50 Best High-Paying Careers (and the Degrees You Need for Them)

Here are the 50 best high-paying careers in the world, and the degrees you need to get them.

Success in these great careers requires significant applied intelligence and creativity combined with hard work and dedication. In this sense, the highest paying careers are rewarding independent of the substantial financial benefit. Many, though not all, require years of formal training involving one or more advanced degree, and so it makes sense to evaluate each career and choose one that’s best for you.

We’ve grouped our ranking of the 50 highest paying careers into five sections, with a section for each of the four highest paying fields, and a final section listing the top paying careers from other fields. Salaries are expressed as medians and drawn from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Highest Paying Careers in Business and Management

highest paying jobs in business

1. Chief Executive Officer

Salary: $173,350
Job Description: The CEO’s job is to lead the company. CEOs are often directly involved in initiating and driving the company’s most significant initiatives. Because of this leadership role within the company, the CEO is normally the highest paid position in business.
Education: Many CEOs have advanced degrees in their field of specialty, and most have at least an MBA.
MBA Programs to Consider

2. Marketing Manager

Salary: $122,720
Job Description: Marketing managers establish and coordinate marketing policies and programs for their company. They are responsible for market segmentation and developing product and pricing strategies that will allow their firms to maximize their profits while growing market share. They also scan the marketplace for new opportunities to develop new products and services.
Education: Bachelor’s in Marketing. Many earn an advanced degree in the form of an MBA in Marketing to supplement their undergraduate education and work experience.
Schools to Consider for a Marketing Degree

3. Sales Manager

Salary: $114,110
Job Description: Sales managers are responsible for managing sales teams who sell products and services to customers. They also establish sales territories and policies for quotas and goals. They are also responsible for the development of effective training programs for the sales representatives.
Education: Minimum requirement is often a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, often with added emphasis on marketing. Some companies prefer an MBA or other advanced degree. Education, sales performance, and track record as a leader and driver of sales are important factors.
Consider These Schools for a Business Degree

4. Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Salary: $114,040
Job Description: Industrial-Organizational Psychologist apply psychology to the areas of human resources, administration, management, and other applicable areas within corporations.
Education: A Ph.D. in Psychology or a Doctorate of Psychology (Psy.D.) are required to work as a psychologist generally. However, Industrial-Organizational Psychologists may practice with a Master’s in Psychology. Many Industrial-Organizational Psychologists choose to pursue their Ph.D. or Psy.D. as these degrees open up more opportunities in the field.

Consider These Schools for a Industrial-Organizational Psychology Degree

5. Financial Manager

Salary: $116,970
Job Description: Financial Managers oversee the financial workings of a company. Titles can include CFO, Controller, and VP of Finance. These individuals are responsible for most, if not all areas of finance including payroll, forecasting, investment, banking, insurance, securities and all other financial aspects of a given branch, office or department of their corporation.
Education: Bachelor’s in Finance, Accounting, Business or Economics is the minimum. Many employers prefer a Master’s in Finance or an MBA.
Top-ranked Finance Programs

6. General and Operations Manager

Salary: $113,100
Job Description: Operations Managers direct the day-to-day operations of a company. This includes the formulation of policies, overseeing the use of company materials, and human resources. General and operations management jobs vary in scope and responsibility depending on their context. The general and operations manager is often a jack-of-all-trades and has held multiple positions within the company.
Education: While a Bachelor’s degree in Business is the minimum, an MBA is standard when seeking advancement in a major corporation.
Top-ranked Featured MBA Programs

7. Purchasing Manager

Salary: $100,600
Job Description: Purchasing Managers oversee and coordinate the buyers, purchasing officers and other staff involved in purchasing materials, products and/or services for a company.
Education: Many larger companies require at least a Bachelor’s degree with a business emphasis, while smaller companies often hire from within and require experience with the details of the company’s business. Top level positions in the field require an MBA. (Click to Search Business Degrees and MBA Programs.)

