You might think that in order to make the big bucks, you have to get involved in the glamor professions, such as acting or professional athletics. However, you might be surprised to learn that none of those professions made the top 10 or even the top 25 list of highest-paying jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
It should be noted that, according to the Department of Labor, eight of the top 10 highest-paying professions were in the medical field. To avoid monotony, we included the medical professions in a single entry. Here are the top 10 highest-paying jobs in the U.S.
No.10 – Air traffic controller
Median salary: $109,220
Training time: 9 years
Employed almost exclusively by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), air traffic controllers are responsible for the safe operation of private and commercial aircraft. Responsibilities include coordinating movement of air traffic to keep planes at safe distances from one another and minimize traffic delays. Typically, a team works together to communicate with pilots and warn about weather patterns, and to help planes position for takeoff, landing and taxiing to the gate.
To become an air traffic controller, you must enroll in an FAA-approved program and pass an aptitude test. Exceptions may be made for those with military or aviation experience. A four-year degree and three years of work experience are typically required, and you must apply to take the exam. If you are selected and you pass, you’ll have to attend a 12-week training session before working as a development controller for two to four years. Only after that will you be ready to be hired as an air traffic controller.
No.9 – Marketing manager
Median salary: $110,000
Training time: 4 to 6 years
Marketing managers, like CEOs, span all sorts of industries and levels of responsibility. A small accounting firm may have a marketing manager to help coordinate Yellow Pages advertisements and Chamber of Commerce appearances, while that marketing manager’s Fortune 500 peer is responsible for the execution of a multimillion-dollar marketing budget that encompasses a plethora of marketing media. Marketing managers can be expected to handle items such as public relations, brand development, media buying, collateral and promotions development and even financial metrics and analytics.
The scope of a marketing manager’s responsibilities is a function of the organization’s size and intended clientele. The marketing manager of a Fortune 500 company serving a consumer audience may have a far larger scope of duties than the marketing manager at a small business-to-business consulting firm. Communication skills, marketing prowess and basic management skills all come into play. In most cases, marketing managers have a four-year degree, and an MBA will definitely help in higher-level executive marketing positions.
No.8 – Lawyers and judges
Median salary: $113,000
Training time: 7 years
The legal system is tied into nearly every aspect of our society — and there is no shortage of attorney classifications that you can aspire to. We are all familiar with personal injury and criminal attorneys, but the variety of lawyers reaches far beyond that. Environmental law, entertainment law, family law, real estate law, intellectual property and civil law are a handful of the fields that need lawyers. Some attorneys choose to specialize in a particular industry, such as construction, waste management, securities or insurance, while others will review agreements, represent the court or mediate. Later on in their careers, some lawyers will sit as judges.
The industry is highly regulated and adheres to a stringent code of ethics. Lawyers must pass the bar examination offered by the state in which they wish to practice. And in most cases, to be eligible to sit for the bar, you must have a four-year degree and have graduated from an ABA-accredited law school, which takes about three years.
No.7 – Computer and information systems manager
Median salary: $113,700
Training time: 4 to 8 years
Computer and information systems managers are responsible for the overall strategy and direction of the company’s information technology (IT) and systems plan. Many start out as programmers or data analysts, but as they acquire experience and conceptual knowledge, they can become capable of overseeing the information systems management of entire enterprises. In today’s technological environment, most companies regard this as a highly valued position and pay accordingly. Elements of the job include overseeing a company’s IT security, information management, information technology deployment, software and application selection, revenue assurance, and compliance.
When the field was relatively new, there were stories of gifted programmers who rose to top positions without any formal training or education. Today, however, with the wide acceptance of information technology, more of an emphasis is placed on new candidates having a four-year degree in computer science, computer engineering or mathematics, and even advanced degrees.
No.6 – Natural sciences manager
Median salary: $114,600
Training time: 6 years
Natural science managers oversee the work of other scientists, such as agricultural scientists, chemists, biologists and geologists. They are commonly employed in the research and development field and work in pharmaceutical and environmental consulting or municipal organizations. Natural science managers often own their own consulting or testing firms and can serve as expert witnesses in court hearings.
