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The 25 highest-paying jobs in America

24/7 Wall St. logo 24/7 Wall St. 6/1/2017 Evan Comen, Michael B. Sauter, Samuel Stebbins and Thomas C. Frohlich

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Video by USA Today

Wages of middle- and low-income earners increased in 2016 faster than wages of the highest earners. However, this increase does not come close to closing our nation’s income gap.

The nation’s highest paid workers earn several times the wages of the lowest paid worker. The typical U.S. full-time worker earns $832 weekly. Hundreds of thousands of Americans work as dishwashers and counter attendants, earning a median of less than $400 weekly. Meanwhile, the highest paid jobs -- frequently scientists, engineers, physicians, and long-tenured executives -- typically earn over $1,500 weekly, and in a few cases over $2,000 each week.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the latest job market data from the U.S. Department of Labor to determine America’s 25 highest paying jobs.

A large part of U.S. labor policy focuses on the creation of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics -- or STEM -- jobs. These are highly-specialized positions that can lead to innovation in a given field and help strengthen the American job market by creating additional employment opportunities. STEM jobs also tend to pay much better than most positions, which also creates a stronger economy, and puts more money in Americans' pockets.

Most of the highest paid workers are in STEM positions. Only six of the 25 professions with the highest weekly wages are not in STEM fields. Of the 21 high-paying STEM occupations, five are medical professions and nine are engineering roles.

One reason STEM workers and those in other occupations on this list are paid so well is the level of education they require. Jobs that require a four-year bachelor’s degree, a master’s, or a PhD are more likely to compensate workers better as an incentive to incur tens of thousands of dollars in debt. While just 36.4% of full-time U.S. workers have at least a bachelor’s degree, the share is at least 67% in each of these 25 professions, and in some cases, virtually every worker in the field has at least a bachelor’s degree.

Another factor driving up salaries in these occupations is experience. As workers advance through the ranks and gain more responsibility, they are likely to receive raises. The most representative example of this is the chief executive, the highest position a person can reach in a company -- and the highest paying job.

The country’s highest paid professions highlight another problem common throughout the labor force -- the gender pay gap. The typical female full-time worker earns about 82 cents for every dollar her male counterpart earns. In addition to being paid less for the same work, a major reason for this is the low representation of females in high-paying jobs. Men comprise the majority of workers in all but five of the 25 highest paid positions. In 14, at least 70% of the workforce is male. Just 27.7% of chief executives are women, while only 6.3% of architectural and engineering managers, the second highest paying profession, are women.

To identify the highest paying jobs in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2016 annual average median weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary workers by detailed occupation from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of workers employed in each occupation was also obtained from the BLS. The estimated yearly earnings for each occupation was calculated from the median weekly earnings figures.

Click through to see the 25 highest paying jobs in the U.S.

25. Training and development managers

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,507
> Number of workers: 58,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 7.0% (as-fast-as-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 67.0%

Employees who are able to effectively oversee the training, management, and skill development of a staff can be invaluable, and people in these positions tend to be well compensated as a result. Training and development managers usually have at least a bachelor’s degree, but sometimes a master’s degree as well. They also typically must have at least five years experience on the job.

24. Financial analysts

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,525
> Number of workers: 277,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 11.7% (faster-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 88.6%

Like many occupations in the financial services industry, financial analysts are highly paid and often well educated. The typical financial analyst earns $1,525 a week, and 88.6% of such workers have at least a bachelor’s degree. In comparison, the national median weekly wage is $832, and 36.4% of full-time U.S. workers have at least a college education. The number of financial analysts is projected to grow by 11.7% by 2024, close to double the national average pace. According to the labor department, the strong growth projection is due in part to the growing range of financial products and the need for expertise in emerging markets

23. Industrial engineers, including health and safety

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,526
> Number of workers: 215,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 1.4% (slower-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 70.4%

Industrial engineers work in a variety of industries, including health care, manufacturing, and business administration, to help improve work processes. They are tasked with developing quality control systems, production lines, and supply chains. Some of the many roles of industrial engineers are less technically complex. As a result, a smaller share of workers in this occupation have a master’s or professional degree than any other type of engineer. Because they lack specialization they tend to get paid less than some other engineering jobs. Still, the typical industrial engineer earns $1,526 a week, which comes to nearly $80,000 a year.