8. Advertising and Promotions Manager

Salary: $98,720
Job Description: These individuals direct promotions and advertising. This includes developing the programs and ensuring the production of materials such as ads, posters, coupons or give-aways.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Marketing, Advertising, or Design. Many larger corporations prefer an MBA.
Top-ranked Marketing Programs

9. Human Resources Manager

Salary: $96,940
Job Description: These individuals oversee and coordinate the employee recruiting and training as well as the development of compensation and benefits policies and packages for employees.
Education: A Bachelor’s in Human Resources is often required. An MBA in Human Resources may also be required.
Top ranked Human Resources Degrees

10. Training and Development Manager

Salary: $95,800
Job Description: Training and Development Managers are responsible for developing and coordinating the training programs of a company or department. They are also directly responsible for training company staff.
Education: Bachelor‘s degree and work experience in a related field like Human Resources.
Top ranked Human Resources Degrees

Highest Paying Careers in Computers, Mathematics, and Sciences

highest paying jobs math computers science

1. Natural Sciences Manager

Salary: $129,320
Job Description: Natural science managers keep the scientists and researchers employed by their company on task. Because they must be both skilled managers and highly trained scientists, Natural Sciences Managers are typically among the highest paid position in this group.
Education: A Ph.D. in the field is the absolute minimum. Many also have either augmented their advanced degrees with management specializations. Others choose to earn an entirely separate MBA in addition to their other education. (Click to Search Degrees in the Sciences.)

2. Computer and Information Systems Manager

Salary: $123,280
Job Description: Computer and Information Systems Managers are responsible for coordinating information and computer systems of a company including electronic data processing, information systems, systems analysis, and computer programming.
Education: Bachelor’s in Computer Science, Information Science or Management of Information Systems is required. Many companies prefer candidates with an MBA in Information Technology Management.
Featured Top-ranked Computer Degrees

3. Physicist

Salary: $112,020
Job Description: Physicists research the world and develop theories based on observation and experiments. They also develop methods for applying physics laws and theories to our every day lives. Many positions are in research; however, many physicists also teach.
Education: Ph.D. in Physics. (Click to Search Degrees in the Sciences.)

4. Computer and Information Research Scientist

Salary: $103,000
Job Description: Computer and Information Research Scientists research all aspects of computer and information science. As theorists, designers or inventors, they develop solutions in a variety of contexts, particularly at computer hardware and software companies.
Education: Master’s or Ph.D. in Computer Science.
Featured Computer Sciences Programs

5. Computer Hardware Engineer

Salary: $101,600
Job Description: Computer hardware engineers are involved with every step of computer hardware development from design to testing computers and related equipment for use in various commercial, military, industrial or scientific applications.
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or Computer Engineering. Advanced degrees such as a Master’s in Computer Science are required in order to teach or attain research positions. (Click to Search Degrees in Computer Sciences.)

6. Mathematician

Salary: $100,260
Job Description: Mathematicians research fundamental and/or applied mathematics for use in science, management, and most aspects of every day life. Many mathematicians that hold research positions at academic institutions also teach.
Education: Ph.D. in Mathematics. (Click to Search Degrees in Mathematics.)

7. Actuary

Salary: $98,620
Job Description: Actuaries are responsible for risk assessment and analysis of statistical data for companies, often in connection with setting insurance rates.
Education: Minimum degrees include Bachelor’s in Mathematics, Actuarial Science, Economics, or Statistics. Becoming an Actuary also involves completing a series of tests. It can take anywhere from four to eight years to achieve full professional status in the field.

Featured Degrees for Actuaries
1. Ottawa University – BA – Mathematics
2. Southern New Hampshire University – MBA – Quantitative Analysis
3. Kaplan University – BSBA – Risk Management
4. Boston University – MS – Security and Risk Management
5. Walden University – MBA – Risk Management

8. Software Developer

Salary: $97,960
Job Description: Involved in all aspects of the development of computer software applications.
Education: Minimum Bachelor’s in Software Engineering, Mathematics or Computer Science.
Featured Top-ranked Software Degrees

9. Geoscientist

Salary: $93,380
Job Description: Geoscientists use geological physics to study the composition and structure of the earth and often use this knowledge to explore in search of oil, gas and other natural resources. They also apply knowledge to environmental problems and challenges faced by corporations in waste disposal, land reclamation and more.
Education: Minimum Bachelor’s in Geoscience. High level research and teaching positions will require a Ph.D. in Geoscience. (Click to Search Degrees in the Sciences.)

