When you’re deciding what career to pursue, there are plenty of factors to consider. You want to choose a job that feels well-suited to your skill set and needs, your experience, your interests, and your personality.
But you might also want a job that will compensate you well—and that’s OK. So the question is, if you’re looking for a high-paying job, what are the best roles to consider?
Let’s take a look at 25 of the very highest-paying jobs in America, according to 2020 salary information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (the most recent year for which data is available). For each role, you’ll also find the BLS’s projections for growth between 2019 and 2029 and links to search for current job openings on The Muse.
Physicians (also known as doctors) are responsible for providing medical care to their patients. Depending on their area of specialty, physicians may see a wide range of patients (for example, pediatricians treat children) and provide a variety of services (like anesthesiologists, who deliver anesthesia and monitor patients before, during, and after surgery, or podiatrists, who manage foot-related care).
All physicians need to go to medical school following their undergraduate studies (podiatrists, however, go to specific podiatry schools). Then they need to complete a residency—or postgraduate training for new doctors during which they are supervised by more senior doctors in a particular specialty—before they can become a practicing doctor. Physicians are among the highest-paid individuals in the U.S.—and while most physicians are paid extremely well, some specialties make more money than others.
Some of the most highly compensated physicians include the roles below. (You can click on each job title to search for open roles on The Muse!)
- Anesthesiologists: Average salary: $271,440; Job outlook: 0.5% growth
- Surgeons: Average salary: $251,650; Job outlook: -2.2% growth
- Obstetricians and gynecologists: Average salary: $239,120; Job outlook: -1.4% growth
- Physicians (all other) and opthamologists (except pediatric): Average salary: $218,850; Job outlook: 4.3% growth
- Psychiatrists: Average salary: $217,100; Job outlook: 11.9% growth
- Family medicine physicians: Average salary: $214,370; Job outlook: 6.1% growth
- General internal medicine physicians: Average salary: $210,960; Job outlook: -0.6% growth
- Pediatricians: Average salary: $184,570; Job outlook: -1.6% growth
- Podiatrists: Average salary: $151,110; Job outlook: 0.2% growth
Dental specialists are any medical professionals who work with the teeth, gums, and mouth. Similar to physicians, dental professionals may provide a wide range of services depending on their area of specialty (for example, general dentists provide routine care, including checking for and filling cavities, while orthodontists diagnose and treat irregularities in the jaw and teeth, including creating space for crowded teeth using a palette expander or fixing a crooked smile with braces).
After completing their undergraduate degrees, dental specialists attend dental school—and depending on their area of specialty, may need to pursue additional schooling and/or residency (for example, following their DDS program, oral and maxillofacial surgeons need to complete a surgical residency program).
There’s a lot of money to be made in the dental world, but the financial opportunity varies by speciality. Some of the top-paying dental professions in the U.S. include:
- Orthodontists: Average salary: $237,990; Job outlook: 2.4% growth
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons: Average salary: $234,990; Job outlook: 2.4% growth
- Prosthodontists: Average salary: $214,870; Job outlook: 2.2% growth
- Dentists (all other specialties): Average salary: $194,930; Job outlook: 0.2% growth
- Dentists (general): Average salary: $180,830; Job outlook: 2.8% growth
Average salary: $197,840
Job outlook: -10% growth
Chief executives (also known as chief executive officers, or CEOs) lead companies. As the highest-ranking office in the company, a chief executive role comes with a lot of responsibilities. Not only do CEOs oversee the operations of the company, but they’re also responsible for setting its mission and vision and making the big, strategic decisions (whether that’s deciding to expand into new markets, launch a new product, or build out the team). Chief executives are also often responsible for communicating on behalf of the company—whether that’s with the public, the press, shareholders, or the company’s board of directors.
There are no universal education requirements for chief executives; while many are experienced business people with the advanced degrees to match (like MBAs), others are entrepreneurial-minded, business-savvy individuals who decided to forgo traditional education and focus on building their businesses.
