Highest Paid Occupations in the US 2024

Healthcare jobs top the list of the highest paid occupations in the US, and the sector’s future is bright. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 13% from 2021 to 2031. This should add about 2 million new jobs.

This growth is due to “the need to replace workers who leave their occupations permanently,” according to the agency. For comparison, the BLS projects overall job growth in the U.S. of 5.3% between 2021 and 2031

The Methodology Used

Rankings are based on salary data from the BLS. Instead of using median salaries for each occupation, which signify the annual wage of a typical employee in that role, the BLS uses mean, or average salaries in the annual report, National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates.

1. Cardiologist: $353,970

Cardiologists are surgeons who “diagnose, treat, manage, and prevent diseases or conditions of the cardiovascular system,” according to the BLS. Some specialize in procedures designed to intervene in heart conditions, including balloon angioplasty and stent placement. Others center their work around echocardiography, the use of electrodes to examine and treat the chambers of the heart, or electrophysiology, which involves the heart’s electrical system.

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Cardiologists are often scheduled to work during normal business hours, but that can turn into a 50 to 60-hour work week based on patient load and the heart-related events over which they have no control. Even with regular scheduling, somebody has to be available or on duty for evenings, weekends, and holidays.

  • Education: Following completion of an undergraduate degree program—preferably in chemistry, mathematics, engineering, or psychology—an aspiring cardiologist must complete four years of medical school and four years of residency. Being a qualified cardiologist also requires passing a certification exam administered by the American Board of Internal Medicine.
  • Job Outlook: Overall, employment is expected to grow 3% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.

2. Anesthesiologist: $331,190

The BLS defines anesthesiologists as physicians who “administer anesthetics and analgesics for pain management prior to, during, or after surgery.” This highly specialized career is second on the list of highest-earning professions.

Work hours for an anesthesiologist can be long and unpredictable since they follow the schedule of the operating room. Anesthesiologists need to be there for both scheduled surgeries and emergency procedures, adding to the unpredictable nature of the work day.

  • Education: Following four years of medical school, aspiring anesthesiologists in the U.S. typically complete a four-year residency in anesthesiology and possibly even more, depending on the subspecialty and pass a licensing exam. 
  • Job Outlook: Overall, employment is expected to grow 1% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.

3. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: $311,460

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons treat a wide range of diseases, injuries, and defects in and around the mouth and jaw. Among the more common problems they’re likely to manage are wisdom teeth, misaligned jaws, and tumors and cysts of the jaw and mouth. They may also perform dental implant surgery.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons work for hospitals, large medical centers, and dental practices. They may be professors at dental schools or supervisors of residents in training. Many oral and maxillofacial surgeons open their own practices. They work very long hours performing intricate and complex surgeries. Oral surgeons may also need to be on call for emergencies that require immediate treatment.

  • Education: Typically, oral and maxillofacial surgeons require an undergraduate degree, a four-year dental degree, and at least four years of residency. After their training, surgeons often take a two-part exam to become certified in the United States by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
  • Job Outlook: From 2021 to 2031, employment is expected to increase by 5%, according to the BLS.

4. Emergency Medicine Physician: $310,640

As the title implies, emergency medicine physicians must make on-the-spot medical decisions to prevent death or serious injury. They have to act immediately to evaluate, stabilize, and care for patients who have often suffered trauma. They may supervise emergency medical staff in an emergency department.

ER physicians are often called to work irregular or long hours to care for patients, especially in an emergency situation. They may work overnight or weekends to care for a constantly shifting patient load.

  • Education: Following a path similar to other physicians, a would-be ER doctor must earn a bachelor’s degree, gain entrance to medical school, complete that four-year degree, complete a four-year residency as an ER physician, pass a licensing exam, and ultimately earn Emergency Medicine Certification.
  • Job Outlook: The BLS projects 3% job growth between 2021 to 2031 for ER doctors or the addition of 1,300 positions during the decade.

5. Orthopedic Surgeon, Except Pediatric: $306,220

Orthopedic surgeons “diagnose and perform surgery to treat and prevent rheumatic and other diseases in the musculoskeletal system,” according to the BLS.

Most orthopedic surgeons work in a hospital setting or in private clinics. This can involve both scheduled and emergency surgery, resulting in a sometimes hectic schedule and long hours. For example, back or neck surgeries can sometimes take an entire day without breaks.

  • Education: Orthopedic surgery is a medical specialty that begins with earning a bachelor’s degree, followed by admission to medical school and postgraduate training in orthopedic surgery. Residency in a surgery center or clinic is followed by a state-administered exam and successful board certification in the state where the surgeon plans to practice.
  • Job Outlook: The BLS projects 3% job growth between 2021 to 2031 for orthopedic surgeons.

6. Dermatologist: $302,740

Dermatologists diagnose and treat diseases relating to the skin, hair, and nails.
They may perform both medical and dermatological surgery functions.

Dermatologists can either work in private practice and/or attend clinics at major teaching hospitals and institutions. Dermatologists rarely work unscheduled or erratic hours. The majority work a set schedule and have normal work hours of between 30-40 hours a week.

