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Number 10

Natural Sciences Manager

Highest salary: $97,560
Training time: 6 years

Natural science managers oversee the work of other scientists, such as agricultural scientists, chemists, biologists, and geologists. Natural science managers are commonly employed in the research and development field and work in pharmaceutical and environmental consulting or municipal organizations. Natural science managers often own their own consulting or testing firms, and can serve as expert witnesses in court hearings.

A bachelor’s degree is absolutely required, and to work your way up the ladder, an MBA or doctorate is strongly encouraged. Fortunately, many employers will pay for educational costs. The best and highest-paid natural science managers have an aptitude for key business functions, such as marketing, sales and finance. This is common, as it often takes a combination of business acumen and specialized knowledge to present and communicate ideas and concepts in a sophisticated sales environment.

Number 9

Marketing Manager

Highest salary: $100,020
Training time: 4 to 6 years

Marketing managers, like CEOs, span all sorts of industries and levels of responsibility. A small accounting firm may have a marketing manager to help coordinate Yellow Page advertisements and chamber appearances, while this marketing manager's Fortune 500 peer is responsible for the complete tactical execution of a multimillion-dollar marketing budget that encompasses a plenitude of marketing media. Marketing managers can be expected to handle items such as public relations, brand development, media buying, collateral and promotions development, and even the financial metrics and analytics.

The responsibility scope is a function of the organization’s size and the outward focus of the company. For instance, a marketing manager at a Fortune 500 company serving the consumer audience will have a far larger task than the marketing manager at a small, niche business-to-business consulting firm. Communication skills, marketing prowess, and basic management skills all come into play. In most cases, marketing managers have a four-year degree, and an MBA will definitely help in higher-level executive marketing positions.

Number 8

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Highest salary: $100,110
Training time: 4 to 8 years

Computer and information systems managers are responsible for the overall strategy and direction of the company’s information technology (IT) and systems plan. Many start out as programmers or data analysts, but as experience and conceptual knowledge is acquired, one can become capable of overseeing the information systems management of an entire enterprise. In today’s technological environment, most companies regard this as a highly valued position and pay accordingly. Elements of the job include overseeing a company’s IT security, information management, information technology deployment, software and application selection, revenue assurance, and compliance.

When the field was relatively new, there were stories of incredibly gifted programmers who rose to top positions without any formal training or education. Today, however, with the wide corporate acceptance of information technology, more of an emphasis is placed on new candidates having a four-year degree in computer science, computer engineering or mathematics, and even advanced degrees.

Number 7

Air Traffic Controller

Highest salary: $100,430
Training time: 9 years

Employed almost exclusively by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), air traffic controllers are responsible for the safe operation of private and commercial aircraft. Responsibilities include coordinating movement of air traffic to keep planes at safe distances from one another and to minimize traffic delays. Typically, a team works together to help planes position for takeoff and landing, taxi to the gate, and to communicate with pilots and warn about weather patterns.

To become an air traffic controller, you must enroll in an FAA-approved program and pass an aptitude test. Exceptions may be made for those with military or aviation experience. A four-year degree and three years of work experience are typically required, and you must apply to take the exam. If you are selected and you pass, you’ll have to attend a 12-week training session before working as a development controller for two to four years, and after that, you’ll be ready to be hired as an air traffic controller.

Number 6


Highest salary: $110,590
Training time:
7 years

The legal system affects nearly every aspect of our society -- and there is no shortage of attorney classifications that you can aspire to. We are all familiar with the personal injury and criminal attorneys, but the scope goes far beyond that. Environmental law, entertainment law, family law, real estate law, intellectual property, and civil law are a handful of the fields that need legal representation. Some attorneys choose to specialize in a particular industry, such as construction, waste management, securities, or insurance, while others will review agreements, represent the court or mediate.

The industry is highly regulated and adheres to a very stringent code of ethics. Lawyers must pass the bar examination offered by the state they wish to practice in. However, in most cases, to be eligible to sit for the bar, you must have a four-year degree and have graduated from an ABA-accredited law school, which takes about three years.

Number 5


Highest salary: $132,660
Training time: 8 years

There are quite a few specialties -- orthodontics, oral surgery and pediatrics to name a few -- within the dental field, although many opt to become general practitioners. Dentists in private practice will commonly oversee business operations, including administration and bookkeeping. All states require dentists to be licensed, so candidates must graduate from one of the 56 dental schools accredited by the ADA. Graduates must also pass both written and practical exams. While most dental schools require only two years of college-level education, most candidates obtain their bachelor’s degree. Dental school for general practitioners takes three to four years, and if you wish to specialize, you can plan on an additional two to five years of training.