Average salary: $189,190
Job outlook: 13.7% growth
Nurse anesthetists are responsible for providing care to surgical patients that’s specifically related to anesthesia. This includes evaluating patients before surgery, administering anesthesia, monitoring patients during surgery (including vital signs and other biological functions), adjusting anesthesia as necessary to keep patients unconscious and unable to feel pain, and managing post-surgery care.
There’s a lot of schooling that goes into becoming a nurse anesthetist: Nurses first must complete their bachelor’s in nursing (BSN), then get their RN license, and then pursue advanced education in nurse anesthesia. Currently, you can become a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) with a master’s degree—but by 2025, all new CNRAs will need to pursue a doctorate in order to practice.
Average salary: $189,190
Job outlook: 2.8% growth
When you book a flight to go on vacation or to visit family, someone has to fly that plane. Airline pilots fly aircraft for major airlines, both domestically and internationally.
Airline pilots need a bachelor’s degree and a private pilot license. From there, they’ll need to get a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight experience under their belts before they can get certified to fly a commercial airliner.
Average salary: $161,730
Job outlook: 10.4% growth
Computer and information systems managers (a title often shortened to information systems managers or IS managers) design, manage, and maintain the systems and software a company uses to store, analyze, and communicate data. This includes evaluating the organization’s current systems and technology and making recommendations for improvements, developing large-scale information systems strategies, and continually monitoring the company’s information systems to ensure things are as safe, secure, and efficient as possible.
In order to succeed in their role, IS managers need to know the ins and outs of information systems, so they typically hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a tech-related field (like computer science or information technology).
Average salary: $158,100
Job outlook: 2.6% growth
Architectural and engineering managers plan, oversee, and direct projects and activities for companies in the architectural and/or engineering spaces. Depending on the organization, this may include tasks like leading research and development, creating the plans for a new project (for example, a new product or design), solving technical problems, drafting budgets, hiring necessary staff, supervising operations at a construction or manufacturing site to ensure the project is completed on time.
Architectural and engineer managers need, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in architecture, engineering, or a related field—but many companies prefer or require their managers to hold a master’s degree.
Average salary: $154,930
Job outlook: 4.8% growth
Natural sciences managers leverage their scientific backgrounds to develop or improve a variety of initiatives within an organization (for example, a research and development firm or a manufacturing company), including research and development, testing, quality control, and production. Natural sciences managers work with a company’s leadership team to define and understand the organization’s goals—then hire and oversee a staff of researchers and scientists (chemists, physicists, biologists, and more) to bring those goals to fruition. While natural sciences managers need a strong background in the relevant science area, they also need to have business savvy and excellent project and people management skills.
Natural sciences managers need at least a bachelor’s degree in a scientific field (like biology or chemistry)—although many companies prefer that their managers hold advanced degrees.
Average salary: $154,470
Job outlook: 6.7% growth
Marketing managers are responsible for promoting a product, service, event, brand, or organization. Depending on what they’re promoting, they might conduct market research; develop creative marketing campaigns; spearhead digital marketing initiatives; write marketing content and materials; oversee social media, email, and other marketing channels; or focus on search engine optimization and/or marketing (here are some of the most common marketing paths). Marketing managers can be generalists or choose to become specialists in one type of marketing.
While many companies prefer that their marketing managers hold a bachelor’s degree, some are more interested in how a candidate’s background, experience, and expertise lines up with what they’ll be promoting (for example, a company that’s promoting a new product and wants to develop ad copy might look to hire a marketing manager with advertising experience, a company that conducts all of its business online might prefer to hire a marketing manager that specializes in digital marketing and e-commerce, and an organization that makes athletic gear might look to hire a former athlete or another candidate who with in-depth knowledge of sports).
Average salary: $154,330
Job outlook: 3.2% growth
A petroleum engineer’s job is to find and extract oil and gas from underneath the earth’s surface. Their responsibilities may include designing equipment to extract oil and gas from the earth; developing and implementing extraction plans to drill into the earth and secure the oil and gas; overseeing operation and maintenance of equipment; analyzing oil and gas field production; and finding new strategies for better, more effective extraction.