10. Astronomer

Salary: $93,340
Job Description: Astronomers are physicists with a passion for the study of the cosmos. They research and interpret astronomical phenomena.
Education: Minimum Master’s in Physics, though a Ph.D. in Physics is required for many positions. (Click to Search Degrees in the Sciences.)

Highest Paying Careers in Architecture and Engineering

highest paying jobs in architecture and engineering

1. Petroleum Engineer

Salary: $127,970
Job Description: Apply the principles of engineering to the problems of the extraction and production of oil and gas. Develop new tools crucial to the extraction of oil and gas. Oversee the operations of drilling, offering technical support when necessary. Because of their critical role for company growth and expansion within one of the largest industries on the planet, Petroleum Engineers are very highly paid, and Petroleum Engineering is the highest paid career within the fields of engineering and architecture.
Education: Minimum Bachelor’s in Engineering. Many engineers seek advanced degrees such as a Master’s in Engineering. (Click to Search Degrees in Engineering.)

2. Architectural and Engineering Manager

Salary: $125,900
Job Description: The main role is project management in the fields of Architecture and Engineering. This role requires specialized knowledge allowing them to guide research and development as well.
Education: Minimum Bachelor’s in Engineering or Architecture, though many positions require an MBA or Master’s of Engineering Management (MEM). (Click to Search Degrees in Engineering and Architecture.)

3. Nuclear Engineer

Salary: $101,500
Job Description: Nuclear engineers apply the principles and theory of nuclear science to the problems inherent in the process of harnessing nuclear energy. These engineers also devise methods for the safe disposal of nuclear waste materials.
Education: Minimum Bachelor’s in Engineering. Master’s in Engineering for more advanced positions, and Ph.D. to teach. (Click to Search Degrees in Engineering.)

4. Aerospace Engineer

Salary: $99,000
Job Description: Aerospace Engineers design, construct and test aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft. They also conduct research into the materials used in the construction and design of aircraft and ways to improve testing equipment.
Education: Minimum Bachelor’s in Engineering. Master’s in Engineering to stay current or diversify knowledge. Ph.D. for teaching positions. (Click to Search Degrees in Engineering.)

5. Chemical Engineer

Salary: $94,590
Job Description: Chemical Engineer develop processes for the manufacture of chemicals and associated products. They also research and design equipment to be used in the testing, manufacture, and handling of chemical products.
Education: A Bachelor’s in Engineering for entry level positions. A Minor or Focus in Chemistry is helpful. Master’s in Chemistry or Engineering for advanced positions. Ph.D. for teaching. (Click to Search Degrees in Engineering.)

6. Electronics Engineer

Salary: $92,730
Job Description: Electronics Engineers design and develop electronic components and systems used in commercial, industrial, scientific or military capacities. They also design the circuits used in electronics.
Education: A Bachelor’s in Engineering is the standard for positions in this field. (Click to Search Degrees in Engineering.)

7. Marine Engineer and Naval Architect

Salary: $87,770
Job Description: Marine Engineer and Naval Architects design ships and all the machinery that runs them including power supplies and propulsion systems.
Education: Minimum Bachelor’s in engineering. Advancement in the field is determined more by performance and work experience than attaining an advanced degree. (Click to Search Degrees in Engineering.)

8. Biomedical Engineer

Salary: $84,780
Job Description: Biomedical Engineers create biological and health systems and products including artificial organs, prostheses and health care delivery systems.
Education: Minimum Bachelor’s in Engineering. Potential biomedical engineers should specialize in mechanical or electronics engineering and will need specialized biomedical training. (Click to Search Degrees in Engineering.)

9. Environmental Engineers

Salary: $83,160
Job Description: Environmental Engineers develop ways to lessen the impact of technology and industry on the environment.
Education: Minimum Bachelor’s in Engineering. A Minor or Focus in Environmental Studies is helpful. (Click to Search Degrees in Engineering.)

