The smart thing, to do if you really want to get rich these days, is become a CEO and demand an enormous bonus for running a company into the ground. But if, like most Americans, you expect to be a wage slave for the majority of your working life, you might as well select one of the higher paying careers. We’ve put together a list of the 10 highest-paying jobs to serve as your guide. On the other hand, if you prefer to work like a horse for pennies per day, we’ve got the 10 lowest-paying jobs, as well. All salaries listed are the median, or average, for Americans. Keep in mind women make roughly 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Hispanic women earn about 58 percent and African-American women, 67 percent of that earned by white males, so adjust your expectations accordingly.
Top 10 Highest Paying Jobs
1. Anesthesiologists - $292,000. Anesthesiologists have one of the highest stress jobs in medicine. Apparently paying these specialists the big bucks is paying off, however, as mortality rates related to surgery in the u.S. have fallen from two deaths per 10,000 in the 1980s to one death per 200,000 today. The big salaries also help make up for the 12 years of training required before an anesthesiologist can practice.
2. Obstetrician/Gynecologist – $222,000. OB/GYN salaries reflect the sky-high malpractice premiums insurance companies charge because of the inherent risks related to their work. OB/GYNs are always in short supply, perhaps because of the high demands related to this profession. Babies are born and pregnant women experience problems at all times of the day, meaning these physicians must be at their best around the clock.
3. Psychiatrist – $177,000. Psychiatrists are one of the few mental health professionals who may prescribe medication, conduct physical exams, and order and interpret lab tests. Despite the medical nature of their work, health-insurance companies rarely pay for psychiatric treatment, which means patients must pay out-of-pocket for their services. Despite their hefty fees, psychiatrists have very little overhead, need minimal staff, don’t need a large insurance-management staff, and pay comparatively low malpractice insurance rates.
4. Nurse Anesthetist – $177,000. Nurse anesthetists report to anesthesiologists but still carry a great deal of responsibility and work terrible hours. If an office worker makes a mistake, the worst thing that can happen is they lose a job. If a nurse anesthetist makes a mistake, he or she can lose a life. Enough said.
5. Sales Director – $222,000. Sales is usually the last department to see layoffs because these are the people bringing in the money. (Of course, if you don’t have anything to sell, there’s not much point to having a sales department.) A sales director’s salary is dependent upon his skills, recruiting, training and motivating a highly productive staff. If you’ve ever worked in commission sales, you know the work is immensely stressful and you earn every penny.
6. Actuary – $129,000. Actuaries deal with the financial impact of risk and uncertainty. They must have a deep understanding of financial security systems, with a focus on their complexity, mathematics and mechanisms. A good actuary must accurately price a product or secure cash reserves that keep a business afloat. After earning an undergraduate degree, professional actuaries complete another 10 years of study and exams. Their high salaries or this profession no doubt are necessary to pay off their whopping student loans.
7. Finance Director – $121,000. A finance director, or chief financial officer, is another position requiring a keen grasp of numbers. In addition to managing all financial aspects of a company, this officer is responsible for financial planning and record-keeping, as well as financial reporting to higher management. Corporations are happy to pony up big salaries for a finance director who can generate accurate forecasts and budgets (and, in the rare instance, properly cook the books).
8. Software Architect – $117,000. Software architects and construction architects do, in essence, the same thing. They design a product, create models, develop documentation and make sure their construction fulfills basic requirements. The high demand and major shortage of qualified code jockeys is responsible for the high paychecks they can command. As the next generation enters the workforce, however, their innate comprehension of computers may bring the high salaries down.
9. Attorney/Lawyer – $115,000. Not every lawyer makes the big bucks, particularly if they work for the government or have a solo practice. But salaries for corporate lawyers begin in the six figures and can go sky high as an attorney progresses through the hierarchy. Corporate litigants and transaction lawyers earn their keep by dealing in millions of dollars and putting in what must feel like millions of hours.
10. Insurance Broker – $273,000. As with lawyers, an insurance broker’s salary is dependent upon the area in which they specialize. Those who work in such high-liability industries as oil, construction and pharmaceuticals can earn commissions of 10 to 15 percent of acontract’s total. On the other hand, average small-group commissions range from just 2 to 8 percent of a premium. Enough about the high-dollar careers. Let’s take a look at the 10 lowest-paying careers you should avoid.
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Top 10 Lowest Paying Jobs
Source: The U.S. Department of Labor
1. Food Preparation & Wait Staff – $17,400
2. Fast Food Cooks – $17,620
3. Dishwashers – $17,750
4. Dining Room and Bartender Helpers – $18,140
5. Shampooers – $18,300
6. Cafeteria & Coffee Shop Counter Attendants – $18,520
7. Restaurant Hostesses – $18,570
8. Cashiers – $18,880
9. Amusements & Recreation Attendants – $18,930
10. Ushers and Ticket Takers – $19,100
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