Number 4

Airline Pilot

Highest salary: $134,090
Training time: 5 to 10 years

A pilot can not only captain a commercial airliner, but he can also fly helicopters, test aircraft, serve as an aviation director, crop dust, monitor traffic, and pilot cargo planes. While everyone has heard of the grand benefits enjoyed by commercial airline pilots  -- they fly only 100 hours per month due to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations -- it is not easy to obtain that status. Becoming certified as a pilot is not too stringent -- you need to be at least 18 years old  and have at least 250 hours of flight experience to obtain the basic licenses. Commercial airline pilots need to be at least 23, have at least 1,500 hours in the air, and pass an array of FAA tests (written, flight and instrument).

A four-year degree is not necessary; however, the increasingly competitive landscape is making many airlines require a bachelor’s degree. Due to the number of required -- and generally expensive -- flight hours, many airline pilots have earned their experience in the military. There are, however, many private flight training schools. After being hired by an airline, it can take 5 to 15 years to become a captain and reap the rewards in terms of pay, benefits and choice of routes.

Number 3

Engineering Manager

Highest salary: $140,210
Training time: 6 to 7 years

Engineering managers are responsible for plans, coordination, research, design, and production activities. Frequently, engineering managers oversee natural science managers and information systems managers -- two professions that also made this list.

Typically, engineering managers determine specific technical or scientific goals, provide broad outlines, plan the execution and, in some cases, are responsible for the financial viability of a project. For example, engineering managers may be actively involved in the development of a real estate community, or they may work in the manufacturing space to solve technical problems. However, managers who deal with semiconductors and electronic components manufacturing are among the highest paid.

Most engineering managers have bachelor’s degrees, and many will pursue post-graduate degrees, such as an MBA, a Master of Science or a doctorate.

Number 2

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Highest salary: $140,880
Training time: Varies

A CEO is the highest ranking official within a company (and often the highest paid), and they’re responsible for the strategic direction and day-to-day operational performance of the company. The CEO usually answers to the board of directors, which is elected by the shareholders. In smaller companies, however, the CEO is not only the Chairman of the Board, but he can also be the entire board of directors.

There are many paths to becoming a CEO. In large Fortune 500 companies, you are just as likely to see an employee with more than 30 years become the head honcho as you are to see the company hire a seasoned executive manager. It is also possible to form your own company and simply name yourself CEO and build your company until you are actually overseeing many levels of management and development.

In the corporate world, a bachelor’s degree is almost ubiquitous and it is encouraged to obtain an MBA, though it’s not necessary -- we all know that Bill Gates is an inspirational dropout.

Number 1


Highest salary: $181,850
Training time: 10 to 15 years

While many medical professions are high on the pay scale, those who perform surgery are the highest paid -- specifically, surgeons who specialize in the treatment of illness or injury. As such, most surgeons opt to specialize in a specific area, like the heart or the brain.

Even for general surgeons, the very granular knowledge required to effectively perform an operation can only be obtained through additional formal training and many years of hands-on experience. Of course, a four-year degree is required to go down this path, and biology or other sciences are preferred because these provide access to basic knowledge that will be applied in medical school. After college, plan for four years of medical school -- the first two years will be in classrooms, and the last two will involve working with patients under the direction of physician educators. A residency is the next step, and this can last from three to seven years, depending on the candidate’s desire to specialize. A candidate must also pass a licensing examination.

While the profession can be lucrative, it is certainly not easy or cheap: More than 80% of medical-school graduates carry a debt.

earning six digits

To make the most money, your best bet is to go down the medical path, provided you are willing to participate in the many years of required training and education. Also, before getting too green-eyed, realize that one year in school is one year taken away from building your career. Overall, to do well, note the specialization of each of the top 24 highest-paying careers per the U.S. Department of Labor -- finding your niche and becoming the best certainly pays dividends.

The top 24 according to the U.S. Department of Labor:
  1. Surgeon: $181,850
  2. Anesthesiologist: $174,610
  3. OB/GYN: $174,610
  4. Oral and maxillofacial surgeon: $169,600
  5. Internist: $156,790
  6. Prosthodontist: $156,710
  7. Orthodontist: $153,240
  8. Psychiatrist: $151,380
  9. Chief Executive Officer: $140,880
  10. Engineering Manager: $140,210
  11. Pediatrician: $140,000
  12. Family or general practitioner: $137,980
  13. Physician/surgeon, all other: $137,100
  14. Airline Pilot: $134,090
  15. Dentist: $132,660
  16. Podiatrist: $111,130
  17. Lawyer: $110,590
  18. Dentist, any other specialist: $106,040
  19. Air Traffic Controller: $100,430
  20. Computer and Information Systems Manager: $100,110
  21. Marketing Manager: $100,020
  22. Natural Sciences Manager: $97,560
  23. Sales Manager: $96,950
  24. Astronomer: $96,780
Posted 9:30 PM

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