10. Civil Engineer

Salary: $82,280
Job Description: The jack of all trades in engineering, Civil Engineers oversee the construction of infrastructure such as roads, railroads, airports and other vital infrastructure as well as the construction and maintenance of buildings.
Education: Minimum Bachelor’s in Engineering. MBA or MEM for advanced positions. Teaching will require a Ph.D. (Click to Search Degrees in Engineering.)

Highest Paying Careers in Healthcare

highest paying jobs in healthcare

1. Surgeon

Salary: $225,390
Job Description: Surgeons treat patients suffering from disease, injury, and deformity using various surgical techniques. Because of the significant amount of training and study required to become a surgeon, and the risks and responsibilities involved in the job, Surgeons are the highest paid professionals in the field of healthcare.
Education: Minimum M.D. or D.O. degree.

2. Anesthesiologist

Salary: $220,100
Job Description: A doctor responsible for administering anaesthetics before, during and after surgery and other medical operations.
Education: Minimum M.D. or D.O. degree.

3. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

Salary: $214,120
Job Description: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons perform surgeries to treat a wide range of defects, diseases and injuries in the head, neck, face, jaws and other oral and maxillofacial regions. Maxillofacial surgeons also often perform cosmetic surgeries.
Education: Minimum Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. Many also pursue or hold an M.D. or D.O. degree.

4. ObGyn

Salary: $210,340
Job Description: These doctors are responsible for providing specialized medical care related to pregnancy and childbirth and diagnose and treat diseases in women, specifically conditions involving the reproductive organs. Often also provide general medical care to women.
Education: Minimum M.D. or D.O. degree.

5. Orthodontist

Salary: $200,290
Job Description: Orthodontists specialize in the treatment of dental malocclusions and defects of the oral cavity. Orthodontists develop specific appliances and methods for the correction of teeth and jaws.
Education: Minimum Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree.

6. Family and General Practitioner

Salary: $173,860
Job Description: Family and General Practitioners examine and treat the general population, helping to prevent diseases common to the general public. The first line of defense against disease, general practitioners often diagnose potential causes for concern and then refer the patient to a specialist for further examination and treatment.
Education: Minimum M.D. or D.O. degree.

7. Psychiatrist

Salary: $167,720
Job Description: These medical doctors specialize in treating mental health. Psychiatrists use medical diagnostic and treatment methodology in the treatment and prevention of mental disorders.
Education: Psychiatrists (not to be confused with Psychologists) are medical doctors and as such must acquire an M.D. or D.O. degree at minimum.

8. Pediatrician

Salary: $165,720
Job Description: These doctors specialize in treating children.
Education: Minimum M.D. or D.O. degree.

9. Dentist

Salary: $158,770
Job Description: Dentists examine and treat the general population’s dental needs.
Education: Minimum Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree.

10. Prosthodontist

Salary: $139,620
Job Description: Prosthodontists construct oral prostheses to replace oral structures that have been lost or damaged.
Education: Minimum Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree.

Highest Paying Careers in Other Industries

highest paying jobs lawyer

1. Lawyer

Salary: $129,440
Job Description: Lawyers aid and advise clients in the management of legal transactions. They also write and review contracts, represent clients in criminal and civil courtroom proceedings, engage in litigation on behalf of clients.
Education: Minimum of a J.D. is the degree lawyers must attain in order to practice (in addition to passing the requisite state bar exam).

2. Airline Pilot, Co-Pilot and Flight Engineer

Salary: $115,300
Job Description: These individuals are responsible for safely piloting and navigating the flight of commercial aircraft for the transportation of cargo and passengers.
Education: Training and flight time are the most important factors. Due to an increase in applicants with a Bachelor’s degree, many major airlines are now requiring Bachelor’s degrees for the consideration of candidates. Applicants for a pilot’s license must be 18 years of age and have 250 hours of logged flight experience. Attending flight school or obtaining lessons from an FAA certified flight instructor are the common ways of satisfying licensing requirements.