22. Public relations and fundraising managers

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,532
> Number of workers: 60,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 7.1% (as-fast-as-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 85.3%

Public image and perception can be essential to the success of groups, and businesses.In an era where news and information can spread rapidly and public opinion can change in an instant, a corporation’s reputation often requires careful management. Partially as a result, managerial positions in public relations agencies are some of the highest paid positions in the United States. The typical PR and fundraising manager earns nearly $80,000 a year, compared to the median annual salary of $43,264 across all full-time workers.

21. Physician assistants

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,544
> Number of workers: 75,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 30.4% (faster-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 91.6%

Like the majority of high-paying jobs, most physician assistant positions require substantial education background. Nearly three in four physician assistants in the United States have a master’s degree, and all are licensed by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants upon passing a certifying exam. At 1,544 a week, the typical full-time physician assistant earns an estimated $80,288 annually, nearly twice the $43,264 national figure.

20. Environmental scientists and geoscientists

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,555
> Number of workers: 79,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 10.5% (faster-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 100.0%

Geoscientists and environmental scientists both interact with and study nature. Geoscientists study the conditions that shaped the Earth, and are often engaged in academia or the discovery of natural resources. Environmental scientists tend to study the relationship between mankind and nature, and often work to discover ways to protect the environment from human influence, and to protect humans from harmful pollutants. According to the Department of Labor, 100% of these workers have at least a bachelor’s degree, and nearly half have a master’s degree.

19. Judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers

© Thinkstock

> Median weekly earnings: $1,560
> Number of workers: 56,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 0.7% (slower-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 98.3%

Judges and magistrates are one of only 21 occupations with estimated annual earnings exceeding $80,000. Like many high-paying jobs, judicial positions are not easily earned. In addition to a four-year bachelor’s degree and a three-year law degree, judges typically must often work for years as a lawyer before securing a judgeship.

Judges often serve lengthy terms, and must be appointed or elected to their positions. Due to the high barrier to entry and low turnover, the number of judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers is projected to increase by only 0.7% by 2024, compared to the 6.5% growth across all occupations.

18. Mechanical engineers

© Thinkstock

> Median weekly earnings: $1,560
> Number of workers: 335,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 5.3% (as-fast-as-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 75.9%

With median weekly earnings of $1,560, the typical mechanical engineer is paid $81,120 a year -- nearly double the $43,264 national figure. While most mechanical engineering positions require a bachelor’s degree, educational attainment among full-time workers in the profession is not as high as in other high-paying positions. Just 24.3% of mechanical engineers have either a master’s or doctoral degree, nearly the smallest share of any occupation where median earnings are at least $80,000 a year.

17. Engineers, all other

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,573
> Number of workers: 493,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 4.0% (slower-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 82.8%

Occupations given “all other” titles by the BLS refer to jobs with a wide range of characteristics that cannot be easily classified. The engineers, all other classification includes engineers employed in biochemistry, energy, robotics, and a number of other subcategories. The federal government is the largest employer of these types of engineers in this category. Like other engineering occupations, these jobs are also very well paid. Many high-paying jobs are also expected to grow considerably over the next decade. This is not the case for this group of highly-specialized engineers, as employment in the engineers, all other classification is projected to grow by 4.0% by 2024, compared to the national projected growth rate of 6.5%.

16. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,582
> Number of workers: 119,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 4.5% (slower-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 74.9%

The aircraft pilot and flight engineer category includes commercial pilots as well as those who fly rescue operations, firefighting missions, and crop dusters. While the occupation’s median salary is high, commercial pilots with little experience tend to have smaller salaries. According to the Air Line Pilots Association, most airline pilots start their careers with an annual salary of only $20,000.

Like many occupations on this list, aircraft pilots and flight engineers are disproportionately male. Of the roughly 119,000 pilots and engineers in the United States, 94.1% are male.

