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What are the Highest Paid Professions Worldwide?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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When looking at the highest paid professions worldwide, it should not come as a surprise that the professions that rank the highest are highly skilled professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and scientists. The high pay for these positions reflects years of training and hard work on the part of these individuals, who may go to school for more than 10 years after they graduate high school in order to receive the necessary qualifications.

Most lists of the highest paid professions worldwide use median income as a gauge. A median is the number in the exact middle of a spread. For example, one half of dentists worldwide make less than the stated median income, and one half make more. Medians are believed to be a more accurate reflection of data than a mean or average in this case, due to outliers who may make millions of dollars a year: if a list was compiled using averages, professionals like stockbrokers and chief executive officers would probably rank higher on the list, thanks to rare individuals who make much, much more than the median income for these positions.

The top nine slots of the list of highest paid professions worldwide are medical professions, starting with anesthesiologists, who in 2006 earned a median of $145,600 US Dollars (USD) per year. Further down the list can be found general internists, obstetricians/gynecologists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, orthodontists, prosthodondists, psychiatrists, surgeons, and physicians. The 10th slot goes to chief executives, with a median income of $142,000 USD yearly.

The next 10 are also heavily weighted with medical professionals, and include family and general practitioners ($140,400 USD), airline flight crew such as pilots, copilots, and flight engineers ($138,000 USD), pediatricians and dentists, with medians of between $125,000-136,000 USD yearly, and air traffic controllers ($107,000 USD). Astronomers and chief engineers take the next two slots, with medians hovering around $100,000 USD, and they are closely followed by podiatrists, lawyers, and judges. Professionals who specialize in natural sciences such as physics and petroleum engineering, along with computer scientists, fill out the list of the top 25.

Other lists of the highest paid professions worldwide may vary slightly, because they use different methods of data collection. As can be seen, however, most lists will be heavily weighed with medical professionals, especially those who choose challenging specialties like facial reconstructive surgery and anesthesiology. Individuals interested in these careers should prepare for many years of challenging schooling before they reach the median incomes for these professions.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon342320 — On Jul 19, 2013

What about inventors?

By anon122515 — On Oct 28, 2010

teachers who are MDs who teach medical students get paid highly.

By anon82714 — On May 07, 2010

George Bernard Shaw once famously quoted: "Those who can do, the rest teach"

By anon52774 — On Nov 17, 2009

I think this logic is not correct. Being a teacher is not enough to become doctor or lawyer.

By amypollick — On Sep 21, 2009

Depends on where you are. In most states in the United States, a teacher must have a four-year degree in education, and except for elementary education, must have a double major. In many states, the teacher also must have a masters degree within five years of beginning teaching.

By anon45759 — On Sep 20, 2009

teachers don't make the list because they only need to take a one year course to complete a teaching degree.

By olittlewood — On Jan 07, 2008

now why is it that teachers don't make it onto that list? they are, after all, teaching all those future doctors and lawyers!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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