3. Air Traffic Controller

Salary: $110,280
Job Description: Air Traffic Controllers control air traffic within the vicinity of a specific airport including the transition of air traffic between different altitudes and holding patterns according to the procedures and policies of the company and federal regulations.
Education: Three years of progressively responsible full time employment, or four years of college or a combination of both (30 semester credit hours or 45 quarter hours equates to 1 year of full time work experience). The rest is a series of pre-employment tests administered by the FAA. There are also AT-CTI schools that often operate in conjunction with universities to provide training for those interested in pursuing a career in the field.

4. Law Teacher, Postsecondary

Salary: $107,990
Job Description: These individuals instruct students in matters of law. Includes positions that may also engage in the research and development of legal theory and philosophy.
Education: Teaching law on the post secondary level requires a minimum of a J.D. and typically many years of work experience in the specific areas of law one wishes to teach. Requirements vary substantially from position to position.

5. Political Scientist

Salary: $107,930
Job Description: Political Scientists study political systems including their origins and the various philosophies applied by different political systems throughout history. Analyze political data and trends. Aid in the formulation and articulation of political ideologies.
Education: Minimum Bachelor’s in Political Science. Those wishing to teach at the post secondary level will require a Ph.D. A Master’s degree will suffice for positions at some community colleges. (Click to Search Degrees in Political Science.)

6. Heath Specialties Teacher

Salary: $103,960
Job Description: These individuals teach courses in health, ranging from medical instruction to nutrition or anatomy and all areas related to health.
Education: Health specialties is a wide field, some positions may require an M.D. while others simply a Ph.D. in a health related field. (Click to Search Degrees in Nutrition.)

7. Economist

Salary: $99,350
Job Description: Economists analyze economic data and use it to formulate plans with the purpose of addressing possible economic problems and challenges facing an economy. They also aid in developing and executing monetary and fiscal policy.
Education: Standard requirements for private sector jobs and advanced positions is a minimum Master’s or Ph.D. in Economics. Entry level economist positions with the federal government often only require a Bachelor’s in Economics.

Featured Economics Degrees
Strayer University – BS – Economics
Franklin University – BS – Business Economics
Ashford University – MBA – Business Economics

8. Education Administrator

Salary: $96,680
Job Description: Education Administrators manage the development of educational programs at universities, colleges, community colleges, and school districts. Direct research and curriculum development.
Education: M.Ed. or Ph.D. and years of experience teaching at the post-secondary level.
Featured Top-ranked M.Ed. Programs

9. Sales Engineer

Salary: $94,760
Job Description: Sales Engineer work with complex products and services and determine how they could be designed or modified to suit customers’ needs.
Education: A Bachelor’s in Engineering is the minimum. Many sales engineers will also get an MBA in sales or marketing to supplement their engineering knowledge. (Click to Search Degrees in Engineering.)

10. Art Director

Salary: $94,100
Job Description: Art Directors lead the art design and presentation strategy for a company or agency. Manage workers responsible for the production of art on various projects.
Education: The education requirements for a position as art director varies. Many entry level positions in the arts that can lead to a director position simply require a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts or a strong art portfolio. A MBA is often integral to advancement into a director position. (Click to Search Degrees in the Arts.)

Notes about the 50 Highest Paying Careers

These careers are good choices for individuals considering which degree to earn, and all of these careers represent a good return on the investment. Top paying jobs typically have more substantial requirements than other career options when it comes to work experience and education. This list gives the median annual income meaning that in these high paying careers half make more than the median and half make less. These are the top careers, and any individual pursuing them will find themselves in the upper income brackets over time as the necessary work experience and level of education is acquired. Some of these great careers require significant education and work experience, though many only require an appropriate Bachelor-level degree in order to be successful in the field. Without a doubt, these are the top career choices available to anyone entering the job market. Hallmarks of the great jobs in this list are that many require intelligence, the ability to think creatively and intuitively about one’s responsibilities and the problems and solutions with which one is presented. Many of the highest paying jobs, particularly those in the medical field are high risk, high reward jobs in that while they are some of the best paying jobs in the world, one mistake, one moment of neglecting one’s responsibility, can result in disaster. Others are more forgiving, but in order to attain the best jobs available in any field, one must demonstrate through track record and a capacity for responsibility and care in their approach to the tasks required.

Featured Degree Programs