The best paying medical careers

Updated July 19, 2017

Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals have challenging jobs--and at times, the lives of others are in their hands. Because of this challenge, and because of the strenuous training required to work in the medical world, jobs in health care are at the top or near the top of the pay spectrum. In fact, the top-paying general profession in the United States is anesthesiology, and surgeons, orthodontists, obstetricians and gynecologists, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons round out the top five best-paid medical careers.


Medical professions in general pay much better than most average jobs, but a few specialised, highly trained positions in particular stand out. The average anaesthesiologist will make close to £130,000 a year, and surgeons are not far behind, making an average salary of £124,416. Orthodontists are becoming more and more sought after, and their yearly earnings come in at £120,471. Another group of medical specialists, obstetricians and gynecologists,make an average of £119,340, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons bring in about £115,986.


Anesthesiologists are in charge of implementing the right amount of drugs to keep patients in a controlled, unconscious state and find themselves in the midst of critical care situations. An anaesthesiologist also takes care of the patient's preoperative assessment and the well-being of the patient directly after she returns from surgery.

Surgeons specialise in operative treatments and do everything from correcting physical deformities to performing preventive surgeries for patients with serious diseases or disorders. Many practitioners are general surgeons, meaning they perform a wide variety of surgeries, but a number also specialise in a specific field.

Orthodontists are distinguished from general dentists in that they treat abnormalities in the developing or mature set of teeth. The job involves the diagnosis, prevention, interception, and correction of these abnormalities, usually with braces or with a retainer to straighten the teeth.

Both obstetricians and gynecologists are responsible for the general medical care of a woman, and they also provide more advanced care related to pregnancy and the female anatomy. Specific focuses might include cancers of the breast or cervix, pelvic disorders, and hormonal imbalances. Obstetricians especially focus on childbirth.

Oral and maxillofacial surgery is a special branch of medicine which has roots in both dentistry and surgery. Some of the job duties include removing diseased and impacted teeth (wisdom teeth, for example), dental implants, and correcting the results of facial trauma.


All of these top-paying positions require a great deal of school and training before full-time practice becomes an option. Would-be specialists must graduate from a four-year college or university, typically majoring in pre-medicine, and then move onto either a four-year medical or a four-year dental school. These expensive schools are highly competitive and it can be difficult to gain acceptance.

Anesthesiologists, surgeons, and obstetricians and gynecologists are doctors, either medical doctors or doctors of osteopathic medicine, who have chosen to specialise in a specific field of medicine. Orthodontists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons specialise after attending dental school. Medical school also requires the completion of a residency with a hospital or medical centre, and dental school usually involves board certification and taking competency exams.

Doctors especially often work long hours, and more than one-third of full-time surgeons worked over 60 hours a week in 2006. And surgical professions can be high stakes and high stress, since they may involve critical-care situations and require an extremely thorough knowledge of the human anatomy.


Beyond the obvious benefit of making a high salary, top jobs in the medical world continue to grow. All of these five positions experienced positive growth in employment rates over the last year, and as the population continues to age, jobs in the health care industry become more and more essential. Oral surgeons had the highest one-year employment growth, at 8.3 per cent.

Working as a medical specialist means that you will have the opportunity to serve the community on a daily basis, and your work is often life-changing or life-saving. These positions are usually quite stable due to continued need for the services, and it is common for professionals in the dental world to continue part time well into typical retirement age. Finally, many physicians are choosing to practice in groups or in health-care organisations, which provide for backup coverage and allow for more time off.


Due to the extensive training required and the strenuous, high impact nature of their jobs, it is no wonder that medical specialists make the highest salaries out of all the general professions. Although the fields are difficult to enter, motivated individuals with a passion for health care and for helping others should continue to find work in these areas, especially if they excel in their education and make valuable connections with current professionals.

Once a specialist has broken into the field, the guarantee of high pay and stability will make these positions an attractive lifelong career.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Sarah Shebek Emlund has written for Still Magazine, the official magazine of A.T. Still University. She has experience writing in a variety of different formats, including for newsletters, press releases, websites, and blogs, as well as writing research-style papers and translating technical material.