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If you are currently practicing medicine, architectural design, petroleum engineering, marketing, or law you are among the lucky in the best-paying career fields in the US. If, however, you are in school now then you should consider occupations such as wind turbine service technician and occupational or physical therapy assistant, fields which sources expect will be fast growing during the next 10 years. If you want both, a high-salary and fast-growing career, move into or study anesthesiology.

These insights are provided by the Occupation Employment Statistics program (OES) of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Glassdoor, a jobs and recruiting website. 

  • US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The OES produces employment and wage estimates for hundreds of occupations across the US on the basis of a semiannual mail survey of about 1.2 million non-farm establishments from state unemployment insurance files. The latest available estimates are from May 2015 and are based on six panels of data collected over a 3-year period from November 2012 to May 2015.
  • Glassdoor. More recent data on the highest paying jobs in America is provided by the Glassdoor. According to its 2016 report, physicians, lawyers, and R&D managers take home the fattest paychecks, ringing in at $180,000, $144,500 and $142,120, respectively. These figures are based on anonymous salary reports from people in these fields. At least 75 reports must be submitted to Glassdoor by job title during the prior year to be included in the ranking.

In spite of differences in methodology, BLS and Glassdoor reports show that high-paying jobs are those that are protected from competition and automation and require higher education along with in-demand skills. Workers with only a high school diploma or equivalent, no job experience, and lower-demand skill sets will remain in lower paying and, in some cases, shrinking career fields. 

  • Jobs with the high tech sector (software publishing, computer equipment manufacturing) and the financial sector (securities and commodity exchanges) are among the highest paying
  • Some health care occupations remain among the top-earning specialties in the United States—with an annual median wage in May 2015 of more than $185,000—for similar reasons, notably eight years of education following by 3 to 7 years in professional internships and residency programs. The BLS data also indicates that employment of physicians and surgeons will increase by 14 percent through 2024, which is twice as fast as the average for all occupations.
  • Workers with a high school diploma or equivalent and who lack work experience would be best paid as nuclear power reactor operators, at a median annual wage of $88,560. Employment in the field, however, is expected to decrease by 6 percent between 2014 and 2024, making the long-term on-the-job training, licensure, and drug and alcohol screening licensing processes to gain competency in the field somewhat less tolerable.

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