15. Information security analysts

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,617
> Number of workers: 85,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 17.9% (faster-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 68.7%

Information security analysts are both highly paid and in high demand. The typical worker in the field earns an estimated $84,000 a year, and employment in the industry is projected to grow by 17.9% through 2024. In comparison, the median annual salary and employment growth across all jobs is $43,264 and 6.5% respectively.

Demand for information security analysts, in both the public and private sector, is driven largely by the vulnerability of information in our increasingly digital world. According to figures compiled and tracked by the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center, there have been over 7,000 data breaches in the United States since 2005, exposing some 889 million records of potentially sensitive information.

14. Electrical and electronics engineers

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,729
> Number of workers: 271,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 0.0%
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 78.9%

Many of the nation’s highest-paying occupations are in various fields of engineering. Engineering jobs almost always require a substantial background in science and mathematics. Among electrical and electronics engineers, 78.9% have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with the average across all occupations of 36.4%. Employment in this particular engineering occupation is not expected to grow in the coming years. Electrical engineers are highly concentrated in manufacturing, a sector that will likely continue to decline in the United States.

13. Database administrators

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,731
> Number of workers: 83,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 11.1% (faster-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 72.1%

As ever-greater amounts of information are stored in digital formats, the demand for data -- its collection, storage, organization, and analysis -- has grown rapidly and consistently in recent years. Strong demand for database administrators may be contributing to the typically high salaries earned by these professionals. The typical worker in this occupation earns $1,731 each week, which amounts to over $90,000 annually.

12. Computer and information systems managers

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,738
> Number of workers: 592,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 15.4% (faster-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 72.7%

With an estimated median annual salary of $90,376, computer and information systems management is one of the highest paying professions in the country. Commonly referred to as IT managers, their role is to interpret the technological goals of their organizations and implement the necessary computer hardware and software needed to meet those goals. Employment in the field is projected to increase by 15.4% through 2024, more than double the job growth across all fields. According to the labor department, the fast growth of this occupation will be partly attributable to the increasing importance of digital platforms for businesses and organizations.

11. Nurse practitioners

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,750
> Number of workers: 144,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 35.2% (faster-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 100.0%

Nurse practitioners both diagnose patients and decide how to treat them. While in some states nurse practitioners are required to work with physicians, in other parts of the country they have more responsibilities. Nurse practitioners often make the most money in government and hospital positions and the least in residential care facilities. The typical full-time nurse practitioner earns $91,000 a year, far more than the $60,008 median earnings for registered nurses as well as the $43,264 median for the typical full-time worker.

10. Software developers, applications and systems software

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,776
> Number of workers: 1,351,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 16.7% (faster-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 83.8%

Software development is one of the fastest growing fields in the U.S. economy. Computer science graduates have the capacity to design mobile phone applications with little more than a bachelor’s degree and small capital investment. Further, as computer hardware becomes more affordable, more manufacturers are incorporating software into their products. The number of software developers is projected to grow by 16.7% between 2014 and 2024, far more than the 6.5% average growth rate for all occupations. The typical full-time software developer earns $1,776 a week, which amounts to $92,352, roughly $50,000 more than the typical full-time U.S. worker.

9. Computer hardware engineers

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,843
> Number of workers: 58,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 3.1% (slower-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 77.2%

With an estimated annual salary of over $95,000, computer hardware engineers are one of several high-paying technology occupations. The job primarily consists of designing and testing computer hardware components such as routers, processors, and circuit boards. Unlike other tech professions on this list, jobs in computer hardware engineering are not projected to grow especially fast over the next decade or so. More technological innovation happens in computer software than in hardware, and as a result, hardware engineering jobs are projected to grow by only 3.1%, less than half the 6.5% job growth across all occupations and far less than the 16.7% projected growth for software developers.

8. Dentists

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,850
> Number of workers: 61,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 17.6% (faster-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 100.0%

On an annual basis, the typical dentist earns about $96,200, or some $53,000 more than the typical full-time U.S. worker. Like many high-paying professions, dentistry requires substantial education and rigorous training. While licensure requirements vary by state, most dentists must have a professional degree from an accredited dental school. The admission process is often highly competitive, and in 2010 just 41% of applicants to U.S. dental schools were accepted. Acceptance rates my rise in coming years, however, as the aging baby boom generation will require increasing medical care, including dental services. The number of dentists is projected to grow by 18% between 2014 and 2024, faster than most jobs.

