Science isn’t just a fascinating subject. It can also be a lucrative one. A glance at the fifty highest paid jobs in the US shows that many require qualifications in the so-called STEM subjects—Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
An increasing interest in information technology and computers has been credited with the rising number of young people pursuing degrees, and then careers, in STEM subjects. As a result, more than 40% of the bachelor degrees earned by men are now in STEM subjects, and the women are starting to catch up too–with 29%–in a field that was once dominated by the boys.
But science jobs aren’t all about cutting-edge technology. The world still needs doctors, and medicine remains a popular choice among students–provided that they have the grades, the dedication to spend up to 11 years training for their chosen career, and willingness to leave school with almost $200,000 in debt from their tuition costs alone.
However, as you can see from the list below, the rewards can be very high for those STEM students who work hard, choose the right career path, and, as in every walk of life, perhaps know someone who can help them get a foot in the door.
15 Computer Research Scientist - About $100,000 Per Year
Computers may have been behind the increase in students taking STEM subjects in college. But as technology becomes more complex and more important to our everyday lives, those working in the industry can also count on bigger and bigger pay checks. A computer research scientist is basically someone who investigates the problems currently facing modern technology and tries to come up with solutions, or even finds new uses for existing technology. They are employed to work in nearly every industry in the US—business, manufacturing, medicine, as well as the federal government. They are earning about $100,000 per year.
14 Nuclear Engineer - Annual Salary of About $97,000
Think of a nuclear engineer, and the first person that probably comes to mind is the dangerously inept Homer Simpson. In truth, nuclear engineers have to be extremely well-qualified and vastly experienced, given the fact that they deal with dangerous materials every day. Whether they end up working in a nuclear power plant, like Homer, or in one of the many other professions which use radioactive material–including developing and improving nuclear weaponry–an entry-level nuclear engineer can expect to earn an annual salary of about $97,000. This amount will increase depending on experience and the risks posed by their work.
13 Surgeon - Around $200,000
Training to become a surgeon takes a lot longer than four years of medical school. After working as a resident for at least two years, it can take up to another five years to become fully trained in your chosen specialty. And if you choose something really tricky, like brain surgery, then you may never really stop learning. Luckily, all those years of being a penniless student and then a penniless resident, are worth it, as fully-trained surgeons can earn around $200,000, depending on their qualifications, experience, and reputation, as well as what kind of hospital they choose to work in.
12 Physicist - Over $100,000
Physics can be an unexpectedly lucrative career, provided that you use your skills and knowledge in the private sector rather than simply carrying out experiments for the good of humanity as a PhD student in college. Physicists can earn over $100,000, especially those who work for the government or the military, as well as those who work for private companies in the oil, aeronautics, and energy industries. You can still earn a good wage as an experimental or a theoretical physicist in universities, however, if you have your heart set on being the next Albert Einstein or Dr. Sheldon Cooper.
11 Petroleum Engineer - Average Annual Salary of $108,000 (+ Traveling Perks)
Another type of engineer who can earn a pretty penny is the petroleum engineer. If you qualify as a petroleum engineer, then you can enjoy a lucrative career in the oil industry, working on drilling and production projects all over the world. In addition to an average annual salary of $108,000, a well-qualified petroleum engineer can expect to enjoy a lot of foreign travel with their work, visiting projects in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, or even living in these far-flung places for a few months at a time. It comes with great experience and one which is usually fully-funded by your employer.
10 Anaesthesiologist - Over $170,000 On Average
If you ever have to undergo surgery, then you really want to be sure that your anaesthesiologist knows what he/she is doing. Although it will be the surgeon who ultimately saves your life, it is the anaesthesiologist who not only makes sure that you are safely asleep for the duration, but who will also monitor your vitals while you are under the knife. Given all that responsibility, it is hardly surprising that anaesthesiologists earn a healthy wage—over $170,000 on average. Of course, like most medical professionals, they will have to use a lot of that bumper salary to pay off their student debts.
9 Hardware Engineer - An Average Of $115,000
Another technology career that can earn you a few dollars–an average of $115,000 to be precise–is working as a hardware engineer. Hardware engineers develop new computers and devices, working to create more effective PCs, laptops, tablets, and even smartphones. They might specialize in particular components of computers, such as circuit boards or processors, or they might work on creating the final finished product. These days, size is everything in technology, and hardware engineers spend a lot of their time trying to develop increasingly small components and devices so that you can have more powerful computing in your pocket.
