The average American worker earns a median annual wage of $34,750, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, especially when you consider that in August 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected that it would cost $245,000 to raise a child from birth to the age of 18.
And the $34,750 sounds like an even smaller amount compared to the top-paying profession on this list, which has a median annual wage of $235,070. The list does not include professionals like athletes, actors, singers, and musicians, because most of the wealthy and famous people in those categories are exceptions to the rule.
For example, while boxer Floyd Mayweather earned $105 million last year (according to Forbes), the average professional athlete earns a median annual wage of $71,850. The Department of Labor also notes that wages for some professionals, such as singers, musicians, and actors, are reported hourly instead of in annual salaries since these individuals usually do not work full-time or year-round. The average actor earns a median hourly wage of $22.15, compared to Robert Downey Jr.’s 2014 income of $75 million. The average musician or singer earns a median hourly wage of $23.46, compared to the $115 million that Beyonce raked in last year.
So this list is based on median annual wage estimates provided by the Department of Labor. Keep reading to discover the 10 highest-paying jobs of 2015.
10. Pharmacists $116,500
Pharmacists fill and dispense prescriptions, which is not as cut-and-dry as it sounds. This entails verifying the accuracy of the dosing amounts and times provided by the patient’s physician, and also analyzing the patient’s other medications to ensure that they don’t interact negatively with each other. In addition, pharmacists provide patients with instructions and warnings regarding their medications – for example, “Take on an empty stomach,” or “Do not drive or operate other machinery while taking this prescription.” Pharmacists also supervise pharmacy technicians and interns. The educational requirement to be a pharmacist is a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (Pharm.D.), in addition to state licensure.
9. Physicists $117,040
From Albert Einstein’s development of the theory of relativity, to Isaac Newton’s theories of gravity, to Stephen Hawking’s explanation of black holes and his theories of quantum mechanics, the astute observations and complex calculations of physicists regarding matter and energy lead to practical applications in such areas as nuclear energy and aerospace technology. Physicists may specialize in a variety of areas, including atomic physics, geophysics, plasma physics, biophysics, molecular physics, and particle physics. Educational requirements range from a bachelor’s degree to a Ph.D. However, physicists with only a bachelor’s degree are usually research assistants and techs.
8. PostSecondary Law Teachers $122,280
Postsecondary law teachers (law professors, assistant professors, associate professors) teach college law courses, which can include such classes as constitutional law, federal courts, intellectual property law, patent law, copyright law, and administrative law. They plan coursework, deliver lectures, and moderate classroom discussions. Postsecondary law professors also grade assignments, monitor the progress of students, and provide academic and career advice. The minimum educational requirement to be a postsecondary law professor is a law (juris doctor) degree.
7. Airline Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers $118,650 – $129,600
Airline pilots earn a median annual wage of $129,600, and air traffic controllers earn $118,650. Airline pilots are employed by airlines to transport people and goods. They use instrument panels to help fly the plane, and they also monitor fuel consumption, engine performance, and other elements that affect the plane’s performance. Air pilots coordinate their efforts with air traffic controllers, who monitor the plane’s path, instruct pilots during take-off and landing, and also provide notifications when the weather changes. The educational requirement for airline pilots is a bachelor’s degree (the subject doesn’t matter), a commercial pilot’s license, and an Airline Transport Pilot certificate. Air traffic controllers need either a 2-year or a 4-year degree upon completion of the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative.
6. Lawyers $131,990
Lawyers provide legal advice to their clients, and represent them in court proceedings and other legal matters. They also research legal information and evaluate the results, in addition to helping their clients understand laws and regulations. Lawyers also prepare such documents as wills and contracts. There are several types of lawyers, such as criminal law attorneys (prosecutors, defense attorneys), legal aid lawyers, government counsel, family lawyers, litigation lawyers, tax lawyers, and intellectual property lawyers. The educational requirement to be a lawyer is a law degree (juris doctor).
5. Managers $123,150 – $136,540
Median annual salaries for the highest-paying managerial positions include the following: architectural and engineering managers – $136,540; marketing managers – $133,700; natural sciences managers -$132,850; computer and information systems managers – $132,570; financial managers – $126,660; sales managers – $123,150. As a general rule, managers supervise the work of other employees and coordinate work activities. All of the managers listed in this section need at least a bachelor’s degree in their respective areas, and a master of business administration (or master of public administration for natural science managers) is often preferred or even required.
4. Petroleum Engineers $149,180
Petroleum engineers develop ways to extract oil and gas from beneath the earth’s surface. This includes studying reservoirs, determining the most effective way to drill in the fields, and then designing the drilling equipment. They also oversee drilling operations. There are several types of petroleum engineers, including drilling engineers, reservoir engineers, production engineers, and completions engineers. The educational requirement to be a petroleum engineer is a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering, although a chemical engineering degree may also suffice.
3. Nurse Anesthetists $157,690
During surgical, obstetrical, and diagnostic procedures, nurse anesthetists provide either local anesthesia to numb a particular body part, or they provide general anesthesia to induce sleep. They also monitor the anesthesia and the patient’s vital signs during the procedure. Before the procedure, nurse anesthetists meet with the patient to conduct an evaluation, assess the medical history, and determine if there are other medications or allergies that may negatively interact with the anesthesia. After the procedure, they monitor the patient to ensure that the recovery from anesthesia is successful. Nurse anesthetists need to be registered nurses, and they also need a master’s degree.
2. Chief Executives $178,400
Chief executives, also known as chief executive officers (CEOs), presidents or executive directors, develop the strategic plans, goals, and policies of an organization. Some of them also oversee managers and other leaders, and they may be part of a team that includes chief operating offices, chief financial officers, and chief information officers. However, in organizations that don’t have these other roles, the chief executive may also be responsible for the day-to-day operations, finances, and other areas of the company. Chief executives usually have at least a bachelor’s degree in business, and many have a master’s degree.
1. Physicians, Surgeons, Dentists
Physicians have the highest-paying jobs on the list. Anesthesiologists lead the pack with a median annual wage of $235,070, followed by surgeons, who earn $233,150. Obstetricians and gynecologists are the third highest-earning physicians, with a median annual wage of $212,570, and orthodontists earn $196,270. Dentists round out the list with $168,870. All physicians, surgeons, and dentists examine patients, diagnose problems, and treat medical conditions. However, dentists focus on treating teeth, gums, and other problems associated with the patient’s mouth. Also, surgeons differ from physicians in that they provide treatment through surgical operations. The educational requirement to be a physician or surgeon is a medical degree (M.D.) and depending on the specialty, anywhere from 3 years to 8 years of residency programs and internships. Dentists need a doctor of dental surgery (DDS) degree, or a doctor of medicine in dental, or doctor of dental medicine (DMD) degree.