
Before you can enjoy the luxuries this high-paying career can provide, you’ll first undergo rigorous training. Surgeons must complete four years of college, four years of medical school and then three to seven years in internship and residency programs, depending on their specialty.
4. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
Average salary: At least $208,000
The BLS lists oral and maxillofacial surgery as one of the highest-paying occupations. These professionals provide reconstructive mouth, jaw, neck and dental surgery and treatment. The more experienced surgeons make approximately $261,905 a year, according to Payscale.
After completing a bachelor’s degree, there are four years of dental school and an oral residency program that can range from four to six years. The six-year route involves a medical degree, according to the American Student Dental Association.
5. General Dentist
Average salary: $156,240
A promising job future and exceptional pay, including being one of the highest-paid jobs in 2018, make dentistry a hot field to pursue. Dentists keep teeth looking their best by treating tooth decay, cavities, gum problems and more. The demand for dentists is growing, particularly with more studies showing the link between proper dental care and overall health. In fact, job openings are expected to be plentiful, with a 7% growth by 2028, according to the BLS.
It takes time and commitment to pursue this hot career, however. After college, you have to attend dental school and pass state licensing exams. Dentists in specialized fields must take part in a residency program.
Average salary: At least $208,000
U.S. News & World Report ranks orthodontics as one of the best fields for pay, growth, stress and work-life balance. These professionals fix bite and teeth alignment issues by designing retainers, braces and other mouth appliances for patients — and are paid more than $200,000 a year on average.
Orthodontists spend a little more time training than general dentists do before they can practice. In addition to an undergraduate degree, orthodontists must go to dental school, followed by two to three years of additional education in an orthodontic residency program and a state licensing exam.
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Average salary: $183,240
Pediatricians provide care and specialize in diagnosing problems related to children and teens. Demand for their services is anticipated to grow 2% through 2028, according to the BLS. If you’re looking to achieve the top pay, research shows Mississippi, Alaska, Utah, Montana and South Dakota to be the highest-paying states for pediatricians.
Pediatricians also have to go through rigorous training: four years in medical school and another few years in a residency program, followed by passing the state licensing exam.
Average salary: $220,380
If you’re after a career that’s lucrative and growing, add psychiatry to your list for a future job search. The average salary is just shy of $200,000, and the BLS projects a 16% growth rate through 2028. These professionals diagnose and treat mental illnesses through the use of medication, counseling and hospitalization.
As with other health specialties, you’ll have to complete medical school and a residency program, then pass a licensing exam and gain board certification to practice as a psychiatrist.
9. Chief Executive
Average salary: $189,600
Chief executives earn well into the six figures. The big paycheck does come with added responsibility. CEOs oversee entire organizations and make sure they are reaching their goals.
Traditionally, many CEOs have a bachelor’s degree in business administration or an MBA. However, this isn’t the only way to make it to the top. Some top executives advance from lower-level management positions and can substitute experience for education, according to the BLS.
10. Obstetrician and Gynecologist
Average salary: $238,320
Obstetricians and gynecologists deliver babies and treat diseases affecting the reproductive system of women — and can make a lot of cash doing so. Even 25% of obstetricians and gynecologists earn $172,130 on average, according to the BLS.
As with other medical professions, becoming an OB-GYN takes an undergraduate degree, four years in medical school, then another three to seven years of residency training.
Average salary: $196,490
Pursuing a career in internal medicine could afford you a sizable paycheck and a promising job future with a 4% growth rate through 2028, according to the BLS. An internist diagnoses and treats adults who have a variety of illnesses and can work in private practice or as hospitalists. Much like other medical fields, internists must complete four years of college, medical school, as well as a residency program that lasts three years, according to the American College of Physicians (ACP).
12. Family and General Practitioner
Average salary: $211,780
A family physician has patients they treat on a regular basis for routine visits as well as common illnesses. The BLS projects a 10% job growth through 2028, which equals 12,400 added jobs.
