Highest-paying careers in the country

(Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com)

(Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com)

If you’re willing to put in long hours and years of prep work on the front end, a high-paying career awaits you, according to a report on CNBC.com.

The highest-paying jobs continue to be found in the medical and technology fields, but professionals in other areas also are pulling in big bucks.

CNBC.com pored over Bureau of Labor Statistics data to come up with the highest-paying jobs in the country today. Not all of them require the time and effort needed to become a physician – “ four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical school and between three and eight years of an internship and residency, depending on their specialization or area of surgery.”

On the other hand, someone aspiring to be a sales manager won’t even need a bachelor’s degree. She or he, however, must be able to understand the marketplace, analyze sales statistics and monitor customer preferences.

Here are the top 15 highest paying positions:

No. 1: Doctors and surgeons: Average annual salary: $168,650-$234,950; current employment: 618,000-plus.

No. 2: Orthodontists and dentists: Average annual salary: $161,750-$204,670; current employment: 101,400

No. 3: Chief executive officer: Average annual salary: $176,550; current employment: 267,370

No. 4: Petroleum engineer: Average annual salary: $138,980; current employment: 30,880

No. 5: Lawyer: Average annual salary: $130,490; current employment: 570,950

No. 6: Architectural and engineering managers: Average annual salary: $129,350; current employment: 184,530

No. 7: Natural science manager: Average annual salary: $128,230; current employment: 47,510

No. 8: Marketing manager: Average annual salary: $126,190; current employment: 168,410

No. 9: Computer and information systems manager: Average annual salary: $125,660; current employment: 300,830

No. 10: Industrial-organizational psychologist: Average annual salary: $124,160; current employment: 1,230

No. 11: Financial manager: Average annual salary: $120,450; current employment: 477,690

No. 12: Airline pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers: Average annual salary: $118,070; current employment: 68,350

No. 13: Sales manager: Average annual salary: $116,860 current employment: 328,230

No. 14: Air traffic controller: Average annual salary: $114,460; current employment: 23,580

No. 15: Pharmacist: Average salary: $112,160; current employment: 272,320

52 comments Add your comment

Ambulance chasers R' us!

July 3rd, 2012
7:01 pm

The fact that we have almost as many lawyers as we do Doctors and Surgeons points directly at what’s wrong with the country.

Funny that we try to control guns but we have not enacted any laws to control lawyers and their shady ilk. They are a far bigger blight on society than guns.


July 3rd, 2012
7:05 pm

Can’t control lawyers until you start controlling ALL the dumb people — and ignorant folks, too.

say what?

July 3rd, 2012
7:16 pm

Last week it was reported that there is a 50% placement of law students. Many are now waiters because no one is hiring newly minted lawyers. Guess at least half the dumb people have moved away.

Gator Actual

July 3rd, 2012
7:41 pm

Industrial-organizational psychologist? WTF is that?


July 3rd, 2012
7:43 pm

Funny, these are some headlines from other publications recently:

WSJ – “Law Grads Face Brutal Job Market”
Forbes – “Why Attending Law School Is The Worst Career Decision You’ll Ever Make”
New York Magazine – “The Case(s) Against Law School”

If CNBC’s reporting shoehorns any more people into the bloated law schools, you’ll see them fall off the top 15 highest paid in a year or two. Median starting salary fell to 63k in 2010 (-9k in 1 yr) and this year’s class only has ~50:50 shot of actually becoming anything resembling a lawyer after 9 months. Avg salary is 93k (includes the skewing effect of those lucky few who make it to BigLaw jobs) and discounting all the people who don’t report any salary (living at home hiding from creditors or making lattes) meaning its pretty much a roll of the dice to make any salary at all. Add in the avg debt of 75k/125k for public/private law school and you’re pretty screwed overall. Search for Paul Campos’ blog and you’ll find fun stats demonstrating the impending doom for anyone in law school today.

This list doesn’t take into account trends and the fact that law school tuition has gotten out of control especially when the economic returns have disappeared making law schools finding their class sizes shrinking by 20-30% a year.


July 3rd, 2012
8:31 pm

old timer

July 3rd, 2012
8:34 pm

What about a degree in Statistics?

Tap Out

July 3rd, 2012
8:37 pm

This list is bogus….I just saw Tiger make over $1 million for only 4 days work last week.

Tap In

July 3rd, 2012
8:44 pm

“This list is bogus….I just saw Tiger make over $1 million for only 4 days work last week.”

Which is beans compared to how much Mark Zuckerburg (CEO) makes…. That’s why they are called averages.

Moon Mullins

July 3rd, 2012
8:57 pm

The entire job market and salary structure is under great stress and will continue to be until the plutocrats determine that they have wrung every ounce of productivity out of the existing job market and are compelled to expand their work force.

Even then, the salaries will be adjusted downward to accomodate this new environment. Working class salaries have been static for the past decade, but the rich have seen their wealth grow at astounding rates.

