100 highest-paying jobs in America
The COVID-19 pandemic radically altered the U.S. economy, with unemployment peaking at 14.7% in April 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While jobs have been gained every month since, lowering the unemployment rate to 8.4% in August 2020, millions of out-of-work Americans are still searching for jobs.
Before COVID-19 gutted the economy, the United States' economic landscape was rapidly changing, with health care, computer systems design, and scientific industries leading a push for more employment. On the flip side, industries like wired telecommunications, postal service, and textile production are showing a rapid decline. With the development of newer and more advanced technologies every day, the job landscape is shifting and so are the pay demands and prerequisite skills. There is a strong correlation between advanced education and a higher salary—workers with higher education levels have higher wages and lower unemployment rates. Of course, it should be noted that obstacles remain for universal access to quality higher education.
Using 2019 data (last updated March 31, 2020) from the BLS, Stacker ranked the 100 highest-paying jobs in America. These jobs are ranked according to mean annual wage, with the mean hourly wage used as a tiebreaker. The BLS notes that hourly wages are not included for some positions since some occupations rarely work year-round or full time, or they have a mean hourly wage of over $100. Additionally, any jobs that listed "all other" in the occupation name were excluded from the list, as these are groupings of jobs, and the data may not accurately reflect every job in that grouping.
Engineers in a variety of fields make several appearances on the list, as do educators, particularly those working in postsecondary settings. As expected, different medical professionals post a strong showing, along with managers. There are surprises, though; for example, would you have guessed that an art director earns, on average, more than a financial analyst?
Stacker breaks down the 100 highest-paying jobs in America and explains what each job entails, what prerequisite skills are required to perform the job, and how one can get a start in each. Click through to find out which professions offer the best-paying positions.
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#100. Mechanical engineers
- Mean annual wage: $93,540
- Mean hourly wage: $44.97
- Employment: 306,990 (2.09 per 1,000 jobs)
The field of mechanical engineering is quite broad. People who work in the profession can specialize in many projects, from creating medical devices to designing elevators (even something akin to those nifty paternosters in Germany). Bachelor degree programs heavy in mathematics and science serve as a base for many future mechanical engineers.
#99. Producers and directors
- Mean annual wage: $93,940
- Mean hourly wage: $45.16
- Employment: 129,210 (0.88 per 1,000 jobs)
Showbiz is ever-evolving, especially with the surge of streaming services and podcasts. Expanded offerings increased the number of producers and directors, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noting an increase of more than 10,000 producers and directors from 2018 to 2019. Producers and directors operate across the media, in film, television, stage, and radio. There are many paths to becoming a producer or director, with many starting off in lesser jobs in the entertainment industry.
#98. Environmental engineers
- Mean annual wage: $94,220
- Mean hourly wage: $45.30
- Employment: 53,150 (0.36 per 1,000 jobs)
Environmental engineers are vital in creating projects that protect the environment, such as pollution control systems. These engineers' work isn't complete the moment a project plan is finalized, though. Environmental engineers must also obtain permits for work, perform quality-control checks, and monitor progress, along with other duties. Entry-level jobs in this field require a bachelor's degree, with preference given to graduates of schools with an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) program.
#97. Civil engineers
- Mean annual wage: $94,360
- Mean hourly wage: $45.36
- Employment: 310,850 (2.12 per 1,000 jobs)
Construction of roads, airports, bridges, and many other important infrastructural elements of daily travel are in place thanks to civil engineers. Tasks for civil engineers also include applying for permits and testing soil to ensure that all the aforementioned structures last and are safely maintained. Earning a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from an ABET institution is a common starting point for many in this field.
#96. Health and safety engineers, except mining safety engineers and inspectors
- Mean annual wage: $94,810
- Mean hourly wage: $45.58
- Employment: 25,860 (0.18 per 1,000 jobs)
Individuals working in the health and safety engineering space can be found specializing in industrial safety and health, fire prevention and safety, and product safety. Texas, California, and New York are the states with the highest employment for health and safety engineers, not including mining safety engineers and inspectors. Alaska, New Mexico, and Delaware are also good locales to begin a career in this field, as they have the highest concentrations of jobs.
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#95. First-line supervisors of police and detectives
- Mean annual wage: $94,950
- Mean hourly wage: $45.65
- Employment: 121,340 (0.83 per 1,000 jobs)
People in this line of work are tasked with training staff in proper police procedures, supervising and coordinating criminal investigations, and resolving internal organizational problems. A majority of first-line supervisors work in local government, but the best-paying gigs are in the federal executive branch.
#94. Anthropology and archeology teachers, postsecondary
- Mean annual wage: $95,140
- Mean hourly wage: data not available
- Employment: 5,850 (0.04 per 1,000 jobs)
Professors teaching anthropology (the science of human culture) and archeology (the scientific study of material remains of past human life) are among the highest-paid scholars in the country. These educators make the most money in jobs at colleges in the northeast or along the Pacific Coast. Graduate degrees are almost always a prerequisite for postsecondary teaching positions in this space.
#93. Funeral home managers
- Mean annual wage: $95,220
- Mean hourly wage: $45.78
- Employment: 9,400 (0.06 per 1,000 jobs)
Funeral homes are a $16.8 billion business, according to Statista, with a steady demand as most deceased Americans will have a funeral. While morticians and undertakers prepare the body, funeral home managers oversee the funeral home facilities and logistics, figure out the prices for services, and work with the families of the deceased to prepare the funeral. An associate's degree in funeral or mortuary science is the typical education needed to be a funeral home manager.
#92. Management analysts
- Mean annual wage: $95,560
- Mean hourly wage: $45.94
- Employment: 709,750 (4.83 per 1,000 jobs)
Management analysts are all about maximizing companies' efficiency and increasing profits. This can be achieved by collecting and analyzing company data, then making recommendations for improvement. Most entry-level candidates have at least a bachelor's degree, but it is not uncommon for workers in the field to hold a master's in business administration (MBA).
- Mean annual wage: $95,680
- Mean hourly wage: $46.00
- Employment: 39,090 (0.27 per 1,000 jobs)
Statisticians use mathematical or statistical theory to break down numbers into useful, helpful information. While various fields employ statisticians, many work in science, medical, and pharmaceutical fields, and the federal government employs several thousand statisticians. A master's degree is usually required, though some statistician jobs require only a bachelor's.
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