According to the ACP, family medicine education encompasses the care of children and training in areas typically provided in other specialties. These physicians also complete medical school and a residency program following their undergraduate program.
13. Architectural and Engineering Manager
Average salary: $140,760
Are you structurally minded? Architectural and engineering managers are paid $140,760, on average, but the highest 10% of earners make more than $208,000, according to the BLS. Furthermore, the average pay for those who work in scientific research and development services is more than $160,000. In this role, you’ll plan and coordinate activities or research in architectural or engineering organizations.
Although this occupation doesn’t have the job growth of the medical professions, employment is expected to grow slightly over the next several years — 3%, in fact. The minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree in an engineering specialty or a master’s in architecture, followed by years of experience.
14. Marketing Manager
Average salary: $134,290
The top 10% of marketing managers earn more than $208,000 on average, according to the BLS. The job involves planning and coordinating marketing programs for organizations, identifying customers and overseeing product development.
Those choosing to pursue this career path have an optimistic job outlook, with the BLS projecting an 8% growth through 2028. Most marketing managers have a bachelor’s degree in marketing, communications, business or a similar field, as well as work experience.
15. Petroleum Engineer
Average salary: $137,170
The top 10% of petroleum engineers make more than $208,000, according to the BLS. These workers find ways to extract oil and gas to meet the nation’s needs. The demand and pricing for oil will create new job opportunities for petroleum engineers, with the BLS anticipating a 3% growth through 2028.
A bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering is preferred, although other engineering specialties are acceptable in some instances. Cooperative-education programs also are encouraged to get class credit and on-the-job experience in the field.
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16. Air Traffic Controller
Average salary: $124,540
Air traffic controllers are the key players in making sure there is a safe distance between aircraft and in regulating traffic at airports. While not as exciting as flying, they are paid quite well to do what they do. Although the average pay is $124,540, the top 10% of earners make more than $178,000, according to the BLS.
There are multiple paths to pursue this hot career, which include a history of work experience, a bachelor’s degree or a degree through the FAA-approved Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative. Air traffic controllers also must hold U.S. citizenship, and pass background and medical checks and other tests, in addition to taking a course at the Federal Aviation Administration Academy before age 31.
Average salary: $120,910
Lawyer pay varies by specialty and area, but the top 10% of earners overall make more than $208,000, according to the BLS. The job outlook is also good, with employment expected to grow 6% to keep it in line with the national average for all occupations. In fact, Glassdoor lists more than 10,000 jobs hiring.
Another positive to this high-paying career is that becoming a lawyer doesn’t require the amount of schooling it does to become a doctor. After earning a college degree, prospective lawyers must complete three years of law school and pass their state’s bar exam.
18. Computer Systems and Information Manager
Average salary: $142,530
As more and more organizations require professionals to coordinate computer activities, demand for computer systems and information managers is expected to grow 11% through 2028.
The top 10% of earners are making more than $208,000 on average. What’s great about this career is that it doesn’t require years in school. A bachelor’s degree in computer or information science and related work experience is typically sufficient, but many do go on to earn a graduate degree, notes the BLS.
19. Financial Manager
Average salary: $127,990
Financial managers are responsible for the planning and directing of accounting, investing and other financial activities for companies. The average pay might be lower than other hot jobs on the list, but the top 10% of financial managers earn more than $208,000. Jobs in this occupation are also growing much faster than average — 16%, in fact.
These professionals generally hold a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, business administration or economics, as well as five or more years of related experience. Today, employers prefer those with a master’s degree in a related subject, according to the BLS.
Average salary: $126,120
The average annual pay for pharmacists is $126,120, but the top 10% earn more than $161,250, according to the BLS. Employment in this field is 0%, which means little to no change.
To become a pharmacist and dispense prescription medication to patients, you must complete college and a four-year doctor of pharmacy degree. Some colleges condense both the undergraduate and doctor of pharmacy degree into a six-year program. You also must pass two licensing exams.
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