8 Software Engineer - Average $94,000 Salary
Software engineers, on the other hand, develop and improve new computer systems which allow the hardware to do its job. Software includes games and functional office programs, but also the basic coding which allows devices to respond to your commands. Coding is a huge part of being a software engineer, as well as testing new systems and programs and making sure new hardware and software are compatible. They usually work in the private sector, although the federal government also needs its own software engineers to make sure their in-house programs work properly. Their importance is reflected in their average $94,000 salary.
7 Orthodontist - Between $160,000 And $240,000
Orthodontics is big business in the US, where about 4 million people wear orthodontic braces, and it is thought that the market could be worth as much as $4.7 billion by 2021. It is hardly surprising, then, that orthodontists also earn a lot of money—between $160,000 and $240,000 depending on their reputation and how many patients they take on. Orthodontists are dental specialists who diagnose and repair major structural problems with people’s teeth, using braces and other tools to straighten up wonky teeth and even fix other issues such as speech impediments, jaw pain, and sleep apnoea.
6 Aerospace Engineer - Up To $125,000 Per Year
If you ever wanted to be involved in the glamorous aviation or space industries but don’t have a head for heights, then becoming an aerospace engineer might be the next best thing. They are engineers who specialize in this field work on designing aircraft, spacecraft, and even missiles or weapons for use in the air. Private companies hire their own aerospace engineers to work on the next generation of aircraft, while the federal government employs dozens of engineers at NASA and at the Department of Defense. If you decide that you want to pursue a career in aerospace engineering, you can expect to earn up to $125,000 per year.
5 Chemical Engineer - As Much As $125,000 Annually
Given that chemicals are involved in just about every industry, it is hardly surprising that chemical engineers are in high demand. Chemical engineers work in the food industry, the oil industry, and even the pharmaceutical industry, developing better production methods, testing the safety of the final artifacts, and designing new and improved products. While they may spend some time at the actual plants and factories themselves, a lot of a chemical engineer’s work can be done at a distance in the laboratory or even on a computer these days, using simulation programs. Earnings can be as much as $125,000 annually, depending on where you are working and in which particular industry.
4 Psychiatrist - Average Annual Wage Is $160,000
There’s a reason why Dr. Frasier Crane can afford a swanky penthouse apartment in Seattle—psychiatrists get paid a lot of money. Their average annual wage is $160,000 but many of the top psychiatrists earn a lot more, charging private patients thousands of dollars per session. They treat a range of mental illnesses, social disorders, and emotional issues—everything from people wanting to quit smoking to those diagnosed with schizophrenia. Psychiatrists have to complete a medical degree first before training in their chosen specialist field, and their treatments usually involve therapy sessions with patients, although medication may be prescribed for more serious conditions.
3 Electrical Engineer - $140,000 Per Year
The rise in the importance of technology has also led to a huge increase in the demand for electrical engineers and a huge increase in the salaries they are paid. Nowadays, a fully-qualified and experienced electrical engineer can expect to earn up to $140,000 per year, all for tinkering around with electronic devices. Of course, they do far more than that. Although repairs may be part of an electrical engineer’s work, their real role is to improve existing technology and to develop new components and parts to create the technology of the future, ranging from super computers to the next generation of washing machines and refrigerators.
2 Pharmacist - Average Annual Salary Is About $111,000
Pharmacist salaries can vary from state to state, but their average annual salary is about $111,000; not bad for a job that requires fewer educational qualifications and less training than a medical doctor. Nevertheless, pharmacists do have an extremely responsible role in their communities—handing out medications which have been prescribed to patients by their family doctor or working at hospitals to manage their own pharmacy, including making decisions about which drugs are ordered. Pharmacists can also give advice to their customers about what over-the-counter medicines they should take and can even treat minor health problems right there in the store.
1 Astronomer - Up To $160,000
Even a very academic-based career like astronomy can be lucrative if you reach the top of your field. Astronomers in the private sector can earn up to $160,000 if they have the right qualifications and find the right position. Astronomy, which is the study of space, can often involve the study of far-off galaxies and planets using high-tech telescopes and computers to see millions of light years away. There may be work in the private sector for an astronomer, but the most likely career path is either to continue studying at a university or to secure a prestigious role at NASA.