That’s why the mindset of the Republican/Tea Party is so arrogant: I got mind. Screw you!

Hey moon,

July 3rd, 2012
9:10 pm

Mr Mullins,
What is it that you do that not only entitles you to lots of money, while not having learned the difference between ‘mind’ and ‘mine’?

You Couldn't Pass the Bar Exam

July 3rd, 2012
9:10 pm

Every person will need the services of a lawyer at least once in their life. Don’t hate on a profession that you weren’t smart enough to join.

I could

July 3rd, 2012
9:29 pm

^Everyone will probably need the services of a McDonalds worker at least once in their life so…

Sister Sarah

July 3rd, 2012
9:39 pm

I think what’s REALLY funny and suspect is the fact that we have as many short order cooks as we do Doctors and Surgeons. That really goes to show you what’s wrong with this country. Let’s see… “attorneys”…

Criminal Defense
Family Law
Corporate Law
Estate Planning
Real Estate
Civil Rights
Military Counsel

Just a few. For a minute I thought the only area for legal practice was that of Personal Injury and Malpractice. I wonder what THOSE actual numbers are in comparison to doctors, seeing as how those are the ones of specific interest?? Let’s not let the facts get in the way of the spin as put forth by narrow minded wingnuts though.

Sister Sarah

July 3rd, 2012
9:49 pm

Only in AmeriKKKa.

Where those who take on the burden of actually serving the PEOPLE of a so-called civilized society are villified ad nauseum.

Teachers, Firefighters, Attorneys, Social Workers, Postal Workers, etc. It’s no wonder that the U.S. morale and image is in the horse crapper.


July 3rd, 2012
9:58 pm

As usual, we are looking at incorrect and distorted information………..we should use the median salaries because average salaries are inflated on salaries on the higher end of the job market. Median salaries give a more accurate picture of the true job market outlook.


July 3rd, 2012
10:06 pm

I’m sure many lawyers are in it for money, not justice. However, if it is you that needs one, don’t you want to meanest and most aggressive and successful one you can find? If you say no, you’ve obviously never needed one to defend or represent you against insurance companies of the federal government.

At the BAR

July 3rd, 2012
10:41 pm

What about overpaid politicians and small college presidents OMG college football coaches…

dusty american dream

July 3rd, 2012
10:45 pm

What about prostitutes? I aid a woman $75.00 for about 45 minutes of mind blowing entertainment the other night. She was awesome and told me that she brings in about $2,500 nightly. Man that is a lot of rod that she is smoking but they should be on this list.

dusty american dream

July 3rd, 2012
10:46 pm

Where are professional wrestlers? I make about $50 a match.

Dr. J.

July 3rd, 2012
10:55 pm

When adjusted for years of education, debt that many students have to pay off after they graduate and the costs of actually being a physician (office staff, liability insurance, board tests, etc.), being a physician is one of the least remunerative jobs there is. The reason there are so few of us is that most people aren’t stupid enough to do this profession for the low earnings and stress.


July 3rd, 2012
11:33 pm

Article missed a big category- government employees. With benefits added in these jobs pay as well as most in the private sector AND you can’t be fired! I’m steering my kids to find jobs with the government for the real “easy street”.


July 3rd, 2012
11:34 pm

Good point, Dr, J. That also probably helps to explain why so many doctors don’t give a s**t about your healthcare anymore. :/


July 3rd, 2012
11:49 pm

No.6 Architectural managers ???….you can’t be serious!!
That 184,000 must be globally.

the angry hippy

July 4th, 2012
12:27 am

Gay divorce will help those pompous a-holes!


July 4th, 2012
12:41 am

The worst HS teacher I had was a guy that failed the bar and needed to make a living “teaching” until he could take the test again. I doubt he made a much better lawyer than he did a teacher and he certainly did not deserve the “big bucks” from either profession.


July 4th, 2012
12:44 am

WHERE you practice a profession matters as well. A lawyer in a small town in a rural county is not likely to make the same as in Atlanta.


July 4th, 2012
12:44 am

That is why the Government needs to step in and help pay for a Doctors education. We are going to need many new Dr’s with over 30 million more people coming on board with the Affordable Care Act. Maybe when the bill gets tweaked which it will, something can be done about helping all those that want to be Dr.’s with their education costs. I truthfully don’t know how they do it.


July 4th, 2012
4:38 am

My neighbor is a lawyer( I think he did like small criminal cases, DUIs, and crash type lawsuits). He has been out of work for over 3 years. So I believe the poster who said they only place 50% of the new law graduates. Me I am in IT and have been for over 30 years. The last 2 years my salary has skyrocketed and I’ve gotten promotions. However,, I am working WAY more hours than I ever have in my career. So folks are correct…those who have kept their jobs are being horse whipped in terms of the amount of work they have to do(plus the hours). Co.’s have figured out they can make more profits by losing most of their employees and hammering the ones who are left because they are afraid of losing their jobs. So big business’ profits are better than ever in most cases. It’s NOT in their best interests at this time for the economy to boom employment wise. Hence the long term drag for the unemployment rate. US businesses are driven by quarterly numbers, not 5 year plans. And their leaders go into their jobs w/ a 2-3 year contract. If they can make their numbers during that time, they go home multi millionaires..Who cares what happens to the next clown who takes over after their tenure.


