America's 25 Best and Worst Paying Jobs

Forbes has put together a list of America’s Best and Worst Paying jobs. The best? Anesthesiologists with a mean annual wage of $184,340. The worst? Food prep and Fast food workers: $15,930.

The lists inside.

Anesthesiologists: $184,340
Surgeons: $184,150
Obstetricians And Gynecologists: $178,040
Orthodontists: $176,900
Oral And Maxillofacial Surgeons: $164,760
Internists, General: $160,860
Prosthodontists: $158,940
Psychiatrists: $149,990
Family And General Practitioners: $149,850
Chief Executives: $144,600
Physicians And Surgeons, All Other: $142,220
Pediatricians, General: $141,440
Dentists, General: $140,950
Airline Pilots, Copilots And Flight Engineers: $140,380
Podiatrists: $118,500
Lawyers: $113,660
Air Traffic Controllers: $110,270
Engineering Managers: $110,030
Dentists, All Other Specialists: $108,340
Natural Sciences Managers: $107,970
Marketing Managers: $107,610
Computer And Information Systems Managers: $107,250
Sales Managers: $102,730
Petroleum Engineers: $101,620
Financial Managers: $101,450

Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food: $15,930
Cooks, fast food: $15,960
Dishwashers: $16,190
Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers: $16,320
Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop: $16,860
Counter attendants, cafeteria, food concession, and coffee shop: $16,950
Gaming dealers: $17,010
Shampooers: $17,050
Waiters and waitresses: $17,190
Ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers: $17,500
Amusement and recreation attendants: $17,530
Farm workers and laborers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse: $17,630
Cashiers: $17,930
Personal and home care aides: $18,180
Lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers: $18,410
Parking lot attendants: $18,450
Pressers, textile, garment, and related materials: $18,470
Food preparation workers: $18,480
Bartenders: $18,540
Graders and sorters, agricultural products: $18,610
Maids and housekeeping cleaners: $18,700
Cooks, short order: $18,710
Child care workers: $18,820
Laundry and dry-cleaning workers: $18,890
Service station attendants: $19,150

Is your job on the list? Ours isn’t. —MEGHANN MARCO

America’s Best- And Worst-Paying Jobs
[Forbes via Consumerism Commentary]
(Photo: Demedulce)


Edit Your Comment

  1. castlecraver says:

    Choosing graduate school for research over a medical degree was the worst decision I’ve ever made. Thanks for reminding me of one big reason why.

  2. lore says:

    My job’s not on the list, but my salary is comparable to those on the list… should that count? :-) (note that I did not specify WHICH list!)

  3. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Something tip based, like bartender, is interesting to see on that list. I’ve known many attractive female bartenders who made a very good living.

  4. B says:

    Of course Anesthesiologists deserve to be so highly paid, because of all the risks in their profession, such as the risk of running into a dermatologist when you both leave the hospital at 5:00.

  5. What about stuff like “CEO” ? What’s the average amount that a CEO/CFO/CPO makes nowadays? I’ve seen the graphs stating that it’s WAY above everyone else on average, but I wanna know the numbers!

  6. lore says:

    @Dragontologist: For public companies, what CEOs make vary depending on the structure of their compensation package. Many C-suite level folks take their pay in the form of options, which wouldn’t count here.

  7. Her Grace says:

    I have a feeling a lot of those top jobs pay a small fortune yearly in insurance. The malpractice on an anesthisiologist is sky-high.

    This stat makes me really, really sad: Child care workers: $18,820

  8. chipslave says:

    shampooer? THey pay almost $18,000 for someone to shampoo stuff? Interesting…

  9. SaveMeJeebus says:

    @Dragontologist: I think that is what “Chief Executive” is considered.
    “Chief Executives: $144,600”
    They probably removed some of the outliers from the exorbitantly compensated CEOs to get this number.

  10. silencedotcom says:

    I would park cars for $18,450.

  11. kip says:

    I wonder if the list of service industry jobs is actual annual salary, or just what they declare for tax purposes.

    I know that a lot of bartenders and servers only claim a fraction of their cash tips, so their income is actually much higher than what is listed on their W-2 at the end of the year.

  12. oudemia says:

    It’s sort of interesting that all the various flavors of doctor are picked out seperately, but “lawyer” is lumped into one catch-all category. Because, say, the difference between public defender and patent attorney is rather vast.

