The medical profession continues to dominate the lists of the best-paying jobs in America. In these uncertain economic times, many people faced with unemployment or underemployment are turning to the medical professions for job security. With the diversity of job classifications within the medical field, it helps to know which jobs offer the most pay, and what level of education is needed to perform those jobs.
According to Forbes magazine and CNN, surgeons dominate the top-paying medical professions, with neurosurgeons earning the highest salaries at approximately $200,000. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons run a close second, as well as orthodontists, at $185,000. To become a surgeon, a doctor must first obtain a bachelor's degree (a 4-year program), complete another 4 years of medical school, then work in a hospital. Hopefully, he will work in the operating room, where he will get the experience he needs (roughly 3 to 8 years of it).
Anesthesiologists' average salaries are roughly equal to those of surgeons, and the educational requirements are similar. After graduating from medical school, an anesthesiologist can expect to work in an anesthesiology residency program for another 4 years.
Other top earners are internists, psychiatrists, podiatrists, obstetricians and gynecologists (although the price of their malpractice insurance can severely hamper their earnings in this specialty) and pediatricians and dentists. All of these specialties earn over $150,000 a year on average. The basic educational requirements are the same for all doctors, with the psychiatrists and dentists attending medical school alongside the internists and family practitioners. The difference is the length of their specialty education.
Pharmacists also belong in the "more than six figures category. The top-earning pharmacists are the team leaders in retail settings. Pharmacists can expect to attend school anywhere from 6 to 8 years, depending on the program they choose.
Nurses' salaries are as varied as doctors', and depend on their specialty. A certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA) commands a salary of over $100,000 per year. The field is highly competitive, and admission to a CRNA program requires at least a 3-year commitment after an undergraduate degree is obtained. Other advanced nurse practitioners who also earn high salaries include nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists. Through obtaining a master's degree, a nurse can usually tack on another $20,000 per year to her base salary. The average advanced-practice nurse earns approximately $75,000 per year. A registered nurse working a floor in a hospital in a suburban area can expect to earn roughly $50,000+ per year. Educational requirements vary, depending on the area. Many registered nurses obtain a diploma--some an associate's degree and many a bachelor's degree.
Therapists and Technicians
Nuclear medicine technologists, who administer and use radioactive dyes to determine the viability of organs, can expect a beginning salary of approximately $57,000. Ultrasonogaphers, who use imaging equipment primarily in pregnancy and disease processes, earn approximately the same. Of the four major medical-therapy professions--speech therapist, physical therapist, occupational therapist and respiratory therapist--the respiratory therapist can expect to receive the highest salary (approximately $74,000). The educational requirements are roughly the same, with each job requiring, at the a minimum, a 2-year associate's degree.
Given that everyone will at one time or another need medical advice, counseling or attention, there is great job security in the health-care industry. It is one of the few fields that continues to grow--both in terms of the sheer numbers of people needed to keep it running smoothly and the constant influx of new technology and new ways of managing disease that are discovered through continuing research. People are living longer and entering their doctors' offices or the hospital with more complicated medical histories, thereby requiring more health-care professionals to manage their challenges. That's job security, to be sure.