The Top 10 Highest-Paying Jobs in the USA

Looking for jobs in the US? Check out these high-paying roles and rake in the dollars.

Reviewed by Hayley Ramsey

The highest-paying jobs in the USA include cardiologists and lawyers

Since its beginning, America has been known as the land of opportunity and dreams. With millions of Europeans settling here by the late 19th century, the USA became a haven for those fleeing job shortages, famine, and religious and political persecution.

Over a century later, the nation remains a symbol of endless possibility for many, attracting seekers of a better future. Work opportunities are still among the top factors fuelling immigration, and a quick look at stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tells us why. Examining the list of the highest-paying professions on the BLS website is a bit like staring at a gold mine!

Intrigued to find out more? Let’s look at the top 10 highest-paying jobs in the USA from across various industries, with annual median salaries of over $100,000.

10. Personal financial advisor

Personal finance advisors - one of the highest-paid jobs in the USA

What they do: Taking a close look at the financial needs of individuals, personal financial advisors help their clients make decisions on investments, mortgages, taxes, and insurance. Through research and discussion, they provide guidance for achieving both short- and long-term goals.

How to become: A bachelor’s degree in business or mathematics is typically required. Additional courses or certifications in taxes, investment, and risk management are also beneficial.

What they earn: $119,960

9. Make-up artist (theatrical and performance)

Makeup artists in the US are well-paid

What they do: Make-up artists working in theater and performance are master illusionists, altering the appearance of actors for specific roles. Aside from being able to replicate the exact same appearance for any character multiple times, they also have the knowledge to evaluate the performers’ skin type to avoid breakouts and irritation.

How to become: Attending cosmetology school is usually a good place to start, as it will teach you useful skills, including bacteriology and sanitization. An associate or bachelor’s degree in theater or drama also typically includes courses on stage makeup.

What they earn: $124,380

8. Health specialities postsecondary teacher

Post-secondary healthcare teacher

What they do: Postsecondary health specialities teachers typically find employment in colleges and universities, teaching subjects like medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and laboratory technology.

How to become: Health specialities postsecondary teachers typically hold doctoral degrees. However, in some cases, like when working at community colleges, a master’s degree can suffice.

According to the BLS, employment for all postsecondary teachers is expected to grow 12% by 2031, much quicker than the national average for all professions.

What they earn: $133,310

7. Computer and information research scientist

A computer scientist made the list of highest-paying jobs in the USA

What they do: Computer and information research scientists are the people behind new programming languages and software systems. Though it may sound like a lonely job, it entails a lot of social interaction with programmers, technicians, and computer and information systems managers. Two major areas of specialization include programming and robotics.

How to become: To get into this field, a master’s degree in computer science or relevant subject is normally required.

What they earn: $142,650

6. Petroleum engineer

Petroleum engineers are well-paid in the US

What they do: Petroleum engineers work in oil and gas extraction, developing drilling plans and designing, installing, and maintaining oilfield equipment. They work alongside geoscientists and engineering managers to gain an understanding of the geologic formation onsite and decide on the most appropriate drilling methods.

How to become: College students aspiring to become petroleum engineers typically pursue a major in petroleum, chemical, or civil engineering.

What they earn: $145,720

5. Lawyer

Lawyers are one of the best-paid professions in the US in 2022

What they do: Lawyers represent individuals, businesses, and agencies in legal disputes, either defending or prosecuting on behalf of their client. Their duties include advising, collecting evidence, and drafting legal documents. Popular law specializations include business law, criminal law, and intellectual property law.

How to become: In most cases, it takes seven years of full-time study to become a lawyer upon graduating from high school: four years of undergraduate study followed by three years of law school.

What they earn: $148,030

4. Physicist

Physicist - one of the highest-paid jobs in the US

What they do: As you would expect, physicists spend a lot of their time studying the properties of energy and matter. Through the planning and conducting of experiments, they may arrive at theories and models which can then be used in the development of scientific equipment for further experimentation.

How to become: To get into research or academia, a PhD in physics, astronomy or a relevant subject is necessary. Those who want a related job in the federal government or at a school can usually apply upon completing their bachelor’s or master’s degree.

What they earn: $151,580

3. Airline pilot

A pilot is one of the highest-paid roles in the US

What they do: Can you guess how many commercial planes are in the sky right at this moment? Possibly between 7,782 and 8,755, and that’s excluding cargo, military, and private jets.

Commanding those planes are airline pilots who, before each takeoff, are also responsible for checking that the radars, engines, and navigation systems operate as expected.

How to become: Lifting fifty thousand pounds of aluminum into the sky undoubtedly requires intensive training. But just how intensive?

Airline pilots start by learning to fly single-engine planes. Then they complete multi-engine training and earn a commercial certificate. Finally, after 1,500 hours of flight time, they can obtain their airline transport certificate.

What they earn: $198,190

2. Chief Executive

Chief executives of companies earn one of the highest wages in the US

What they do: Reporting directly to the company’s board of directors, these C-level professionals are the highest-ranking individuals in a business. They are responsible for formulating and implementing policies and strategy, allocating capital, and coordinating operational activities.

How to become: The vast majority of successful chief executives around the world are educated to master’s level. According to a 10-year study by researchers Elena L. Botelho and Kim R. Powell, it takes professionals an average of 24 years of experience to become head honchos.

What they earn: $213,020

1. Cardiologist

The highest-paid job in the US is a cardiologist

What they do: Specializing in “matters of the heart”, cardiologists have one of the most rewarding career paths and are responsible for diagnosing and treating cardiovascular conditions. Though cardiologists are not trained to perform surgery (cardiac surgeons are), they can still perform procedures like stent placement.

How to become: Unsurprisingly, becoming a cardiologist takes a lot of time. First comes a science or health-related bachelor’s degree, followed by four more years of medical school. Then comes earning a medical license, a three-year residency program and, finally, a three-year cardiology fellowship program (last one, promise!).

What they earn: $353,970

Final thoughts

Although our list is an amalgam of professions from different industries, when we look at individual sectors, it’s the medical industry that congregates the most high-paying professions. Family medicine physicians, nurse anesthetists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons and other medical experts all earn well over $200,000 a year!

Though a good salary is highly attractive, especially at a time of rapidly rising cost of living, without work-life balance it can be hard to make time for loved ones, look after your mental and physical health, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Choosing a high-paying job often comes with a lot of responsibility and long hours, but if you thrive knowing that your work is meaningful and impactful, then these careers could be right for you. It simply boils down to your priorities and aspirations, both on a professional and an individual level.

Want to earn big bucks? Check out the highest-paid jobs in the world: 

Which of these high-paying jobs could you see yourself pursuing? Let us know in the comments section.

Originally published 16 May 2017.