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Best – And Worst – Paying Jobs in the United States

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AnesthesiologistAs this year’s college graduates get ready to enter the ranks of those looking for jobs, it’s worth considering the highest paying (and worst paying) jobs available in the United States. Indeed, if you are wondering whether or not your degree is worth the money, this list might help you make a decision.

Most jobs, of course, fall somewhere in between the extremes of best paying and worst paying. As you consider the top paying jobs and worst paying jobs (as listed by Forbes on Yahoo! Finance), you can look at your own situation, and your own options and decide what path your career should follow.

Top 5 Best Paying Jobs

According to Forbes, nine of the top 10 best paying jobs are related to health care, and held by doctors. Only CEO made the top 10 list without the intervening help of some medical training. Here are the top 5 best paying jobs in the United States, and the average annual pay to go with them:

  1. Anesthesiologist: $234,950
  2. Surgeon: $231,550
  3. Obstetrician and Gynecologist: $218,610
  4. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons: $217,380
  5. Orthodontist: $204,670

Of course, some of that pay is offset by the fact that malpractice coverage has to be bought, and can be quite expensive. Additionally, the cost of schooling, as well as startup costs related to the job and the equipment needed can also be costly. Some of these jobs are also high-stress, and that can take away from the attractiveness, in some eyes, of the high salary.

Even if you don’t become one of the top-paid people, though, it’s worth noting that jobs in the health care field are likely to increase in demand. Baby Boomers are aging, and that means plenty of health care work for years to come. Even if you don’t go on to get an advanced degree, you can still earn a decent living as a medical assistant, dental hygienist, or some other health care worker. It’s worth considering.

Top 5 Worst Paying Jobs

At the other end of the spectrum are those that don’t necessarily need to have skills and education to work. From that standpoint, it seems likely that a college degree could be worth it. Or at least some sort of professional certification or skills training. Developing some sort of professional skill is better than nothing, even if you don’t end up with a four-year degree. Here are the worst paying jobs in the United States, and their average annual salaries, according to Forbes:

  1. Fast Food Cook: $18,720
  2. Combined Food Preparation Worker: $18,790
  3. Dishwasher: $18,840
  4. Shampooer: $19,130
  5. Counter Attendant (cafeteria, concessions, coffee shop, etc.): $19,450
Nearly anyone can get these jobs, and the pay reflects that. While you might some learning curve, these jobs don’t require the same intense education required by the highest paying jobs. And, of course, even jobs where a four-year degree is required can offer better opportunities and be good choices for some. It’s true that you don’t need to be making more than $200,000 a year to be happy, but chances are that you need some sort of training in order to make a good living.

(Photo: digitalkatie)

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12 Responses to “Best – And Worst – Paying Jobs in the United States”

  1. Dave says:

    I figured… my wife just had a baby, so we’ve seen the top 3 paying jobs in the past two weeks… I’m still waiting for the bills, but I’m sure they’ll be quite large…

  2. govenar says:

    I’m surprised that anesthesiologist makes more than surgeon. And surprised that surgeons don’t make a lot more than that; if someone’s operating on me I’d want them to be really good at what they’re doing, which I would think would imply a higher salary.

    • Jim says:

      I think there’s more risk in being an anesthesiologist, hence the higher pay (and higher malpractice insurance).

    • NoCleverName says:

      I believe those statistics include all surgeons. So, neurosurgeons are probably paid more than the average anesthesiologist and general surgeons are somewhat lower. You should not be surprised that an anesthesiologist makes more. Who do you think is keeping you alive while the surgeon does his/her work? They don’t just put drugs into an IV and run away into the break room. They are controling your breathing, blood pressure, etc. while the surgeon is cutting you. Anesthesiology is a high risk stakes specialty that requires alot of training and can be very stressful. Yes, they both have important jobs and I would certainly hope that both are well qualified and maintain high standards.

  3. AmyL says:

    What are the 5 highest-paying jobs that are NOT doctors or medical professionals?

  4. Kurt says:

    Some good points are made here. But generally;
    1. Enjoy what you do. And then,
    2. Live within your means.
    Undisciplined lottery winners end up unhappy.
    Be Happy.

  5. PPI says:

    Although, how much one earn matters a lot, at the end of the day it is not how much you earn, it’s how you spend it that makes all the difference. Speaking from personal experience, a year ago I was barely making it. Now, I make double what I was earning plus my boyfriend’s income and still we can barely save. I made a commitment to be more frugal before we get ourselves into deep trouble.

  6. PPI says:

    Although, how much one earn matters a lot, at the end of the day it is not how much you earn, it’s how you spend it that makes all the difference. Speaking from personal experience, a year ago I was barely making it. Now, I make double what I was earning plus my boyfriend’s income and still we can barely save. I made a commitment to be more frugal before we get ourselves into deep trouble.

  7. mikestreb says:

    What the hell is a shampooer?

    • Amanda says:

      If you go to a really high-end salon, there is a young (girl usually) that just shampoos your hair before you get it cut. They make most of their money on tips. It’s usually what they’ll do while they’re still in school. They all have magic fingers.

  8. des says:

    I’ve had some of those low paying jobs and they require hard work yet I’ve decided that I’m going to invest in myself and get an education instead of bemoaning that I’m earning low wages.

  9. Amanda says:

    What are the lowest paying jobs that STILL require a college degree? since this article was geared towards recent grads…


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