When it comes to career satisfaction, income isn’t everything. However, working in a field where people are highly compensated often means that you have exciting work, growth opportunities, and opportunities to work in adjacent fields too.
Here are some of the highest-paying careers according to real statistics.
The Medical Field
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top-earning occupations are almost exclusively in the medical field.
Psychiatrists, OB-GYN providers, surgeons, and anesthesiologists topped the list of highest-paid professionals. Each of these had a median salary above $208,000 in 2018. In fact, 14 of the top 20 earning professions (ranked by median salary in the field) were medical- or dental-related professions.
If you’re looking for a high-paying field, the medical place is the place to be.
But you may not want to go spend the time (or take on the debt) to go to medical school. But that doesn’t mean you are banned from the medical profession. Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners earned a median income of $114,000 in 2018. Physician’s assistants earned an average of $109,000. The median salary for a registered nurse was $71,000.
Computer and Information Systems Management
The median computer and information systems management professional earned $143,000 in 2018 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However, if you’re looking for jobs in 2020 (rather than 1982), you won’t find much under the banner of information systems management. Instead, consider using more up-to-date terms such as cloud architect ($143,000 per year according to Glassdoor) or security engineer ($114,000 per year).
Closely related to IT management and security is software development. Software architects earn an average of $120,000 according to Glassdoor. Lead development engineers earn a similar salary.
If you’re not excited about those, but you still want to earn a high salary, you may want to consider becoming a scrum master. A scrum master leads teams of software developers using an agile development methodology. The average salary is $94,000 annually.
Engineering (and architectural) managers are project and team leaders who work in labs, manufacturing facilities, and even construction sites. The actual job roles are highly variable, and can be anything from ensuring the quality of delivery, to managing teams, to creating project plans.
This is also a job where the pay really depends on where you are in the country and the particular field you’re working in. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average engineering manager earned $141,000 annually. However, Glassdoor puts the salary at just over $120,000 for a manager, with director levels earning closer to $160,000.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, petroleum engineers are the 20th highest compensated group with a median pay of $137,170 per year.
However, that’s not the only highly compensated engineer. Manufacturing engineers make an average of $87,000 according to Glassdoor (with opportunity to earn more as senior or lead engineers).
As a rule of thumb, engineers often have room to grow to the low- to mid-six-figure range by advancing in their positions. It is only after becoming a lead that engineers need to start thinking critically about whether they can handle management or another opportunity to earn more.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, commercial pilots earn $116,000 per year. But that means half earn less, and half earn more.
Many people who work in the airline industry talk about the horror stories of their early years of flying where they flew regional puddle jumpers for minimal pay. Add to that the expensive cost of becoming a pilot and this can be a “high-paying” career that doesn’t pay off.
If you’re interested in becoming a pilot, you may want to consider military service in the Air Force to learn flying skills before becoming a commercial airline pilot.
Marketing managers are among the most highly compensated professionals according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But don’t confuse modern marketing with Mad Men. As a marketing manager, you’ll spend a lot of time with Excel spreadsheets (or an online reporting tool) analyzing performance, and very little time on creative design. Marketing managers earn $133,000 per year on average.
Should You Switch to a High-Earning Profession?
Many of the highest-earning professions require advance education or additional schooling. If you’re still young, it may be worthwhile to go back to school to get the degree and start a new profession. But there are a lot of ways to earn a lot of money without going back to school.
Before returning to school, consider the cost (in terms of time and money) to returning to school. Additionally, consider whether you can achieve the result you want (more income) by advancing in your current field (or a related field). By asking these questions, you can really set yourself up for high earning in one of these fields or a path that you forge on your own.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here and here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.