A bachelor’s degree is absolutely required, and to work your way up the ladder, an MBA or doctorate is strongly advised. Fortunately, many employers will pay educational costs. The best and highest-paid natural science managers have an aptitude for key business functions, such as marketing, sales and finance. These skills are valuable because it often takes a combination of business acumen and specialized knowledge to present and communicate ideas and concepts in a sophisticated sales environment.
No.5 – Engineering manager
Median salary: $117,000
Training time: 6 to 7 years
Engineering managers are responsible for plans, coordination, research, design and production activities. Frequently, engineering managers oversee natural science managers and information systems managers — two professions that also made this list. Typically, engineering managers determine specific technical or scientific goals, provide broad outlines, plan the execution of projects and, in some cases, are responsible for their financial viability. For example, engineering managers may be actively involved in the development of a real estate community, or they may work in the manufacturing space to solve technical problems. However, managers who deal with semiconductors and electronic component manufacturing are among the highest-paid.
Most engineering managers have bachelor’s degrees, and many will pursue post-graduate degrees, such as an MBA, a Master of Science or a doctorate.
No.4 – Dentist
Median salary: $145,320
Training time: 8 years
There are quite a few specialties — orthodontics, oral surgery and pediatrics to name a few — within the dental field, although many graduates of dental school opt to become general practitioners. Dentists in private practice will commonly oversee business operations, including administration and bookkeeping. All states require dentists to be licensed, so candidates must graduate from one of the 56 dental schools accredited by the ADA. Graduates must also pass both written and practical exams.
While most dental schools require only two years of college-level education, most candidates obtain their bachelor’s degree. Dental school for general practitioners takes three to four years, and if you wish to specialize, you can plan on an additional two to five years of training.
No.3 – Psychiatrist
Median salary: $179,195
Training time: 10 to 14 years
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who study and treat mental disorders, frequently attaining a specialization with a specific demographic or mental illness. As they are trained physicians, psychiatrists must complete a bachelor’s degree and subsequently attend medical school. After this, they train as a resident for up to an additional four years. Finally, they must pass both written and oral examinations to be certified.
As a result of all of this training, aspiring psychiatrists are often saddled with debt. Fortunately, there is a range of employment available. Psychiatrists work within a wide variety of organizations and their clientele includes office workers, law enforcement, the military, statisticians, geneticists and even superstar athletes — just to name a few.
No.2 – CEO
Median salary: $217,770
Training time: Varies
A CEO is the highest-ranking (and often the highest-paid) official within a company, and is responsible for the company’s strategic direction and day-to-day operational performance. The CEO usually answers to the board of directors, which is elected by the shareholders. In smaller companies, however, the CEO is not only the Chairman of the Board, but he can also be the entire board of directors.
There are many paths to becoming a CEO. In large Fortune 500 companies, you are just as likely to see an employee with more than 30 years experience in the company become the head honcho as you are to see the company hire a seasoned executive manager. You could also start your own company and simply name yourself CEO, then build your business until you are actually overseeing many levels of management and development.
In the corporate world, a bachelor’s degree is almost ubiquitous and an MBA is encouraged, though it’s not necessary — we all know that Bill Gates is an inspirational dropout.
No.1 – Medical professional
Median average salary: $251,520
Training time: 10 to 15 years
While many medical professionals rank high on the pay scale, those who work in the OR are the highest-paid — specifically, surgeons who specialize in the treatment of illness or injury and anesthesiologists, who administer anesthetics during operations. As such, most surgeons opt to specialize in a specific area, like the heart or the brain.
Even for general practitioners, pediatricians and podiatrists, who tend to earn the less than other physicians, the very specific knowledge they require in order to effectively perform their jobs can only be obtained through additional formal training and many years of hands-on experience. Of course, a four-year degree is required to even begin along this path, preferably in biology or other sciences because these fields provide basic knowledge that will be applied in medical school. After college, med school will demand another four years — the first two years will be in classrooms, and the last two will involve working with patients under the direction of physician educators. A residency is the next step, and this can last from three to seven years, depending on the candidate’s desire to specialize. A candidate must also pass a licensing examination.
While the profession can be lucrative, it is certainly not easy or cheap: More than 80% of medical school graduates carry a debt.