Anyone who wants to make a lot of money had better be prepared for 8 years of college and at least another 6 years in training. That's because nine of the top 10 best-paying jobs in America as of May 2012 are in the medical field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And to become a doctor -- of any specialty -- requires an undergraduate degree, medical degree, internship and residency. But after all that is done and paid for and the doctor has earned his license, he can enter one of these lucrative professions.
The BLS reports that anesthesiologists are the highest-paid professionals, on average, in the country. These doctors, who administer the numbing anesthesia when patients undergo surgery and other medical treatment, earned an average of $232,830 a year.
While the anesthesiologists earn the most money, the doctors who actually perform the operations are right behind them. Surgeons earned the second-highest wages in the BLS survey, making $230,540 a year on average.
Obstetricians and gynecologists, or OB-GYNs, specialize in the treatment of women and their reproductive systems, particularly during pregnancy and childbirth. These doctors earned the third-highest average salaries, according to the BLS, at $216,760 a year.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are doctors who specialize not just in operations, but in operations on the mouth and face. These doctors earned an average of $216,440 a year, according to the BLS -- good for fourth in the rankings and the final profession to average more than $200,000 a year.
The doctors who provide general treatment for internal organs, known as internists, rounded out the top five highest-paying professions in the BLS survey. They earned an average of $191,520.
Orthodontists treat dental issues and create the appliances such as braces that fix these mouth problems. According to the BLS, they were paid $186,320 a year on average, good for sixth in the survey.
The BLS grouped doctors who are subspecialists -- such as cardiologists, who are represent a subset of internists, or specialized surgeons such as plastic surgeons -- together. These doctors ranked seventh in salary, at an average of $184,820 a year.
Doctors who treat the population as a whole, known as family physicians or general practitioners, held down the No. 8 spot in the BLS survey. These doctors, who treat common illnesses and injuries, averaged $180,850 a year in pay.
Psychiatrists treat the mind, not the body, but they are doctors nonetheless, with lengthy training and licensing procedures. They earned an average of $177,520 a year, according to the BLS, the ninth-highest average among occupations.
The final spot in the BLS' top 10 belonged to the only nonmedical profession: the chief executive officer, or CEO. These are the leaders of companies or organizations tasked with operational strategy, and they earned $176,840 a year on average.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Anesthesiologists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Surgeons
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Internists, General
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Orthodontists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgeons, All Other
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Family and General Practitioners
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Psychiatrists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Chief Executives
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