Education: Like other physicians, dermatologists typically need a bachelor’s degree as well as a degree from a medical school, which takes an additional 4 years to complete. Depending on their specialty, they also need 3 to 9 years of internship and residency, and must pass certification exams. Specialization requires additional training in a fellowship of 1 to 3 years.

Job outlook: The number of dermatologist jobs is expected to increase by 3% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.

7. Radiologist: $301,720

A radiologist is a physician who diagnoses and treats diseases and injuries using medical imaging techniques, such as x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, and ultrasound. They may perform minimally invasive medical procedures and tests.

Most of a radiologist’s work is done in an office setting and involves interpreting images, reading reports, and going over the results and diagnosis with other physicians. Most communication is is done through a patient’s physician, who is responsible for applying the results and making treatment decisions.

  • Education: Becoming a radiologist requires about 13 years of education and training. bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school, residency, a fellowship, and ultimately licensure and board certification.
  • Job Outlook: Overall employment of radiologists is projected to grow 4% from 2021 to 2031.

8. Surgeon, Other: $297,800

A surgeon is responsible for operating on patients with injuries or illnesses. Duties include reviewing patient x-rays and communicating with the patient about the procedure, preparing for surgery, and completing surgeries with the assistance of other surgeons, nurses, and surgical technicians,

On average, a general surgeon works 50-60 hours per week (not including time available for on-call duty). Depending on the practice, surgeons can be on call nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  • Education: All physicians, including surgeons, must first complete an undergraduate degree program, usually in a science area such as biology or chemistry. This is followed by four years of medical school and a three-year residency. After that, a multi-year internship in the surgery department of a hospital is required, plus licensing and certification.
  • Job outlook: The number of surgeons is expected to increase by 3% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.

9. Obstetrician-Gynecologist: $296,210

Doctors who specialize in vaginal, ovarian, uterine, and cervical reproductive health and childbirth are known as obstetricians-gynecologists or OB-GYNs. This is a medical specialty that focuses on providing medical care related to pregnancy or childbirth. OB-GYNs also diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases of people with female reproductive systems, particularly those affecting that system.

While the work schedule usually involves seeing patients on a regular scheduled basis, attending to a patient giving birth to a child can occur at any time of the day or night and requires being on call for these events throughout a career.

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  • Education: Becoming an OB-GYN requires a bachelor’s degree, graduation from medical school, and the completion of an obstetrics program and a gynecology residency program, which typically last four years. After two years of clinical practice, these physicians have to pass a licensure exam.
  • Job Outlook: The number of OB-GYN jobs is expected to increase by 2% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.

10. Pediatric Surgeon: $290,310

Pediatric surgeons diagnose and perform surgery to treat fetal abnormalities and birth defects, diseases, and injuries in fetuses, premature and newborn infants, children, and adolescents. This can include many pediatric surgical specialties and subspecialties.

In most cases, pediatric surgeons get jobs at children’s hospitals, community hospitals, or university medical centers. They work with a team of professionals that includes pediatricians, nurses, and surgical technicians.

  • Education: Pediatric surgeons are medical doctors who have completed: at least 4 years of medical school, 5 years of adult general surgery training, and two additional years of fellowship training in pediatric surgery, with licensing and certification.
  • Job Outlook: The number of pediatric surgeons is expected to increase by 3% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.

11. Ophthalmologist, Except Pediatric: $270,090

Ophthalmologists diagnose and perform surgery to treat and help prevent disorders and diseases of the eye. They may also provide vision services for treatment, including glasses and contacts.

Ophthalmologists generally work in private practice—seeing patients in their offices as well as performing surgery. Usually this means working regular hours with relatively few emergencies.

  • Education: Ophthalmologists require a bachelor’s degree, preferably science-based, and completion of a four-year medical school program. This is followed by internship and residency of between 3 and 8 years. Finally, upon passing the state medical board exam, a medical license to practice ophthalmology is issued.
  • Job Outlook: The number of ophthalmologists is expected to increase by 6% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.

12. Neurologist: $267,660

Neurologists diagnose and treat those with disorders of the brain and nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and epilepsy.

Neurologists, like all surgeons may stand for long periods throughout the day. Other working conditions may vary by specialty.

  • Education: The general path to becoming a neurologist includes: a degree from a 4-year college, an MCAT exam, medical school graduation, residency, board certification, and a fellowship, followed by licensure.
  • Job Outlook: The number of neurologist jobs is expected to increase by 3% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.

13. Orthodontist: $267,280

Orthodontists specialize in corrective measures for the teeth and often receive referrals from patients’ general dentists. These doctors frequently take X-rays, apply braces, create mouth guards, and perform other procedures as needed.

Some orthodontists work for large orthodontic offices; others own their own practice, which requires strong management skills.

  • Education: After earning a college degree, future orthodontists need to complete a dental-school program that involves classroom and clinical experience. They must then complete a specialized residency program and sit for a licensing exam.
  • Job Outlook: By 2031, the BLS expects the number of orthodontic jobs in the U.S. to reach 6,300, reflecting a 5% increase from 2021.