  13. pjsammy says:

    sounds like it’s only traditional salary (hence waiters and bartenders who often make most of their $ from tips). Also, chief executives usually get the bulk of their compensation in stock options. Their actual salary is often much smaller.

  14. WindowSeat says:

    I seem to remember Anesthesiologists having the highest addiction rates in the Medical Professions, I hope the benefits package includes coverage for rehab.

  15. lore says:

    Also, if you’re curious, the annual compensation of CEO/CFO/CIOs of public companies, and any other “officers of the company,” they are specified in the company’s annual reports. Check out your favorite company and report back!

  16. SaveMeJeebus says:

    @lore: If you really want to break it down, go here and search by the ticker symbol and look for a “14A” proxy statement. Compensation is usually near the beginning along with stock options and other goodies they publicly admit to.

  17. iMike says:

    Geographic differences and employment structure (e.g. partner vs associate or employee) make such a dramatic difference that these numbers without further explanation are nearly meaningless.

    I’d rather see a range of reported salaries.

  18. xamarshahx says:

    I live in AC, Gaming Dealers make way more then 17 grand a year, unless their in one of the shitty casinos. The good ones like Borgata, FT Dealers can bring in 50+ a year, and at the decent ones like Ballys, they can get atleast above 30.

  19. xamarshahx says:

    Oh yeah, they make their money on tips, so don’t screw them, they get paid like 4 bucks an hour, rest is tips.

  20. dmills says:

    I’m wondering where they get these numbers from for the worst list. I know bartenders that easily make 30k a year. As for food preparation and line cooks, and even servers I know make more than whats reported here. I’ve been working in restaraunts for awhile and to me these numbers don’t add up.

  21. Falconfire says:

    @Dragontologist: Many CEOs actually dont make a lot of money, they just get a lot of options and packages which get traded in for money. Company owners though are a different story, many of them DO make a lot of money.

  22. JPropaganda says:

    I work in advertising, I’m shocked that “Creative Directors” or “Chief Creative Directors” aren’t on this list…because from my experience, they definitely should be.

  23. Starfury says:

    I work for lawyers and I know that the Associates are getting much more than the $113k starting pay. The partners make even more.

    When you charge $300-$550 per hour and bill 30-60 hours per week it adds up really fast.

  24. Youthier says:

    Wasn’t there a report earlier this year about a shortage of air traffic controllers? I thought that seemed like a boring job. But I also didn’t realize they make 6 figures.

  25. Nathanaver says:

    I’m not sure how these figures were calculated, but anesthesiologists average at least 240k according to every statistic I’ve ever seen. Maybe these figures are based on a 40 hour work week which is unrealistic for any doctor.

  26. seawallrunner says:

    these compensation scales are not adjusted for location, eg a professional working in NYC or SF will be making far more than someone working in Kansas City for example

  27. @oudemia: You beat me to that. Public defenders aren’t paid anywhere near corporate attack dog lawyers.

  28. Nathanaver says:

    Ok, I just looked at the original data and they were in fact calculated by multiplying hourly wage by 2,080 hours so for anyone that works more than 40 hours per week these figures are too low.

  29. @missbrooke06: I’ve heard that air traffic control is one of (if not the) most stressful jobs there is.

    There was a big bruhaha about the airlines having fewer air traffic controllers because they were trying to save money, not because they were having trouble hiring people.

  30. FishingCrue says:

    Re lawyers – Remember that they’re averaging PD’s with Senior Partners and everyone in between. There are lawyers who don’t clear 50 and there are those that pull in 500k. The more telling statistic is the average salary broken down by the number of years in practice since many lawyers start out as low level associates and never make partner / leave the law altogether.

  31. IC18 says:

    @ castlecraver

    Same here. At least the excuse I use is that I dont have to pay for mal-research insurance.

  32. unsunder says:

    I’m a server and I’d say I make about that wage a year. But I only work about 20 hours a week or less.

  33. minneapolisite says:

    @FishingCrue: Thank you for pointing out that some attorneys don’t clear $50,000. People here are also forgetting that there is a world beyond NYC and Los Angeles. I know a trial lawyer in Bismark, North Dakota who is very pleased with his $40,000 salary.

