If you're looking for the biggest financial gain from the work you do, consider a high-paying specialized job. For most of these positions, you'll have to pay your dues. The highest paying positions require a degree, and many require an advanced degree. However, high school or vocational school graduates with advanced training can earn sizable salaries, too.
The highest paying medical specialists are anesthesiologists, obstetrician/gynecologists and psychiatrists. Anesthesiologists earned a median salary of $292,000 in 2009, but, according to CNN Money, theirs are among the most stressful jobs in medicine and they must train for 12 years before they practice. Obstetrician/gynecologists, who care for women and infants before, during and after pregnancy, earned a median salary of $222,000. CNN Money attributes their high salaries to demand for these specialists and to the exorbitant cost of their malpractice insurance. Psychiatrists, who earned $177,000 in 2009, are medical doctors who specialize in mental health. Despite the high pay, psychiatrists have low overhead and relatively low malpractice insurance premiums.
Sales directors run the departments tasked with getting products or services to customers. They define and assign sales territories, create training programs, oversee sales managers and analyze statistics to identify trends in sales, inventory and customer preferences. CNN Money estimates the median salary of a sales director to be $140,000.
An actuary assesses the risk of events that could affect a business, like death, injury or disability, and advises the company about how to minimize it. The U.S. Department of Labor notes that actuaries are vital to the insurance industry, where most are employed. They use their analyses to help design insurance policies, pension plans and other benefit programs. According to CNN Money, actuaries earned a median salary of $129,000 in 2009.
Attorneys earned about $129,000 in 2009, according to CNBC. They have two primary roles: to represent parties in court by gathering and presenting evidence on their behalf, and to advise clients about the law and their rights under the law. Attorneys who work for individuals can specialize in any one of a wide variety of areas, ranging from bankruptcy to family law to criminal defense. Corporate attorneys help businesses operate within the law and protect their intellectual property.
Elevator mechanics have among the highest paying jobs that don't require a college education, according to Wallet Pop, which surveyed salary information from such sources as the U.S. Department of Labor. Elevator mechanics, who earned a median hourly salary of $33.35 in 2008, use their knowledge of electronics, hydraulics and electricity to install and repair elevators, escalators and similar equipment. Installation begins with a set of blueprints the mechanic uses to evaluate what equipment will need to be installed. Once the installation job is done, the mechanic's responsibility turns to maintenance.