7. Aerospace engineers

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,854
> Number of workers: 124,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: -2.3% (slower-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 86.0%

Aerospace engineers primarily design and test prototypes for aircraft, missiles, and satellites. The typical worker in the occupation has a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or another engineering field. Because workers in the field can be either government employees or work for government contractors, security clearance is sometimes a requirement.

The 2.3% projected employment decline in the industry is tied to the overall decline in manufacturing. Ongoing research and development in aircraft fuel efficiency and increased demand from defense contractors will somewhat offset decreasing demand in the field.

6. Chemical engineers

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,877
> Number of workers: 91,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 1.8% (slower-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 90.4%

Chemical engineering is one of the many engineering occupations that tend to offer high salaries. Higher-paid roles tend to have higher educational requirements. Over 90% of chemical engineers have at least a bachelor’s degree, and nearly one third have a master’s degree. As is the case with many high-paying roles, women are grossly underrepresented -- only one in every five chemical engineers are female

5. Lawyers

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,897
> Number of workers: 745,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 5.6% (as-fast-as-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 98.3%

Attorneys are one of only 13 professions in the United States with a median estimated annual salary of over $90,000. High pay among lawyers comes at a cost, however. According the Department of Labor, it is relatively common for lawyers to work more than 40 hours a week. Additionally, like many high-paying occupations, jobs in the legal profession require substantial education and accreditation. In addition to a four-year bachelor’s degree, lawyers then must earn a juris doctor degree, which typically takes three years. They also must pass the bar exam, which is considered one of the most difficult licensing tests.

4. Physicians and surgeons

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,916
> Number of workers: 806,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 14.0% (faster-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 99.8%

The demand for physicians and surgeons is expected to grow at more than double the national average job growth rate by 2024. The aging U.S. baby boom generation will account for much of the growth. At the same time, the employment landscape for physicians and other health-related jobs can change with new health insurance legislation as well as the development of new medical technology.

As is nearly always the case, the long years of schooling required to become a physician or surgeon helps explain the high wages.

3. Pharmacists

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $1,924
> Number of workers: 222,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 3.1% (slower-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 97.7%

Pharmacists are one of a number of medical professionals counted among the highest-paid U.S. workers. Health-related jobs frequently require years of training, licensing, and experience -- investments that demand greater compensation. Nearly all pharmacists have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 36.4% of full-time workers nationwide. The typical pharmacist earns nearly $2,000 a week, trailing wages of just two other U.S. jobs. Unlike many other forms of health sector employment, which are projected to grow considerably in coming years due in part to the growing U.S. elderly population, the number of pharmacists is expected to grow by just 3%, slower than average. More than 12% of pharmacists work in health and personal care stores, a share which may decline as online and mail-order pharmacies lessen the need for traditional retail locations.

2. Architectural and engineering managers

© Provided by 24/7 Wall St. > Median weekly earnings: $2,258
> Number of workers: 143,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: 2.0% (slower-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 84.4%

Architectural and engineering managers oversee the development of new products and places, and are often in charge of projects with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars. With such responsibility, the typical engineering manager is paid $117,416 annually, the second most of any full-time occupation. Engineering managers tend to earn the most in Texas, where they oversee large, lucrative oil and natural gas extraction projects. While a growing population will increase demand for architectural managers in civil engineering services, job growth in the field is projected to be far slower, largely because of the declining demand for engineering managers employed in the nation’s shrinking manufacturing industry.

1. Chief executives

© Thinkstock > Median weekly earnings: $2,303
> Number of workers: 1,150,000
> Projected job growth, 2014-24: -1.2% (slower-than-average growth)
> Workers with at least a bachelor’s degree: 68.6%

Chief executives, who typically occupy the top position at their companies, are the highest paid full-time workers in the United States, with a median weekly salary of $2,303. Many chief executives benefit from additional forms of compensation such as stock options and performance bonuses. Like most of the country’s highest paid workers, more than two-thirds of chief executives have at least a bachelor’s degree, well above the national average college attainment rate. However, the skills needed to manage a company are often not attained before accumulating years of experience in the company and related industry.

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