14. Physician, Pathologist: $267,180

Pathologists are physicians who diagnose diseases and conduct lab tests using organs, body tissues, and fluids. Pathology includes the work done by medical examiners.

Most clinical pathologists are employed by clinical laboratories of general hospitals and clinics, though some work in university research clinics. Pathologists often work full-time hours. Due to the nature of their industry, facilities that run 24-hour laboratories will have pathologists on staff overnight and on weekends.

  • Education: Pathologists require extensive education and training, including four years of undergraduate training, four years of medical school, and three to four years in a pathology residency program, plus passing licensing exams.
  • Job Outlook: Total employment among pathologists is expected to increase 4% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.

15. Psychiatrist: $249,760

Psychiatrists help treat mental-health issues, though there are many sub-specialties. Some work on child and adolescent psychiatry, others specialize in forensic (legal) psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, or consultation psychiatry, which occurs in a medical setting. Others specialize in psychoanalysis, where the psychiatrist helps the patient remember and examine past events and emotions to understand their current feelings better.

Psychiatrists can be found in any number of work environments: private practice, hospitals, community agencies, schools, rehabilitation programs, and prisons.

  • Education: Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists are medical doctors. After receiving an undergraduate degree, they have to complete medical school, followed by a residency program. This is followed by certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
  • Job Outlook: Among physicians, psychology is expected to be one of the fastest-growing specialties over the next several years. The BLS predicts that employment will grow 9% from 2021 to 2031.

16. General Internal Medicine Physician: $242,190

Internists, who often serve as primary-care doctors or in hospitals, specialize in the care of adult patients.49 As with other general-practice physicians, internists see many patients and need to treat a range of ailments, from asthma and diabetes to high cholesterol and hypertension.

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  • Education: After receiving a college degree and successfully completing medical school, internists typically complete a residency program where they rotate through multiple healthcare specialties. Like all physicians, they need to be licensed.
  • Job Outlook: Employment among general-medicine internists is expected to grow 2% between 2021 and 2031, according to the BLS.

17. Family Medicine Physician: $235,930

The BLS defines this category as physicians who “diagnose, treat, and provide preventive care to individuals and families across the lifespan.” These medical doctors often refer patients to specialists for advanced treatments.

Some primary-care doctors specifically work with adults (internists) or children (pediatricians). Those who treat patients of all ages—from childhood to advanced age—are known as family physicians. Because of their varied patient population, family practice doctors generally manage a wider range of medical conditions.

  • Education: After graduation from medical school, family medicine physicians complete a residency program. Doctors are required to complete a certain number of months in each training area before applying for board certification.
  • Job Outlook: According to the BLS, employment among family medicine doctors is expected to grow 3% from 2021 to 2031.

18. Physician, Other $231,500

Physicians work in both clinical and nonclinical settings. Clinical settings include physicians’ offices and hospitals; nonclinical settings include government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and insurance companies.

Education: Physicians typically need a bachelor’s degree as well as a medical degree, which takes an additional four years to complete. Depending on their specialty, they also need three to nine years in internship and residency programs. Subspecialization can include additional training in a fellowship of one to three years. They also need to be licensed.

Job Outlook: Overall employment of physicians and surgeons is projected to grow 3% from 2021 to 2031, slower than the average for all occupations.

19. Chief Executive: $213,020

Chief executives represent the highest-paid profession outside of the medical or dental fields. As the highest-ranking employee of a company, the CEO’s job is to make critical decisions regarding the management team, steer the organization toward new markets or product areas, and interface with the board of directors.

While highly paid, many chief executives have daunting schedules. A Harvard Business Review survey found that the average CEO spends 62.5 hours per week on the job, with about half their time spent in the office and half traveling.

  • Education: Chief executive officers are generally well-educated professionals. Worldwide, according to a study by Study.eu, 98% have at least a bachelor’s degree; 64% hold at least a master’s degree or equivalent (including MBAs); and 10% have earned a doctorate.
  • Job Outlook: The number of people working as top executives is expected to grow by about 6% from 2021 to 2031.

20. Nurse Anesthetist: $202,470

Nursing tends to pay well in general compared with most other career paths, and nurse anesthetists do particularly well. Per the BLS, nurse anesthetists “administer anesthesia and provide care before, during, and after surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic, and obstetrical procedures.”5960

While their role is similar to that of an anesthesiologist, they don’t complete the same level of training. That means becoming a nurse anesthetist takes less time and money than going to medical school and becoming a physician. Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) may work in a broad array of different settings, including hospital surgical suites, obstetrical delivery rooms, ambulatory surgical centers, doctor’s offices, and pain-management centers.

  • Education: Candidates have to graduate with a master’s degree from an accredited program, which typically takes 24 to 51 months. Some go on to complete a fellowship program, particularly if they’re specializing within the field. To become a CRNA, candidates also need at least one year of full-time experience working as a registered nurse in a critical-care setting.
  • Job Outlook: It’s hard to find a job that will grow faster than nurse anesthetists over the next several years; the BLS expects employment to grow 40% between 2021 and 2031.
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