Highest Paying Jobs 2012

by Marie on September 20, 2012 · 4 comments

When I decided to go back to work in the early 1980’s, I did a bit of research to see what the highest paying and most available jobs were at the time. Mostly, I looked at the Sunday classifieds in the local metro paper to do my research.

Now it is much easier to get your hands on that kind of information. One great source is the Bureau of Labor Statistics report on National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates (USA). According tho their website

“The OES survey covers all full-time and part-time wage and salary workers in nonfarm industries. Surveys collect data for the payroll period including the 12th day of May or November. The survey does not cover the self-employed, owners and partners in unincorporated firms, household workers, or unpaid family workers.”

Even if you have already trained for a profession, it’s always fun to see what it is paying compared to others you might have chosen.

It’s even better if you do the research before choosing to spend thousands of dollars on post high school eduction. That way you can see which degrees are marketable and which are most cost effective for the dollars you spend on education.

So, without further ado, here are some of the highest paying jobs as of May 2011 in the USA in reverse order from the OES survey. Remember that these figures reflect wages and salaries from people employed by others.

If you truly want to earn millions, according to the book, The Millionaire Next Door, taking your profession successfully to self-employment by opening your own office may get you there.

Pharmacist 112,160

To be a pharmacists today, you need at least two years of college, then 4 years in a pharmacy program (assuming you pass the pharmacy college admission test) and you have to rotate through multiple (usually 7 – 10 rotations of 4-6 weeks in length) through actual clinical and pharmacy situations.

Air Traffic Controller $114,460

Below are the qualifications (from the FAA website  for becoming an air traffic controller.

  • Be a United States citizen
  • In most cases, not have reached age 31
  • Pass a medical examination
  • Pass a security investigation
  • Have three years of progressively responsible work experience and/or a full four-year course of study leading to a bachelor’s degree, or some combination of the two
  • Achieve a score of at least 70 on the FAA pre-employment test
  • Speak English clearly enough to be understood over communications equipment
  • Complete an interview.

This is a high stress job.  I had a neighbor that was an air traffic controller.  She was thin as a rail and smoked like a demon – she died before reaching age 60.

Sales Manager $116,860

Entry level sales manager positions do not require a degree.

Airline Pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer $118,070

Although these positions do not necessarily require a degree, they do require flight schooling and certification along with physical requirements.

Financial Manager $120,450

It is typical for financial managers to hold a general bachelors degree, but required that they have multiple years of experience in some financial field (such as an accountant, auditor, analyst and etc.).

My family runs to accountants…we have 3 on my husband’s side and one on mine. Two of these have become Chief Financial Officers (CFO), but I am not privy to either of their salaries. Both had at least 15 years of experience before achieving CFO status.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist $124,160

This is what I was aiming for on my first college go round….but I never got past a bachelor’s degree and without advanced degrees, you just aren’t a psychologist! Plus, employers for this type of position are few and far between.

To be one of these critters, you need a bachelor’s and a masters, specialist or doctor’s degree in psychology. You also need a license to practice.

Computer and Information Systems Manager $125,660

This is what I ended up doing…starting out as a mainframe programmer, advancing to project lead and finally to systems development project manager.

Today, you usually need a computer engineering degree (bachelor’s) to break into the field and then 5 or so years of work experience to get to the management levels.

I started leading projects after 4 years and became a manager after about 7 years.

Marketing Manager $126,190

Although a degree is not specifically required, it helps!

Natural Science Manager $128,230

Earning a bachelor’s degree in some kind of science field is generally a requirement, sometimes you need a masters or more. You will need to work in the field as a scientist for several years before advancing to management.

Architectural and Engineering Managers $129,350

To be an architect or engineer requires a 4-5 year bachelor’s degree. To become a manager requires at least 5 years of work experience in the field.

Lawyer $130,490

Education for lawyers is extensive. You need a bachelors degree, passing scores on the LSAT and three years of law school. Then you have to pass the bar exam. Even after getting a degree and passing the bar, it is sometimes hard to get good pay in this field. I’ve known beginning programmers who held law degrees…even after doing all of the above education, you aren’t guaranteed a lucrative position!

One of my niece’s is currently in year one of law school, after getting a bachelor and masters in teaching and having 2 kids!  I hope she finds the additional student debt justified!

Petroleum Engineer $138,980

At least a 4-5 bachelor’s degree in petroleum or chemical engineering is required to break into this field.

Engineering studies are hard! (at least for the likes of me).  I dated a couple of future engineers and their coursework and course loads at UMR were strenuous to say the least.

CEO $176,550

Most companies want their CEOs to have a least a bachelor’s degree (sometimes from a particular college) and many years of the right kinds of work experience with proven leadership skills. Right… how many of your fellow classmates turned into CEOs?

Orthodontist and dentist $161,750-$204,670

A bachelor’s degree with emphasis on science and biology, an exam to qualify for dental school, 4 years of dental school and licensing by your state are required to become a dentist. There are also exams to be licensed. Residencies may also be required by some sates.

Mom was right, I should have been a dentist – but what a lot of schooling!

Doctors and Surgeons $168,650-$234,950

The educational cost for becoming a doctor or surgeon is astronomical in terms of time and money. You need a bachelor’s degree, 4 years of medical school, between 3 – 8 ears of internship and residency to get started. Let’s not even talk about the malpractice insurance costs!

Note that some of the above jobs are not what are typically considered ‘professions’. To me, a professional is someone with a degree in a specialized field.

Did you notice that 6 of these are management spots? Look for a future post with tips on managing.

Which of the above do you consider to be professions vs jobs? If you hold one of these types of jobs, are the salaries and educational requirements accurate based on your experience?

Other Resources used:


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 krantcents September 19, 2012 at 7:20 pm

As a former CFO, the salaries ranges from low six figures to millions in public companies. In major U.S. cities it tends to skew to the higher numbers.


2 Marie at Family Money Values September 19, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Interesting….. one is in St. Louis and the other in LA, so from what you say they are probably in the high end.


3 Kim@Eyesonthedollar September 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I knew I should have gone to dental school! I only can relate to the health care jobs, and lots of it depends on where and how you practice. Private practice doctors have a hard time with overhead and trying to bill insurance. So many are packing it up to work for a bigger health care corporation. Health care reform really hasn’t helped docs of any type too much. It has just made the system more regulated so that it’s hard to be in solo practice anymore.


4 Savvy Scot October 5, 2012 at 6:01 am

I always forget how much dentists are paid!


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