Best-Paying Jobs for 2020

African American dentist
•••

Getty Images/gilaxia

 

The best-paying jobs include positions in healthcare, information technology, management, finance, engineering, and law.

Why do workers in these occupations earn the most? In short, it’s because they have valuable skills—and employers must pay a premium for them.

If you’re set on earning a high salary, you might consider one of these career paths.

But be advised: most require advanced education (which significantly increases your earning potential), training, extensive work experience in the field, and/or licensure. You won’t just stumble into a high-paying job, but if one of these occupations is a fit, you’ll be well-compensated for your efforts.

Top 20 Best-Paying Jobs for 2020

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is an independent statistical agency that tracks unemployment and other essential data about the U.S. job market. The Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ career resource. It offers information about wages, job growth, and educational requirements for most occupations.

To find the best-paid jobs in the U.S., we looked at the Occupational Outlook Handbook’s list of highest-paying jobs, as well as the OOH’s A-to-Z index. 

According to the latest data, these are the occupations that pay the most right now:

1. Physicians and Surgeons

If you’re looking for a high-paying job that gives back, follow your mom’s advice: become a doctor. Physicians and surgeons hold 40% of the roles on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ ranking of 20 highest paying occupations.

A few high-paying physician job titles include psychiatrist, obstetrician/gynecologist, surgeon, and anesthesiologist.

Generally, doctors diagnose and treat illnesses in hospitals, urgent care facilities, group, and individual medical practices. They prescribe medications, perform surgical procedures, make referrals to specialists, perform medical assessments, and educate patients and their families.

Salary: The BLS reports that physicians earn a median salary equal to or greater than $208,000.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of physicians is expected to increase 4% over the next decade.

2. Dentists

Dentists take care of patients’ teeth and gums, diagnosing and treating issues like tooth decay and gum disease. They may repair damaged teeth or remove them and replace them with implants or appliances like dentures. Dentists typically work as part of a team that includes dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dental lab techs.

While some dentists work as general practitioners, others focus on a specialty such as prosthodontics, orthodontics, or oral surgery. Specialists typically have more training and education, as well as additional licensure, and earn more than general dentists. For example, prosthodontists, who replace damaged teeth with implants, dentures, etc., earn a median annual salary of $208,000 or more. 

Salary: The BLS reports that general dentists earn a median annual salary of $159,200, while some specialists earn a median salary of $208,000 or more. 

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of dentists is expected to increase 3% over the next decade.

3. Chief Executives

Chief executive officers (CEOs) provide the direction for the company, setting goals, creating policies, and generally steering the corporate ship. CEOs often report to boards of directors and manage other leaders such as chief operating officers (COOs) and chief financial officers (CFOs).

Fortune-500 CEOs make a mint; in 2018, the Associated Press reported that the average CEO compensation at top companies exceeded $11 million per year.

However, even CEOs of smaller companies tend to do quite well.

If you have your sights set on a chief executive role, be prepared to get your MBA and plenty of work experience. 

Salary: The BLS reports that chief executives earn a median annual salary of $184,460, while top executives as a whole earn $104,690 per year. 

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of top executives is expected to increase 4% over the next decade.

4. Nurse Practitioners and Other Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

Nurse practitioners assess patient symptoms, diagnose illnesses, prescribe, and administer medications, treat minor injuries, consult with physicians regarding complicated cases, and refer patients to other medical professionals.

NPs are one of several types of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs); other types include nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists. APRNs have master’s degrees in their specialties and are licensed by the state in which they practice. 

Salary: The BLS reports that APRNs, including nurse practitioners, earn a median annual salary of $115,800. Some specialists earn more—for example, nurse anesthetists earn a median annual salary of $174,790. 

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of APRNs is expected to increase 45% over the next decade.

5. Airline Pilots

Airline pilots do a lot more than just fly the plane. Typically, they’re also responsible for a lot of the hard work that goes into making sure the plane flies safely and smoothly, including submitting flight plans, performing pre-flight aircraft checks, navigating in the air, and responding to emergencies and other changes in flight.

Airline pilots typically have a bachelor’s degree and must have the appropriate licensure from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Most start their careers as commercial pilots. 

Salary: The BLS reports that airline pilots earn a median annual salary of $121,430.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of airline pilots is expected to increase 5% over the next decade.

6. Computer and Information Systems Managers

Often called IT managers, these professionals are responsible for an organization’s information technology. Different types of IT managers have different responsibilities, which may include assessing the organization’s computer needs, making recommendations for fixes and upgrades, hiring and managing other IT professionals, and ensuring systems’ security.

Salary: The BLS reports that computer and information systems managers earn a median annual salary of $146,360.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of computer and information systems managers is expected to increase 10% over the next decade.

7. Architectural and Engineering Managers

Working at architectural and engineering firms, these managers hire, train, and supervise teams of engineers. They also coordinate the efforts of project teams to develop and execute plans for product development and re-engineer processes and methods of production. Architectural and engineering managers create and control budgets and conduct ongoing value analysis to identify new opportunities for efficiencies and cost savings.

Salary: The BLS reports that architectural and engineering managers earn a median annual salary of $144,830.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of architectural and engineering managers is expected to increase 3% over the next decade. 

8. Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineers determine the best methods for extracting oil and gas, design and develop extraction equipment, and formulate and implement drilling plans. Employers often prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering, but may consider professionals with degrees in another engineering discipline.  

Salary: The BLS reports that petroleum engineers earn a median annual salary of $137,720.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of petroleum engineers is expected to increase 3% over the next decade.

9. Judges

Judges typically work in federal, state, and local courts where they preside over trials and other hearings. Depending on where they work, judges may be elected or appointed to their job. Typically, judges have a law degree and a great deal of experience practicing law. They may serve for a fixed term, e.g. four years, or for life.

