Highest and Lowest Paying Jobs in America

lowest paying jobUntil recently, America's best and brightest flocked to finance, because those Wall Street-type jobs were a fast-track to big bucks and luxurious lifestyles. But those days are gone. According to a feature on Forbes.com, doctors now have America's highest salaries. As a matter of fact, nine of the 10 Best-Paying Jobs in the United States involved doctors of some sort, while chief executives were the only non-medical professionals on that lucrative list.

Not surprisingly, employees in the food service industry are at the other end of the spectrum with the worst-paying jobs. At the bottom of the list are fast food cooks, dishwashers, shampooers, and dining room and cafeteria attendants. Their salaries are even lower when you consider most of those jobs don't include benefits like health insurance.

At the top of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates list is the surgeon, who averages $219,770 per year. The anesthesiologist is next on the list, averaging just a little lower, at $211,750. You won't find anyone other than a doctor until you get to No. 9, when the chief executive slips in, with an average annual salary of $167,280. Surprisingly enough, CEOs make more in Delaware than in any other state. Psychiatrists come in at No. 10.

By contrast, the employee who makes the least is the food preparation and serving worker, who earns an average of $18,120 per year. Next lowest is the fast food cook, who makes about $18,230 per year. Even a dishwasher makes more -- that's third from the bottom. You have to go to the fourth lowest before you get out of the food industry -- that would be the shampooer at the hairstylist, who makes about $18,890 per year, not counting tips. Nos. 5, 6 and 8 are also in the food industry.

Top five best-paying jobs in the U.S.

  1. Surgeon: $219,770

  2. Anesthesiologist: $211,750

  3. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: $210,710

  4. Orthodontist: $206,190

  5. Obstetrician and Gynecologist: $204,470

Top five worst-paying jobs in the U.S.

  1. Combined Food Preparation and Serving Worker, Including Fast Food: $18,120

  2. Cook, Fast Food: $18,230

  3. Dishwasher: $18,330

  4. Shampooer: $18,890

  5. Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendant and Bartender: $18,900

To see the rest, go to America's Best and Worst Paying Jobs.

Granted there's a massive disparity between the highest and lowest. But one of the reasons doctors make so much is that they need to offset the tremendous amount of money it takes to become one and to practice. The average doctor graduates with about $150,000 in student debt, and as soon as they go into practice, many will pay a six-figure fee per year for medical malpractice insurance.

But what about the massively overpaid corporate executives whose pay includes multi-million dollar bonuses? Guys like Occidental Petroleum's Ray Irani, who made $52.2 million last year, and Walt Disney topper Robert Iger, who earned $20.8 million in salary, bonuses and stock. They, by the way, were the highest-paid execs in the country. Well, the answer is that they don't raise the average that much -- people like that are few and far between, whereas almost every company in America, no matter how small, has some sort of chief executive officer.

The good news is that everyone's salaries, on both ends of the spectrum, are inching higher. The median salary for all workers rose 2.8 percent, to $43,460. That means that 50 percent of American workers make more, and 50 percent make less. Also, salary growth outpaced inflation (less food and energy) by one percentage point.That may not seem like much, but every little bit helps.

Next:Top-Paying Summer Jobs >>

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