Several sites rank the highest paying jobs in America, but most rely on the research done by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, below are currently the highest paying jobs, based on which have the highest median annual pay. Before we review the list, it’s essential to understand what “median annual pay” refers to.
Chron explains it as such: “The median income for a free career resources is the midway point of all salaries for that career. In other words, half of the people who work in that field make less than the median salary. And the other half of the people in the career make more.”
Determining median salary is not the same thing as calculating a mean salary. Mean is the average of all wages, which is found by adding all salaries and dividing them by the number of salaries. The problem with using a mean method to determine the highest paying jobs is that, in many cases, a few top earners may have salaries that are wildly beyond the vast majority of other earners. This can skew the results and give a mean average that is not accurate. An example would be actor Robert Downey, Jr., who earned ~$75 million for the film Avengers: Endgame. That figure is not remotely close to what 99% of working actors make to star in a movie.
The List of Highest Paying Jobs for 2020
Alright, we’ve made it to the list! Drum roll, please!
If you guessed doctors would top the list, you were right. Psychiatrists are medical doctors focused on problems related to mental health. Unlike physical injuries and issues, mental health matters are unseen, so doctors in this field must learn to diagnose and treat issues through analysis of behaviors, external symptoms, dialogues, and other methods. In some cases, there may be a physical injury that contributes to a mental health disorder.
Psychiatrists determine the root causes and help patients progress towards recovery. They also work with those who suffer from co-occurring disorders related to substance abuse and can prescribe medications. The median annual pay for Psychiatrists is $208,000.
Obstetricians and Gynecologists
BLS ranks these two fields together, but they are focused on different areas of medical care. Wooster Community Hospital breaks it down fairly simply: “[Obstetrics]…deals with all aspects of pregnancy, from prenatal care to post-natal care. An obstetrician delivers babies, whereas a gynecologist does not.”
While Obstetricians deal with all things pregnancy-related, Gynecologists are concerned with overall female reproductive health. Since the health of that system directly impacts the ability to bear and deliver children, these careers are often mentioned in the same breath, but it is important to realize they are, in fact, quite distinct. The median annual pay listed for both is $208,000 per year.
Surprise, surprise, the list of highest jobs paying is stacked with medical professions, and BLS lists Surgeons (except Ophthalmologists) right near the top. Surgeons are medical doctors who, like physicians, can diagnose and treat injuries and diseases. While some specialist physicians might perform operations on patients, this is really the central area of focus for surgeons.
From brains to bones, every part of the human body is susceptible to needing surgery when an issue simply cannot heal itself. There are also doctors whose practice offers elective surgeries, which may be cosmetic in nature. The median annual pay for Surgeons is $208,000.
We’ve all been to the dentist for cleanings or cavities, but many people never have to visit a Prosthodontist. Prosthodontistry is a specialty field of dentistry that focuses on jaw functionality and the restoration of lost teeth. As 123Dentist notes, “You would see a prosthodontist if you needed dentures or were having a prosthetic tooth inserted into a spot where you lost a tooth.” Also, Prosthodontists can assist with cosmetic dental work, sometimes called “smile makeovers.” As with the other jobs on our list of the highest paying jobs for 2020 (and beyond), the median annual pay is $208,000.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
Last but not least come the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons! The what? Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons work within another dental specialty field and receive training in emergency medicine. These doctors treat issues dealing with facial tissues, including the mouth and jaw area (hence the word “maxillofacial,” with the maxilla being our upper jaw). Patients are sent to these experts for more complicated procedures, such as extraction of impacted wisdom teeth, jaw misalignment, or even tumors. And wouldn’t you know it, the median annual pay for these surgeons is also $208,000!
To view more top-paying jobs, head over to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, where you can dig into details on salaries as well as education and training requirements.