Careers in 2021

In 2021, the job market has become much more daunting and uncertain. However, you can still find stable careers in a variety of fields, from information systems to healthcare.

When choosing a career, most young professionals and recent graduates consider earning potential to be one of the biggest factors. The job search can be a challenging process, which is why we created this comprehensive guide. If you’re interested in learning more about the highest-paying careers in 2021, read on.

Our Methodology

The careers covered in this article have been sourced from the most recent edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, a publication of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The handbook covers salaries, job outlook, education, and duties for over 320 occupations. Job growth statistics have also been sourced from BLS industry-occupation matrix data.

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This list is dominated by careers in medicine and healthcare, especially the top 10. The highest-paying careers in 2021 also include executives and managers in various fields and top positions in the legal profession.

Top 15 Lucrative Careers at a Glance

The table below lists the median salary and projected job growth for each career. Statistics come from BLS and PayScale, based on data collected between May 2020 and May 2021. BLS is the exclusive source for projected job growth percentages, which refer to the period between 2019 and 2029. Salary estimates from PayScale are marked with an asterisk.

Occupation Projected Job Growth Median Pay
Anesthesiologist 0.5% $303,587*
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon 2.4% $242,689*
Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OB-GYN) -1.4% $234,132*
Surgeon -2.2% $228,874*
Psychiatrist 11.9% $214,765*
Internal Medicine Physician -0.6% $202,598*
Family Physician 6.1% $193,747*
Orthodontist 2.4% $190,082*
Chief Executive -10% $185,950
Dentist 2.6% $164,010
General Practice Physician 4.3% $154,372*
Computer and Information Systems Manager 10.4% $151,150
Architectural and Engineering Manager 2.6% $149,530
Marketing Manager 6.7% $141,490
Judge, Magistrate Judge, or Magistrate 3.4% $141,080
Top 15 Lucrative Careers at a Glance

Highest-Paying Jobs in 2021


Average Salary: $303,587

Anesthesiologists have the highest-paying career in the US today, according to PayScale. Their job involves sedating or numbing patients before surgeries so they do not feel pain. They must plan effective and safe procedures and monitor patients throughout surgery. Nurse anesthetists also assist in this role.

Anesthesiologists are highly compensated because they are responsible for the success of complex operations and surgeries. Prospective anesthesiologists must earn a bachelor’s degree, complete medical school, and finish four years of residency. This is usually followed by training in specialized topics such as neuroanesthesia.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

Average Salary: $242,689

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are involved in administering procedures to fix problems with a patient’s head or facial area. They may perform cosmetic surgeries, treat oral cancers, and fix issues related to sleep apnea. They use their skills and training to fix physical abnormalities to help people live functional, normal lives.

These surgeons are highly sought-after in the medical industry. Generally, oral and maxillofacial surgeons must attend dental school for four years after receiving a bachelor’s degree. Next, they must pursue a four-year or six-year residency program. Finally, they must take a medical exam to become certified.

Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OB-GYN)

Average Salary: $234,132

An obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) is a medical professional trained to deal with issues in women’s health. The field of obstetrics deals with caring for women during pregnancy and childbirth, while gynecology deals with female reproductive health. OB-GYNs specialize in both fields and can pursue either a private practice or work in a hospital.

OB-GYNs are qualified to provide consultations, perform surgical procedures, and help with labor and delivery. OB-GYNs must complete medical school after earning their bachelor’s. They must then complete four years of residency, and three years of specialized fellowship training. Finally, they must pass the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology exam.


Average Salary: $228,874

Surgeons operate on patients to treat a variety of conditions and injuries. These medical professionals can pursue general surgery or choose to specialize in a variety of areas. Their day-to-day duties involve performing diagnostic tests, administering antibiotics, and following the relevant surgical procedures.

Surgeons must complete four years of medical school training after earning their bachelor’s degree. They must then complete up to seven years of residency training before specializing with a three-year fellowship. Surgeons are also required to earn their license by passing either the USMLE or COMLEX exam.


Average Salary: $214,765

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can treat mental illnesses through the use of medicine or psychotherapy. They are qualified to diagnose, treat, and prevent disorders such as insomnia, depression, bipolar disorder, and many others.

Psychiatrists are in high demand, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the mental health of millions of people. Like other medical professionals, psychiatrists must attend four years of medical school. They must then finish a four-year psychiatric residency before specializing. Psychiatrists must become licensed and board-certified in their state.

Internal Medicine Physician

Average Salary: $202,598

Internal medicine physicians, or internists, are medical doctors who specialize in the health of internal organs. They are able to diagnose, treat, and prevent various illnesses. They may work with more specialized doctors, such as pulmonologists, if a case becomes too complicated. They help fix a large variety of issues in patient health.

