For Americans looking for high-paying jobs, one field offers the best chances for lucrative remuneration: health care.
While other industries have been hit by wage stagnation, health care continues to offer jobs with steadily growing pay and big salaries, according to a new study from CareerCast. Of course, not every health care job provides a big paycheck. Some home health care aides, for instance, have joined the Fight for $15 movement to protest their low wages.
Still, five of the nine best-paying jobs in America are in the health care industry, although they all require years of post-graduate study and a significant investment of time and money. Indeed, some of these professionals can accrue as much as $500,000 in student debt before they're able to start earning high salaries.
The other four best-paying jobs of 2015 aren't quite as intensive when it comes to training and investment in education. Some of them may require an MBA, but at least two offer high-paying salaries to those with undergraduate degrees in their fields.
Read on to learn about these nine top-paying jobs.
9. Air traffic controller: $122,340
Although working as an air traffic controller brings a nice paycheck, it also includes a large dose of stress. Because they control the flow of aircraft in and out of an airport and through innumerable miles of flight routes, air traffic controllers are responsible for the safety of millions of people. The job requires a high degree of concentration.
8. Data scientist: $124,150
This fledging field is offering big rewards to people with the right talents and training. While graduate work isn't required to get a job as a data scientist, it helps to have a bachelor's degree in a related field. Data science programs are offered at universities including Columbia University and New York University.
7. Orthodontist: $129,110
Becoming an orthodontist requires graduating from dental school, followed by earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery or a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree. After that, students pursue a post-doctoral orthodontics program. All that training can take 10 years.
6. Petroleum engineer: $130,050
Getting a job as a petroleum engineer doesn't require post-graduate work, although applicants will need a bachelor's degree in a related field. Because of the industry's interest in new ways of extracting petroleum and refining, the job is expected to have strong growth over the next few years.
5. Dentist: $146,340
While dentists earn high salaries, that comes with a downside: dealing with stress from sometimes fearful patients.
Getting into dental school can be competitive, so it helps to have a high GPA. Good fine-motor skills are also a plus, according to the University of Florida's College of Dentistry.
4. Corporate executive (senior level): $173,320
An MBA can help corporate executives reach senior ranks, ensuring higher pay and perks. Still, it's not always necessary, according to CareerCast, which points to Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg as an example. Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard as an undergrad to start the social-media giant.
High pay for corporate execs has sparked discussion of income inequality. Policymakers and economists question why compensation for CEOs and other top executives is surging while wages for the rank-and-file are stagnating or even falling.
The CEO-to-worker pay ratio stood at 331:1 in 2013, compared with 46:1 in 1983, according to the AFL-CIO.
3. Physician, general practice: $180,180
Like surgeons and psychiatrists, general-practice physicians are slated to see higher-than-average projected growth over the next seven years.
That's partly because baby boomer physicians are starting to retire from their medical practices, but the aging population means demand for medical professionals is only increasing. By 2015, the demand for general physicians will exceed supply by as many as 31,100 doctors, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Some medical students are opting to enroll in training for medical specialties such as dermatology and sports medicine because they tend to pay more than general practice.
2. Psychiatrist: $181,880
Psychiatrists, like surgeons, require years of training. After graduating from medical school, students enroll in a four-year residency program. Following that, they need to pass a state's board exam to become licensed to practice.
Aside from the high pay, psychiatrists report emotional rewards from the job, according to a Medscape report. About two-thirds of psychiatrists said the best part of their jobs were either their relationship with patients or finding answers to their patients' problems.
1. Surgeon: $352,220
Surgeons are the top earners in CareerCast's analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the annual median wage of $352,220 is far above the U.S. median household income of $52,250, surgeons often take on a huge amount of debt.
The median debt level for medical school graduates is $170,000, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Some specialists can make far more than the median wage, however. Neurological surgeons take home about $520,000 annually in their first year after their residency, according to the AAMC.