July 4th, 2012
4:43 am



July 4th, 2012
7:42 am

And without teachers, we would never learn the wonders of punctuation …


July 4th, 2012
8:09 am

Boy, I hope Toosie ain’t a teacher.

Peach Fuzz

July 4th, 2012
8:19 am

Now we know who will be paying for ObamaCare.


July 4th, 2012
9:24 am

Nurses can make a grip. just saying..

Happy 4th!

July 4th, 2012
9:55 am

What about midwives? I make good money and had lower student loan debt than a doctor. I only see low risk patients and deliver cute babies! I love my job!

Working Man

July 4th, 2012
9:57 am

Any occupation can earn significant income. What makes the difference is attitude and approach. I am a high school drop out with a professional career making better than $100k I left school because I had to get a job to support myself when my mother split. My attitude and my approach (my philosophy, if you will) drives me to earn a respectable living and a decent life for my family.


July 4th, 2012
9:57 am

It’s all about the money, teachers,policemen and firefighters and they always feel they deserve more
money and benefits and we should all feel gratitude and pay homage to them.. ppppuke!!!


July 4th, 2012
10:04 am

Is $753,000 a lot? That’s what I made last year. I failed 27 high school classes and passed on college. God bless America!

Richard Simmons

July 4th, 2012
10:35 am

All you have to do is find a niche and sell into it. Look at me. I sell to gays and fat women and I make a ton. HaHaHa. I’m tho punny.

Hugh Jass

July 4th, 2012
11:50 am

I am a lawyer and I am aware that the vast majority of attorneys are not ambulance chasers. Grow up. If your grandmother dies don’t you want an attorney to make sure that her family gets her assets instead of the government?


July 4th, 2012
11:53 am

The people complaining are the one’s too damn lazy to put in the time and effort to become wealthy or successful. BTW getting a teaching degree is the easiest and mindless degree next to underwater basket weaving. For a final exam, all you have to do is buy a posterboard and glue magazine clippings while the doctors, lawyers, and engineers are studying organic chemistry, nuclear physics, and the tax law final exams….give me a break TOOSIE.

yard man

July 4th, 2012
11:55 am

I was out of work a couple years ago.. started mowing lawns, then a little landscaping and irrigation… now my 1 man co. making well over $50 K plus benefits like a co. truck, etc. wife makes over $ 40 K at Outback @ 35 hours /week.. personal responsibility folks !!!

To Ambulance Chasers R Us

July 4th, 2012
12:12 pm

You have no idea what it is to be a lawyer. If you ever need one, don’t call us, you idiot. You’re just jealous because you don’t have the aptittude to be a lawyer. If we didn’t have lawyers, our world would be in chaos — almost everything in this world is controlled by laws, thankfully. You need to investigate before you make such stupid statements. Thank goodness we have lawyers.


July 4th, 2012
12:22 pm

You get right down to it, plumbing is the most important profession on the planet. Didn’t even break the top 10.

Shark Punch!

July 4th, 2012
1:31 pm

@S: Any doctor who has attended a public university or taken out a subsidized student loan already has had the government help pay for his/her education.


July 4th, 2012
1:55 pm

Obviously, you (Jerome) have no idea what it takes to be a teacher. In the state of Georgia, a two part certification test is required, which is not as easy as you think. Also, teachers have the ability to control a classroom of 30 or more students ALL DAY LONG! For me, I have over 100 students come to my high school classroom everyday. I promise you I did not take the “easy” way out; do I think that it is a thankless job? Not when I watch my high school students graduate and go on to achieve their goals. Without teachers, that is not possible. I am sure that you were not born knowing how to read, write, do math, know the history of this free country or anything relating to the educational system. Doctors and lawyers were not born-they were taught what they know- from elementary through graduate schools. I promise you I am not complaining about my salary because there is nothing I would rather be and I have a job that I absolutely LOVE! Money does not buy happiness.

Honest Ingine

July 4th, 2012
2:27 pm

Dang, Average drug dealer makes well over 200K, and it’s tax free…LOL

smart dawg

July 4th, 2012
2:27 pm

No lawyers on the beach today, cats covered them with sand.


July 4th, 2012
3:04 pm

According to the income inequality argument advanced by MSNBC, The New York Times, the Occupy Movement and our current President these high earners are just overpaid exploiters who should be rewarded for their hard work and professionalism by having most of their income taxed away for redistribution to the “less fortunate”. God Bless America.


July 5th, 2012
9:27 am

Everyone hates lawyers, until they need one.