Petroleum engineers are required to have a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering or a related engineering field (like civil or mechanical engineering).
Average salary: $151,510
Job outlook: 15.5% growth
Financial managers oversee a variety of profit and money-related tasks for an organization, including doing financial reporting and forecasting, conducting data analysis, managing investments, overseeing finance teams, and advising leadership on how to hit the company’s financial goals and support its financial health and stability. They might also be responsible for ensuring the organization is meeting all the requirements of tax and other laws and regulations. Controllers and treasurers, as well as cash, credit, risk, or insurance managers could all be considered financial managers.
Financial managers typically hold a bachelor’s degree in finance or related field and, depending on the company, may be required to hold an advanced degree.
Average salary: $148,910
Job outlook: 4% growth
Lawyers (also known as attorneys) study all aspects of the law—and then interpret the law and apply it to a variety of situations on behalf of their clients. Depending on the attorney, a client might be a person facing a criminal charge, someone navigating a divorce, or a company suing a competitor in an intellectual property dispute.
The day-to-day responsibilities of a lawyer vary based on what type of law they practice, but may include tasks like meeting with and advising clients, presenting arguments in court, conducting legal research, or drafting or reviewing contracts.
In order to practice law, lawyers must complete their law degree (a juris doctor, or JD) and pass the bar exam in the state they plan to practice. Lawyers can also go on to work as law professors—another high-paying role with an average salary of $134,760.
Average salary: $147,580
Job outlook: 3.5% growth
Sales managers are responsible for sales performance within an organization. Depending on the company, sales managers may oversee a team of sales representatives responsible for bringing in new business and/or take a more hands-on role, managing a portion of the company’s clients and accounts themselves. They might analyze data, track customer trends, come up with strategies to bring in new clients, close deals, hire staff, develop and run training for the sales team, and collaborate with colleagues on other teams.
Most companies don’t have any specific educational requirements for sales managers. In order to succeed in this position, sales managers need to have stellar communication and other interpersonal skills, plenty of experience, and the ability to meet sales quotas (and lead their team to do the same).
Average salary: $138,590
Job outlook: 9.4% growth
Operations managers are responsible for improving efficiency by overseeing and optimizing day-to-day functions and processes within a company. Depending on the organization, this can translate into a variety of tasks, including working with leadership to determine operational inefficiencies, overhauling processes (for example, reporting or training processes), and creating and implementing new policies and procedures to increase efficiency and productivity within the organization.
Operations specialties managers need to be extremely organized, detail-oriented, and able to manage multiple projects at once. Typically, they hold a bachelor’s degree in business management or a related field.
Average salary: $137,700
Job outlook: 7.3% growth
Physicists study all things energy and matter—including how the two interact. Generally, physicists work in one of two fields: theoretical physics, which is more abstract and involves mathematical models and theories; or applied physics, which is about testing aspects of those models and theories in a concrete way—for example, by performing experiments or developing a new medical technology.
In order to work as a physicist, you’ll need a doctorate in physics—although if you’re interested in pursuing a career as a physicist, you can start your career as a research assistant with a bachelor’s or master’s while you pursue your PhD.
Average salary: $137,160
Job outlook: 2.5% growth
Compensation and benefits managers work in the human resources field. But unlike HR managers, who typically oversee a variety of people-related tasks, compensation and benefits managers focus on—you guessed it—employee compensation and benefits. They may be responsible for tasks including analyzing industry salary data and developing compensation strategies, researching and vetting different benefits options, managing third-party relationships (for example, with payroll companies or insurance agents), and overseeing employee benefits plans.
Most companies require their compensation and benefits managers to hold a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field.
Public relations managers (also known as PR managers) are responsible for building awareness and driving positive associations and sentiment for a product, person, or organization. PR managers tackle this task in a variety of ways, such as building strong relationships with the press (and leveraging those relationships to get their clients or company coverage), drafting press releases, developing publicity strategies and campaigns, and devising strategies to minimize the impact of negative press.
Being a successful PR manager is more about skills than formal education—so while some companies or clients may want their PR manager to have a bachelor’s degree, if you’ve got the talent, you can often land a job without the formal education.