Salary: The BLS reports that judges earn a median annual salary of $136,910.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of judges is expected to increase 2% over the next decade.

10. Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

Ever chose one product or service over another for reasons you couldn’t quite explain? Chances are, your selection owed a lot to the hard (but sometimes invisible) work of advertising, promotions, and marketing managers.

These professionals work to grab consumer interest and transform it into sales for their clients.

Most have a bachelor’s degree and plenty of work experience in their field.

Salary: The BLS reports that advertising, promotions, and marketing managers earn a median annual salary of $135,900.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of advertising, promotions, and marketing managers is expected to increase 6% over the next decade.

11. Financial Managers

Financial managers analyze data to develop plans that support the long-term financial health of their employers. They may perform a variety of duties, including staying on top of market trends, preparing financial statements, and looking for opportunities to reduce costs. Typically, they advise senior management on financial decisions. They may also supervise other members of their team.  

Salary: According to the BLS, financial managers earn a median annual salary of $129,890.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of financial managers is expected to increase 15% over the next decade.  

12. Natural Sciences Managers

These professionals manage teams of scientists, such as biologists or chemists. They hire and supervise technicians and other staff, as well as managing the budget, monitoring the progress of scientific projects, and providing technical assistance. Many natural sciences managers were scientists prior to moving into a supervisory role.

Employers typically require a degree in a related field, and may prefer an advanced degree.

Salary: According to the BLS, natural science managers earn a median annual salary of $129,100.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of natural science managers is expected to increase 5% over the next decade.

13. Pharmacists

Pharmacists interpret physicians' orders for medications, analyze potential drug interactions, resolve issues regarding insurance coverage, dispense medications according to standards, train and supervise technicians, and educate patients about use and side effects of medications.

Salary: According to the BLS, pharmacists earn a median annual salary of $128,090.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of pharmacists is expected to decline 3% over the next decade.  

14. Sales Managers

Sales managers manage teams of salespeople. They set sales goals, analyze sales trends, create and run training programs, and resolve customer complaints. Typically, sales managers have a bachelor’s degree and a great deal of work experience as a salesperson.

Salary: According to the BLS, sales managers earn a median annual salary of $126,640.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of sales managers is expected to increase 4% over the next decade.

15. Lawyers

Lawyers represent individuals, organizations, or government agencies, advising clients of their legal rights and responsibilities and analyzing laws and legal problems to determine the best course of action. Some lawyers also advocate for their clients in a court of law.

Salary: According to the BLS, lawyers earn a median annual salary of $122,960.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of lawyers is expected to increase 4% over the next decade.

16. Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and information research scientists create new computing technology and improve existing tools to solve complex problems in fields like medicine and business. Typically, computer and information research scientists have a master’s degree in computer science and a bachelor’s degree in a related area of study.

Salary: According to the BLS, computer and information research scientists earn a median annual salary of $122,840.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of these research scientists is expected to increase 15% over the next decade.

17. Political Scientists

Political scientists work for government agencies, non-profits, and research organizations. They analyze the effects of government laws and regulations, identify political trends, and make policy recommendations.

Many political scientists have advanced degrees, such as a master of public administration (MPA) or master of public policy (MPP).

Salary: According to the BLS, political scientists earn a median annual salary of $122,220.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of political scientists is expected to increase 6% over the next decade.

18. Human Resources Managers

These professionals manage employers’ recruiting, interviewing, and hiring processes, as well as consulting on diversity and inclusion efforts. They may also mediate staff disputes, manage benefits programs, and oversee payroll. Human resources managers typically have at least a bachelor’s degree and several years of work experience in HR. 

Salary: According to the BLS, human resources managers earn a median annual salary of $116,720.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of human resources managers is expected to increase 6% over the next decade.

19. Training and Development Managers

Training and development managers create and oversee training programs for organizations. They may develop course materials and or purchase content from outside vendors, as well as managing training staff. Typically, these managers have at least a bachelor’s degree, and some employers may prefer a master’s degree.

Salary: According to the BLS, training and development managers earn a median annual salary of $113,350.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of human resources managers is expected to increase 7% over the next decade.

20. Computer Network Architects

Also called network engineers, these IT professionals design and build computer networks. Depending on their job, engineers also manage networks and analyze traffic data to plan for future growth. Typically, computer network architects have a bachelor’s degree in a tech-related field and significant work experience in systems administration.

Salary: According to the BLS, computer network architects earn a median annual salary of $112,690.

Job Outlook 2019-2029: Per the BLS, employment of computer network architects is expected to increase 5% over the next decade.

Article Sources

  1. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “A-Z Index.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  2. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Highest Paying Occupations.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  3. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Physicians and Surgeons.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  4. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Dentists.” Accessed September 4, 2020.

  5. USA Today. “For CEOs, $11.7 Million a Year in Compensation, on Average, Is Just Middle of the Pack.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  6. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Top Executives.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  7. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  8. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Airline and Commercial Pilots.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  9. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Calendar. “Computer and Information Systems Managers.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  10. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Architectural and Engineering Managers.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  11. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Petroleum Engineers.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  12. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Judges and Hearing Officers.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  13. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  14. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Financial Managers.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  15. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Natural Science Managers.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  16. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Pharmacists.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  17. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Sales Managers.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  18. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. "Lawyers." Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  19. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Computer and Information Research Scientists.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  20. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Political Scientists.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  21. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Human Resources Managers.” Accessed September 3, 2020.

  22. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Training and Development Managers.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.

  23. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. “Computer Network Architects.” Accessed Sept. 4, 2020.