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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, 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 $208,000 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 example, airline pilots and computer system managers usually only require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions.

In this guide, we’ll go over:

Top 15 Highest-Paid Jobs in the U.S.

1. Cardiologists

Average salary: $421,330
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 3% 
Education requirement: A medical doctor degree (MD) and a residency in cardiology

Cardiologists treat cardiovascular issues, or problems related to the heart and blood vessels. Some conditions cardiologists treat include irregular heart beats, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. Ultimately, the number of cardiologists is not growing as quickly as the demand for cardiovascular services, which explains why these medical professionals see such high paychecks. 

2. Surgeons (Except for Oral and Maxillofacial)

Average salary: $347,870
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 3% 
Education requirement: A medical doctor degree (MD) plus a residency or internship lasting three to nine years depending on specialization 

Surgeons perform operations to treat injuries, remove diseases, and resolve deformities. A surgeon can specialize in areas like orthopedics (treating bones and muscles), pediatrics (treating children), and neurosurgery (treating the brain and nervous system).

3. Radiologists

Average salary: $329,080
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 4% 
Education requirement: A medical doctor degree (MD) and a residency in radiology

Radiologists use medical imaging technology, like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, to diagnose and treat diseases and injuries. Some radiologists specialize in a certain area, such as neuroradiology (imaging the brain and nervous system) or cardiovascular radiology (imaging the heart and blood vessels). Additionally, highly-specialized types of radiologists, radiation oncologists, use nuclear medicine and radiation therapy to treat various kinds of cancer.

4. Dermatologists

Average salary: $327,650
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 3% 
Education requirement: A medical doctor degree (MD) and a residency in dermatology

Dermatologists diagnose and treat problems affecting the skin, nails, and hair, such as rashes, skin cancer, or psoriasis. A dermatologist is trained to treat patients of all ages and can also help diagnose underlying medical conditions that are causing skin or hair problems, such as diabetes or lyme disease. 

5. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons 

Average salary: $309,410
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 5% 
Education requirement: A dental doctor degree (like DMD or DDS), plus four to six years of residency, which involves earning a medical doctor degree (MD) 

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons specialize in performing surgeries and treating injuries to the head, neck, jaw, mouth, and face. The added education requirement (most dentists don’t need a MD degree, only a DMD or DDS) and the hyper-specificity of the job can explain why these medical professionals see such high salaries on average.  

6. Anesthesiologists

Average salary: $302,970
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 1%  
Education requirement: A medical doctor degree (MD) plus a residency in anesthesiology

Anesthesiologists manage patients’ pain by administering anesthesia during, before, and after surgeries and medical procedures. In an operating room, anesthesiologists have an important (and stressful) job, and anesthesia itself is a tricky classification of medicine to administer. One mistake can be deadly, so the heightened responsibility of anesthesiologists is often reflected in their bigger salaries. 

7. Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Average salary: $277,320
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 2% 
Education requirement: A medical doctor degree (MD) plus a residency in obstetrics and gynecology

Obstetrics and gynecology are two fields in medicine typically combined into one specialization and the doctors are commonly referred to as OB/GYNs. Gynecology handles women’s health issues, ranging from annual check-ups to diagnosing diseases specific to women, such as cervical cancer. Obstetrics, on the other hand, focuses on helping patients with issues during pregnancy, childbirth, and post-delivery. 

8. Ophthalmologists (Except Pediatric)

Average salary: $265,450
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 6% 
Education requirement: A medical doctor degree (MD) and a residency in ophthalmology

Ophthalmologists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of eye and vision problems. An ophthalmologist is similar to an optometrist or optician in that they can prescribe new glasses or contact and perform eye exams. However, ophthalmologists have significantly more education and training in treating eye disease and performing surgical procedures on the eye, like cataract removal surgery.