Average salary: $134,580
Job outlook: 6.3% growth
Human resources managers (often referred to as HR managers) are in charge of all things people-related (or human-related, hence the title) within a company. Depending on the company’s needs, HR managers might onboard new employees, develop employee wellness initiatives, handle employee complaints, and draft people management policies and procedures.
Most companies require their HR managers to hold a bachelor’s degree—although some are willing to work with candidates without a traditional degree.
Average salary: $132,660
Job outlook: 2.6% growth
Purchasing managers are responsible for overseeing teams of purchasing agents, who procure products for companies, whether that’s to resell to their customers or to use internally. Purchasing managers are also typically involved in more high-level purchasing tasks, including developing purchasing strategies, managing important vendor relationships, and developing and overseeing budgets.
Purchasing managers need a high level of both analytical and people management skills—and, as such, most companies require them to hold a bachelor’s degree.
Average salary: $131,850
Job outlook: 3.1% growth
Judges oversee cases in the courtroom, whether they be criminal (for example, a murder trial) or civil (like a lawsuit or divorce proceeding). Depending on the case, judges may have to make a final decision on the case (although, if it’s a jury case, that responsibility falls to the jury). They might preside over hearings, evaluate motions and other documents, interpret the law, write opinions, determine sentences, and instruct juries.
The vast majority of judges are former lawyers and hold juris doctor degrees (JD)—although in select situations and courts, judges without a law degree may be elected (for example, in a rural jurisdiction).
Average salary: $130,890
Job outlook: 15.4% growth
Computer and information research scientists are responsible for solving computing problems and exploring different ways to use software and other technology. This can take a variety of forms, from creating models to test possible solutions to developing new programming languages to designing and conducting experiments to test the efficiency of different software. Similar to other types of scientists, computer and information research scientists may also write papers to publish their findings, either in academic or trade publications.
Computer and information research scientists need in-depth knowledge of computers and related technology—and, as such, an advanced degree in computer science or a related field is typically required.
Average salary: $127,440
Job outlook: 0.5% growth
When there’s a high volume of different aircraft coming in or out of an airspace, someone needs to make sure they don’t crash into each other. Air traffic controllers are responsible for managing the flow of traffic at an airport or other airspace; using a variety of computer and radar technology, they monitor the airspace and direct the movement of various aircraft to avoid collisions and ensure each has a safe landing.
To get into the industry, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree or three years of work experience. From there, they can apply for training at the Federal Aviation Administration’s FAA Academy in Oklahoma City to further their studies and transition into a career as an air traffic controller.
Average salary: $126,250
Job outlook: 2.4% growth
Astronomers study everything having to do with the universe—including planets, stars, and galaxies. They might physically observe happenings in space (for example, monitoring the movement of comets through a telescope) or develop computer models to test theories about the universe.
Astronomy is an in-depth scientific field. It requires deep knowledge and extensive education—so if you want to work as an astronomer, you’ll need to get a PhD.
Average salary: $126,140
Job outlook: 1.6% growth
Hardware refers to the physical elements that make up computers and computer systems, like circuit boards, processors, and routers—and computer hardware engineers are responsible for researching, developing, and maintaining those elements. Depending on the company and the engineer’s speciality, this may include developing new hardware, testing and optimizing the hardware, and overseeing the production and manufacturing of the hardware.
Computer hardware engineers need to have an extensive understanding of how hardware functions—and while most hold at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field, some are self-taught computer enthusiasts.
Average salary: $125,920
Job outlook: 7.3% growth
Training and development managers are responsible for making sure their company’s staff is armed with the information, skills, and knowledge they need to successfully do their jobs and function within the organization—whether that’s on-the-job training for specific roles or company-wide training on important initiatives, like diversity and inclusion or effective communication. The role may involve developing curriculum, planning and leading training sessions, and evaluating and managing third-party training and educational opportunities.
Training and development managers need to be organized and well-versed in their fields—and most hold at least a bachelor’s degree (although many also hold advanced degrees, particularly in more traditional fields like finance or consulting).