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The Highest-Paying Jobs in the U.S. for 2024

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The highest-paying jobs in the U.S. are often medical professions, though careers in technology, information, finance, and transportation are working their way into the upper-ranks. Careers in health care have consistently topped the list and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that many jobs in medicine see median wages equalling or exceeding $239,200 per year. 

But you don’t need a Ph.D. or a medical degree to get a great-paying job. High-paying careers exist at every education level. For instance, airline pilots and computer system managers usually only need a bachelor’s degree to get into entry-level positions.

Top 10 Highest-Paying Jobs in the U.S.  

1. Physicians and Surgeons

Median salary across all specializations (2022): $229,300
Projected growth rate from 2022 to 2032: 3% 
Education requirement: A medical doctor degree (MD) and three to nine years of internships and residency; some specializations may require additional fellowship training 

Physicians and surgeons treat patient illnesses and injuries and help prevent future medical issues. Due to physicians and surgeons having a high level of responsibility, extensive training, and specialized knowledge and skills, they are typically some of the most well-paid professions. Most physicians and surgeons specialize in specific areas of medicine, too, which can result in even higher pay. Some of the best-paying specializations for physicians and surgeons include: 

  • Cardiologists, who treat problems related to the heart and blood vessels, had average annual 2023 salaries of $423,250.
  • Radiologists use medical imaging technology, like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, to diagnose and treat diseases and injuries. They had average salaries of $353,960 in 2023.
  • Anesthesiologists manage patients’ pain by administering anesthesia during, before, and after surgeries and medical procedures. Their salaries averaged $339,470 for 2023.
  • Emergency medicine physicians care for seriously injured or ill patients in emergency rooms. Their average annual salary was $306,640 in 2023.
  • Obstetricians and gynecologists had 2023 salaries averaging $278,660. They handle women’s health issues and help patients with issues during pregnancy, childbirth, and post-delivery.

2. Computer and Information Systems Managers  

Median salary across all specializations (2023): $169,510
Projected growth rate from 2022 to 2032: 15%
Education requirement: Bachelor’s degree in computer science or related field and several years experience

Computer and information systems managers are sometimes called information technology (IT) managers. They oversee teams of tech professionals and help organizations manage computer-related activities, such as upgrading a business’s technical capabilities or ensuring the security of a company’s information and data. 

IT managers who work in specific industries may have higher salaries, especially in industries with strict regulations on technology and information, such as finance or insurance.

>>MORE: Curious about a career in tech? Learn about the history, statistics, and backgrounds of women in tech today.

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3. Architectural and Engineering Managers

Median salary across all specializations (2023): $165,370
Projected growth rate from 2022 to 2032: 4%
Education requirement: Bachelor’s degree and several years of experience working in architecture or engineering

Architectural and engineering managers oversee teams of architects, builders, and engineers. They craft plans for building or engineering projects and manage all aspects of these projects, including devising budgets, determining staffing needs, and securing equipment. 

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4. Dentists

Median salary (2023): $166,300
Projected growth rate from 2022 to 2032: 4%
Education requirement: Medical degree in dentistry (Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry) plus postdoctoral training for specializations

Dentists handle medical issues related to the teeth, gums, and mouth. In addition to providing routine maintenance for patients’ teeth, dentists may diagnose issues using X-rays, prescribe medications, and repair damaged teeth. 

Specializations in dentistry often come with higher pay: 

  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons, who perform oral surgeries to treat diseases or defects, earned an average of $334,310 in 2023. 
  • Orthodontists work with patients to fix anomalies like misaligned teeth or overbites. They made an average 2023 salary of $243,620

 5. Airline and Commercial Pilots

Median salary across all specializations (2022): $148,900
Projected growth rate from 2022 to 2032: 4% 
Education requirement: A bachelor’s degree, a specialized pilot license, and on-the-job training 

Airline pilots take off, fly, and land aircraft. While commercial pilots transport products and goods, airline pilots usually fly planes carrying passengers. These aviation experts earn high salaries because of the amount of responsibility they take on every time they fly. Not only do they need to be able to fly the plane, but they also need to handle unforeseen weather conditions and be prompt in departure and arrival to avoid delays in other flights. 

Airline pilots typically see higher salaries than commercial pilots because of the added responsibility of transporting people: 

  • Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers had average salaries of $250,050 in 2023.
  • Commercial pilots had 2023 salaries averaging $138,010 per year.

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6. Natural Sciences Managers

Median salary across all specializations (2023): $157,740
Projected growth rate from 2022 to 2032: 5%
Education requirement: Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field and several years of experience 

Natural sciences managers oversee a number of STEM-related activities: scientific research, technological developments, engineering projects, and mathematical advancements. These managers primarily oversee research projects, ensuring laboratories are fully stocked with required equipment. They may also provide mentoring to younger scientists and help them craft plans for research or development projects. 

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7. Physicists and Astronomers

Median salary across all specializations (2022): $139,220
Projected growth rate from 2022 to 2032: 5%
Education requirement: Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, though many research roles require a Ph.D. 

Astronomers and physicists study the properties of the natural world, matter, and space. Some may work designing new equipment to see distant celestial bodies or to facilitate the study of small particles, like atoms. Others conduct tests and develop theories about energy and matter. Most astronomers and physicists also present and publish research and speak at lectures, conventions, and conferences. 

