One way to a high salary is through a college education, with median annual salaries of $55,432 for a bachelor’s degree, $67,600 for a master’s degree, $84,448 for a doctorate and $90,220 for a professional degree. This is according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as of 2012. All these amounts are above the median $42,380 earned by all workers. They don't match, however, the six-figure income you'd earn from the top careers.
As of May 2012, medical professionals occupied the top nine highest-paying positions in the nation. Ranking first were anesthesiologists, who manage pain before, during and after surgery. They averaged $232,830 per year, although the lowest-earning 10 percent made less than a mean $135,110. Other highly paid doctors included surgeons, obstetricians and gynecologists, oral surgeons, general internists, orthodontists and general practitioners. In ninth place were psychiatrists, who treat mental and emotional problems with therapy, medication and hospitalization. They made a mean $177,520 per year, with the lowest earners receiving less than $70,920.
The salaries of doctors come from their control over life and death as well as the high cost of their long education. Aspiring physicians must spend at least four years in college for an undergraduate degree, four years in medical school, and three to eight years in an internship and residency, depending on their specialty. They must also obtain a license to practice medicine, which requires accredited education and passing an exam. Doctors can look forward to expected job increases of 24 percent from 2010 to 2020, greater than the 14 percent predicted for all other jobs, according to the BLS. America’s aging baby-boom population, which will require more medical services, will be behind the employment growth.
The 10th highest-paying position and the first not in health care belonged to chief executives, who maintain ultimate responsibility over their company’s fortunes.They received a mean $176,840 a year, with a low that was less than $76,220. Many chief executives have at least a bachelor’s or master’s degree in business administration or a subject related to their industry. They also need many years of promotions to positions with higher administrative responsibility. The BLS sees jobs for CEOs increasing by only 5 percent.
More medical professionals, such as pediatricians and dentists, occupy the next high-paying positions after CEO. Then come petroleum engineers, who land at number 16, with mean yearly pay of $147,470. Their lows fell to less than $75,030, but their highs exceeded $187,199. Petroleum engineers develop and test equipment and methods for pulling oil and gas from underground. They need at least a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering and a professional engineer’s license if they offer services directly to the public. The BLS predicts rising oil prices will lead to a 17-percent increase in jobs for petroleum engineers needed for more complex operations in more hazardous and inaccessible areas.