If you are interested in becoming an internal medicine physician, you must graduate from medical school. Additionally, students must complete a three-year residency in internal medicine. To be a practicing professional, all internists must take an exam to gain medical certification.

Family Physician

Average Salary: $193,747

Family practice physicians are doctors who specialize in administering care to entire families. They are able to diagnose, treat, and prevent a variety of common conditions, from diabetes to the flu. Family practice physicians also supervise nurses, pharmacists, and social workers to ensure that patients get what they need.

Family physicians must complete medical school, after which they must enter a residency program in coordination with their specialty. These residencies last anywhere from three to nine years. Some specializations may require one to three years of additional training.


Average Salary: $190,082

Orthodontists specialize in straightening teeth by applying pressure with braces or other devices. Much like oral surgeons, they work to resolve imperfections that could cause pain to a patient.

Orthodontic work is just one of many possible specializations for a dentist. Related specializations include endodontics, which involves administering root canals, and periodontics, which deals with the gums and bones in the mouth.

Chief Executive

Average Salary: $185,950

Chief executives, or top executives, plan strategies and policies to help a business or organization meet its goals. They can work in almost any industry. They often work odd schedules and travel constantly. To work in this position, you should get at least a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in a business-related field.

Types of executives include chief executive officers (CEOs), financial managers, mayors, governors, and university presidents. Chief executive roles vary depending on organizational size and area of expertise. They often collaborate with other executives. Occasionally, they also consult with a board of directors.


Average Salary: $164,010

Dentists diagnose and treat problems with teeth, gums, and other issues of oral health. They use all kinds of equipment, such as X-ray machines, drills, and brushes. They use these tools to perform a range of tasks, from filling cavities to whitening teeth to removing damaged teeth.

Dentists also have administrative responsibilities. Typically they oversee bookkeeping and supply orders. Their staff may include dental hygienists, assistants, laboratory technicians, and receptionists.

General Practice Physician (GP)

Average Salary: $154,372

A general practice physician, or GP, is a doctor who provides mostly non-surgical medical care to patients. They typically work with adult patients and diagnose diseases or injuries, treat acute and chronic illnesses, provide preventative care, and give general health advice. GPs evaluate patients through physical examinations and tests.

This position requires a bachelor’s degree, a medical degree, and a three-year to nine-year internship or residency. GPs often work alongside registered nurses and other medical professionals to help streamline different medical processes.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Average Salary: $151,150

Computer and information systems managers plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities in a given organization. They analyze their organization’s computer programming needs and recommend upgrades. Additionally, they ensure network security.

To become one of these managers, you need a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or Information Technology and related work experience. Often, managers will have a graduate degree as well. If you’re short on time, try one of the best cyber security bootcamps.

Architectural and Engineering Manager

Average Salary: $149,530

Architectural and engineering managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities in their respective companies. Most work in offices, but many work in research laboratories, production plants, or construction sites.

Those who work at construction sites are called construction managers, and their job is to direct and coordinate building activities. They can propose budgets for projects and check the accuracy of their staff’s work. They oversee employee schedules and handle high-level administrative tasks.

Marketing Manager

Average Salary: $141,490

Marketing managers plan campaigns to generate interest in products or services. They work in cooperation with advertising and promotions teams. Additionally, they may discuss budgets, contracts, plans, and advertising media with department heads.

As part of their daily routine, marketing managers estimate the demand for products and services in comparison with what competitors are offering. They develop pricing strategies to maximize profits and market share. They also help ensure customer satisfaction.

Judge, Magistrate Judge, or Magistrate

Average Salary: $141,080

Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates oversee trials and hearings. They work in local, state, or federal courts. They may be referred to as municipal court judges, county court judges, or justices of the peace. Other titles for high-level judges include district court judge, general trial court judge, or appellate court judge.

Judges interpret the law and determine the result of a trial. They may instruct jurors on laws and evidence and impose penalties when parties are found guilty. They may use forms of technology such as databases to manage cases and prepare for trials.

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

Though the job market is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate, there are still many options to pursue. Many careers are even growing in demand. The highest-paying jobs typically fall in the medical category, but judges, managers, and executives are also compensated well. Below are the major points to keep in mind.

  • Most of the highest-paying jobs today fall in the medical category and require a bachelor’s degree in addition to postgraduate education.
  • Though most of these jobs are in the medical field, the non-medical jobs on this list still earn salaries well above the national average.
  • Many of the career choices listed above also include many options for specialization.
  • The job search may be difficult, but many fields are still growing. This means that job opportunities, even for the highest-paying careers, are on the rise.
  • The jobs listed above have an average annual salary of $193,204, which is more than quadruple the economy-wide national average of $41,950, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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