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The Most In-Demand and Highest-Earning Careers in Health Care

by Terri Williams, studioD

Health care is one of the most in-demand and highest-paying industries in the country. However, some of the most in-demand health care careers are not the highest-paying jobs. Conversely, some of the health care jobs with the most lucrative salaries are not necessarily the careers in highest demand. However, there are health care choices that check the boxes for both of these requirements.

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons lead the pack in terms of balancing high salaries with high demand. According to May 2012 salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, anesthesiologists earn $232,830, making them not only the highest-paid physicians but also the highest wage earners in the country. Surgeons followed closely behind with yearly earnings of $230,540. Meanwhile, obstetricians and gynecologists make $216,760 annually. The BLS also projects a 24-percent increase in demand for the services of physicians and surgeons, which is a healthy 10 points faster than the 14-percent growth rate projected for all other U.S. occupations between 2010 and 2020. Physicians and surgeons need a medical degree in their specialty area, and anywhere from 3 to 8 additional years of residencies and internships, depending on the specialty area.


Dentists are the second highest-paid health care workers who are also in very high demand. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons earn $216,440 annually, according to May 2012 BLS salary data. The other highest-paying dental workers are orthodontists, who make $186,320, and prostodontists, who average $168,120 annually. The salary for all other dental specialties is $164,780, while general dentists make $163,240. The job outlook for dentists is 21 percent growth between 2010 and 2020, which is 7 points faster than the national average. Dentists need a doctoral or dental science degree.


Optometrists -- or eye doctors -- earn an annual mean wage of $109,810, reports the BLS. Demand for their services is projected to grow by 33 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is more than double the national average for all other U.S. occupations. The educational requirement for optometrists is a doctor of optometry degree.

Medical and Health Services Managers

Medical and health services managers earn $98,460 annually, according to the BLS. These managers, also known as health care administrators or health care executives, can expect a 22-percent increase in demand for their services between 2010 and 2020, which is 8 points faster than the national average. The educational requirement for medical and health services managers is a bachelor’s degree in health administration, although some students also pursue a graduate degree in long-term care administration, business administration, public health or public administration.


Veterinarians earn an annual mean wage of $93,250. Whether they treat pets, horses, farm animals or work in research or inspect livestock and animal products, the demand for these animal doctors is projected to increase by 36 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is more than double the national average for all other U.S. occupations. Veterinarians need a doctoral degree in veterinary medicine and a state license.

About the Author

Terri Williams began writing professionally in 1997, working with a large nonprofit organization. Her articles have appeared in various online publications including Yahoo, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report University Directory, and the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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