These Are the 10 Highest- and Lowest-Paying Jobs in the U.S.

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Your career has a huge impact on how much money you make.


Key points

  • Chief executives and medical professions make up many of the highest-paying jobs in the United States.
  • The lowest-paying jobs are entry-level positions that don’t require specialized training or education.
  • If you want to earn more, you could start a training program for a high-paying career, become a freelancer, or work a side hustle.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. income was $97,962 in 2021. High-earning outliers bring that number up, as the median income was $69,717. But averages vary heavily depending on the job. Some positions make more than double the average, whereas others earn only a fraction of it.

If you’re making a career change or deciding on a career path for the first time, you may want to go where the money is. To give you ideas of occupations that do and don’t lead to big earnings, here are the highest- and lowest-paying jobs in the United States.

The 10 highest-paying jobs in the United States

Here are the 10 highest-paying jobs in the United States and their average salaries as of 2021:

  1. Chief executives: $213,020
  2. Nurse anesthetists: $202,470
  3. Pediatricians (general): $198,420
  4. Airline pilots/copilots/flight engineers: $198,190
  5. Dentists (specialists): $179,400
  6. Dentists (general): $167,160
  7. Computer and information systems managers: $162,930
  8. Architectural and engineering managers: $158,970
  9. Podiatrists: $158,380
  10. Natural sciences managers: $156,110

Unsurprisingly, chief executives come in at the top of the list. Half of the jobs on the list are in the medical field, but there is still some variety among the highest-earning occupations. Airline pilots and flight engineers earn large salaries, as do managers in several fields.

All these jobs require a college degree and/or specialized training. That’s something that most high-paying jobs have in common, and studies have shown that people with more education earn more. If you want an above-average salary, look for a field you’re interested in studying with quality job opportunities.

The 10 lowest-paying jobs in the United States

Here are the 10 lowest-paying jobs in the United States and their average salaries as of 2021:

  1. Shampooers: $25,160
  2. Fast food cooks: $25,490
  3. Hosts and hostesses (restaurant/lounge/coffee shop): $26,000
  4. Fast food and counter workers: $26,060
  5. Amusement and recreation attendants: $26,110
  6. Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers: $26,390
  7. Cashiers: $26,770
  8. Lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers: $27,320
  9. Dishwashers: $27,350
  10. Childcare workers: $27,860

As you can see, these are entry-level jobs that don’t require much or any specialized training. That’s not to say these jobs are unimportant, or the pay is fair. But because there are so many people who can perform these jobs, employers pay low wages for them.

How to increase your pay

If you’re in a low-paying job that makes it hard to get ahead financially, the best goal you can set for yourself is increasing your pay. Personal finance advice often focuses on saving more, but this only gets you so far. When you aren’t making a livable wage, earning more money is the only real fix.

This is easier said than done, but it’s possible for those who put in the work. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Get the training required for a high-paying job. You could pursue a college degree or complete a certification program. Look for a career you like first, and then see what kind of education you need for it. There are plenty of six-figure jobs you could land with the right training.
  • Become a freelancer. If you have an in-demand skill, you could make money from it by freelancing. In fact, the average freelancer makes $93 per hour.
  • Start a side hustle. If your issue is that you aren’t getting enough hours, there are side hustles that could earn you $10,000 or more.

There are lots of options out there to increase your earnings — and thereby your savings account balance. Take some time to think about your income goals and what you want to do so you can find the option that works best for you.

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