Physicists typically see higher salaries than astronomers: 

  • Astronomers, who use their research of space to help increase the world’s knowledge, made an average of $128,940 in 2023. 
  • Physicists study physical laws and theories and perform research into these laws. Their 2023 annual salaries averaged $158,270.

8. Judges and Hearing Officers

Median salary across all specializations (2022): $128,610
Projected growth rate from 2022 to 2032: 2%
Education requirement: Law degree and extensive experience working as a lawyer

Judges and hearing officers oversee court proceedings ranging from criminal to civil court issues. They research legal issues to understand precedents, evaluate court documents and filings, and determine sentencing or outcomes of disputes. 

Certain types of judges and hearing officers often have higher pay than others: 

  • Administrative law judges make decisions on government-related matters, such as determining sanctions or liability in claims and settlements. They had average annual salaries of $119,940 for 2023. 
  • Judges and magistrate judges handle criminal and civil cases and determine sentencing or liability outcomes. Their annual salaries were $139,000 in 2023 on average. 
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9. Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

Median salary across all specializations (2022): $125,900
Projected growth rate from 2022 to 2032: 38%
Education requirement: Master’s degree in advanced practice registered nursing 

Nurse anesthetists, midwives, and practitioners deliver specialized nursing care to patients. They may also coordinate care, working with other nursing and medical staff teammates to help ill or injured patients. 

Some specializations pay higher salaries than others: 

  • Nurse anesthetists work with anesthesiologists to manage patient pain during medical procedures and assist patients recovering from anesthesia. They had average annual salaries of $214,200 in 2023.
  • Nurse practitioners are specialized nurses with more responsibilities and privileges than typical nurses. For instance, nurse practitioners may be able to prescribe medicine and order diagnostic tests. Their average salaries for 2023 were $128,490
  • Nurse midwives provide gynecological services and assistance during childbirth. Nurses in this specialization had average salaries of $131,570 for 2023. 

10. Top Executives

Median salary across all specializations (2022): $100,090
Projected growth rate from 2022 to 2032: 3% 
Education requirement: A bachelor’s or master’s degree and extensive experience

General and operations managers and chief executives, like CEOs, manage organizations and build strategies to help companies reach goals. The average salary for CEOs (chief executive officers) doesn’t top the list, but many of the wealthiest people in the U.S. are CEOs. However, CEOs don’t make the bulk of their wealth from annual salaries. Rather, their wealth comes from exercising stock options and making high-reward investments.

Chief executives typically see higher salaries than general or operations managers: 

  • General and operations managers had average 2023 salaries of $129,330
  • Chief executives’ salaries were $258,900 for 2023 on average.
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High-Salary Careers for Master’s Degree Holders 

Many of the best-paying occupations for those with Master’s degrees are projected to grow in the coming years, especially medical professions and technology careers. For instance, employment of physician assistants is expected to grow 27% between 2022 and 2032. Other high-paying roles that only require master’s degrees are: 

  • Computer and information research scientists
  • Political scientists
  • Physician assistants
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Best-Paying Jobs for Bachelor’s Degree Holders

The best-paying jobs that you only need a bachelor’s degree to get are often management-level positions, so you may need some experience in the industry or to start at a lower position and work your way up. Additionally, many of the highest–paying jobs for those with a four-year degree are growing at least as fast as the average for all industries. Some high-salary roles you can get with a bachelor’s degree are:

  • Marketing managers
  • Financial managers
  • Database architects and data engineers
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High-Paying Careers for Associate Degree Holders

High-salary careers that require an associate degree typically require at least some on-the-job training, and many are also within the health care industry. Some careers you can get with only a two-year degree include:

  • Air traffic controllers
  • Radiation therapists
  • Nuclear technicians
  • Nuclear medicine technologists

Good-Paying Jobs Without a Degree or Higher Education

You don’t need a degree to find a great-paying job. A high school diploma is typically necessary, though, and these types of jobs often involve a lot of hands-on training or apprenticeships.  

  • Nuclear power reactor operators
  • Transportation, storage, and distribution managers
  • First-line supervisors of police and detectives

>>MORE: Check out the surprising jobs you can get without a degree.

Key Takeaways

  • Many of the best-paying jobs require some sort of on-the-job training, apprenticeship, internship, or residency. These experiences help you gain the hard skills you need to do your job well.
  • The health care industry is always expanding, but technology jobs are growing too — the BLS reports that the computer and information technology industry will add around 377,500 new openings each year between 2022 and 2032.
  • Higher education can often mean higher pay, but it can also come with student loan debt and a long-term education commitment. It’s important to consider the cost of getting some of these high-paying jobs. A report from the Association of American Medical Colleges says that medical school tuition can cost over $50,000 per year. That price doesn’t account for peripheral costs, either, like health insurance, fees, textbooks, transportation, or housing. It also doesn’t include the costs associated with getting an undergraduate degree.  

Still trying to figure out which career path is right for you? Explore your options with Forage’s free job simulations.

Source: Salary and growth information sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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McKayla Girardin is a NYC-based writer with Forage. She is experienced at transforming complex concepts into easily digestible articles to help anyone better understand the world we live in.

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