Plenty of people want to be rich. For those not lucky enough to win the lottery or inherit a fortune, the key to financial security often comes from choosing a high-paying career. Salary may not be the only consideration when deciding how to make a living, but when salary is key, some careers are more appealing than others. The down side is, many of the highest-paying jobs -- but not all -- in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' salary survey require either a rise through the work force or an advanced degree.
The nine highest average annual salaries and 14 of the top 15 in the BLS May 2012 survey belonged to various types of physicians and other health care professionals. Anesthesiologists earned the highest average wage in the survey, at $232,830, and they were joined in the $200,000-plus average club by general and oral surgeons as well as Ob/Gyns. But you don't have to be a medical doctor to earn one of those top salaries; other health care professionals averaging $150,000 or more included psychiatrists, dentists and nurse anesthetists.
Sometimes, the rise to the top of the salary scale mirrors the rise to the top of the organizational chart. The one average salary in the top 15 that didn't belong to a health care practitioner belonged to the "big cheese" of the business world: the chief executive. CEOs earned an average of $176,840, according to the BLS, ranking 10th in the survey. Other management positions that averaged $120,000 a year or more included architectural and engineering managers, natural sciences managers, marketing managers, computer and information systems managers and financial managers.
Speaking of engineering, those who want to make good money in the profession do not always need to work their way up to management. Petroleum engineers, for instance, earned an average of $147,470 according to the BLS. This is more than architecture and engineering managers' $133,240 average, and even more than some doctors. Other engineering fields capable of cracking the $100,000-a-year mark included nuclear, aerospace, computer hardware and chemical specialists. Even college engineering professors averaged more than $100,000 annually.
Law and Air
No list of high-paying jobs would be complete without lawyers, of course. The BLS reported that attorneys averaged $130,880 a year, good for 19th place on the list. Law professors also reached six-figure salaries, earning an average of $115,550. For those not interested in the law, but still interested in $125,000 or more a year, the friendly skies have appeal, as well. Airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers earned an average of $128,760, good for 23rd in the salary survey. For those who like airplanes, but may not like actually going up in the air, air traffic controllers earned an average of $118,430.
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