9. Psychiatrists

Average salary: $247,350
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 9% 
Education requirement: A medical doctor degree (MD) and a four-year residency in psychiatry

Psychiatrists treat the physical and mental aspects of psychological problems and disorders, such as substance abuse and schizophrenia. A psychiatrist uses various treatment methods to help patients, including talk therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and medications. Psychiatry is the fastest growing medical field on our list, and this projected job growth and high salary are due to incredible demand: there is a serious shortage of psychiatrists in the U.S.

10. Chief Executives

Average salary: $246,440
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: -7% 
Education requirement: A bachelor’s or master’s degree and extensive experience

While many medical careers have much higher salaries, it would be a mistake to not include chief executives on this list. The average salary for CEOs (chief executive officers) may not top the list, but many of the wealthiest people in the U.S. are CEOs. However, these 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.

11. Physicians (All Others, Except Pediatric)

Average salary: $238,700
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 2% 
Education requirement: A medical doctor degree (MD) and a residency or internship

Physicians are doctors or medical practitioners who help patients restore and maintain health. Some physicians specialize in one area, such as cardiology (treating the heart), emergency medicine, or gastroenterology (treating the stomach and digestive system). Because physicians need to understand the science of medicine and how to apply it to individual patients, they often see high annual salaries. 

12. Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers

Average salary: $225,740
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 6% 
Education requirement: A bachelor’s degree, a specialized pilot license, and on-the-job training 

Airline pilots are responsible for taking off, flying, and landing passenger aircraft. Unlike commercial pilots, airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers fly planes carrying passengers from one airport to another as part of scheduled airline flights. 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, they also need to handle unforeseen weather conditions and be prompt in departure and arrival to avoid delays in other flights.

13. General Internal Medicine Physicians

Average salary: $225,270
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 2% 
Education requirement: A medical doctor degree (MD) and a residency or internship

Internal medicine physicians, or internists, specialize in treating internal diseases. This is a broad field, so internists need to have a deep understanding of the human body and the various diseases that can occur. Some internists act as primary care physicians for patients, working with a patient for many years and even treating long-term or chronic illnesses. 

14. Family Medicine Physicians

Average salary: $224,460
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 3% 
Education requirement: A medical doctor degree (MD) and a residency or internship

Family medicine physicians, sometimes called primary care physicians, are doctors who provide comprehensive care without a specialization in one disease, age, gender, or area of the body. These medical professionals treat families and individuals and often act as the first point of contact for a patient’s medical concerns. 

15. Orthodontists

Average salary: $216,320
Projected growth rate from 2021 to 2031: 5% 
Education requirement: A dental doctor degree (DDS or DDM) plus a residency in orthodontics

An orthodontist specializes in aligning teeth and treating issues related to misaligned teeth and jaws, such as overbites or overcrowding. These issues can lead to more serious problems like decay and gum disease, and orthodontists help prevent these problems through the application of braces, aligners, and retainers.

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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 (employment of physicians assistants is expected to grow 28% between 2021 and 2031), and technology-related careers. 

  • Computer and information research scientists: Average salary of $155,880
  • Political scientists: Average salary of $126,140
  • Physician assistants: Average salary of $125,270
  • Nurse midwives: Average salary of $122,450

>>MORE: Jump-start your career in computer science with Forage’s Software Engineering Career Path.

Best-Paying Jobs for Bachelor’s Degree Holders

The best-paying jobs for people with bachelor’s degrees 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. 

  • Computer and information systems managers: Average salary of $173,670
  • Natural sciences managers: Average salary of $163,610
  • Architectural and engineering managers: Average salary of $163,310
  • Marketing managers: Average salary of $158,280
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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: Average salary of $130,840
  • Radiation therapists: Average salary of $98,340
  • Nuclear technicians: Average salary of $97,040
  • Nuclear medicine technologists: Average salary of $89,610

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.  

  • Commercial pilots: Average salary of $123,250
  • Nuclear power reactor operators: Average salary of $117,510
  • Transportation, storage, and distribution managers: Average salary of $108,910
  • First-line supervisors of police and detectives: Average salary of $99,410

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 is projected to grow 15% from 2021 to 2031.
  • 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.  

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

Image credi: Vadymvdrobot / Depositphotos.com

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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