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Best – And Worst – Paying Jobs in the United States

Posted By Miranda Marquit On 05/31/2012 @ 12:15 pm In Career | 12 Comments

As 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 [3], 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 [4]), 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 [5]. 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 [6])


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[3] whether or not your degree is worth the money: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/graduate-degree-worth-money.html

[4] Forbes on Yahoo! Finance: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/the-best--and-worst-paying-jobs-in-america.html

[5] college degree could be worth it: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/college-degree-worth.html

[6] digitalkatie: http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalkatie/30573097/

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