  34. badgeman46 says:

    My job is there, Air Traffic Controller. Although, there is an injustice going on that may change that. To bring you all up to date, it is not boring, nor do we work for the airlines. We work for the federal government. It is at times very intense and stressful, as we control upwards of 25 planes at a time, figure an average of about 100 people on each one. There is indeed a shortage of controllers, a result of the mass hiring after the 1981 strike. They are all retiring now. The FAA decided last year that they would unilaterally impose a new contract and a new pay scale on new hires. To put this into perspective, a newly certified air traffic controller will be making approximately 78 thousand after training, which can take up to five years. He will be sitting next to a controller on the old pay scale, making about 120 thousand a year. Before you say “what are you bitching about, thats good money either way” keep in mind we are required to retire by age 56 so we don’t have the luxury of contributing to our retirement for 30 years.

  35. deckermj says:

    The folks over at Dealbreaker may want to weigh in on this one…

    I am guessing they study lumps all financial services jobs in one category, even though they apparently don’t do that for the medical profession. To be fair if they are not going to single out Investment Bankers/Traders/Sales jobs they maybe they should lump all those docs together with nurses, support staff, dental hygentists, etc…

  36. Greeper says:

    Yeah, my ex was a bartended and “made” 17,000 a year. Not counting the 100k under his mattress.

  37. hills says:

    The physician salaries all seem low (except for the general practitioner which seems accurate) – I wonder if they included resident physicians in the stats? They only pull in about $40,000 a year…..?

  38. anatak says:

    “Is your job on the list? Ours isn’t.”

    Shocked that ‘Blogger’ didn’t make the list… Are bloggers paid as cash under the table?

  39. balthisar says:

    @Nathanaver: an awful lot of those job are exempt, meaning they’re federally classified as workers to whom overtime laws aren’t applied. So a salaried doctor working 80 hours or 40 hours isn’t going to reap a lot of overtime pay.

    I’m actually surprised by what the physicians make, but considering that it’s an average and that there are lots of rural, government, residents, military, and so on, it kinds of drags the average down.

  40. Elvisisdead says:

    I was a bartender in grad school and made around 30K per year working 5 nights a week.

  41. I can’t believe we’ve had this many comments without an “Assistant Crack Whore” joke.

  42. tinychicken says:

    @Greeper: Yeah, I’ll second that. There’s a slight difference between what my boyfriend makes as a bartender and what he…ahem…takes home.

  43. I don’t think I’d consider lifeguarding a bad job – the pay’s pretty good. And if you can get your WSI you get paid even more…

    I’m not sure I’d want it as a career, but I know plenty of people who do very well with it as a college or summer job.

  44. jeffj-nj says:

    There’s no way parking lot attendants, waiters, and bartenders make that little a year. I’ve done all three, and I’m going to roughly estimate that I used to make just over $30k/yr at each.

    Also, don’t let any one fool you: parking cars is hard. Really hard. I’m not kidding (and yet, I sense you don’t believe me). Try it, and get back to me.

  45. DCKiwi says:


    “Yeah, my ex was a bartended and “made” 17,000 a year. Not counting the 100k under his mattress.”

    Your ex was quite the smart investor, no?

  46. jeffj-nj says:

    Oh, and for some more purely annecdotal evidence those “service industry” numbers are probably off, my roommate is a waitress. I have no idea what she makes, but I can tell you this. I make $50k/yr and drive a much nicer car than she does. However, she lives at the exact same address, and pays her rent every month, just like I do. My point? Yeah, she’s makin’ less than me, but it can’t be by all that much. Otherwise, you have to assume she’d move.

  47. jeffj-nj says:

    @Her Grace: You’re right; that is sad. I am reminded me of something I heard once which goes a little something like this… “When a bad football coach makes more than a good teacher, something is wrong.”

  48. plim says:

    i wish they filtered out the jobs that are traditionally tipped (casino dealers, bartenders, etc.), to see what other low paying jobs are out there…

    and my “high-brow” comment of the day:
    i didn’t realize dishwasher was really a separate job. Thanks, Herb Copperbottom.

  49. pestie says:

    My job’s on that “top” list, but my salary is about half of what they list. Dammit.

  50. etinterrapax says:

    Yeah, I’d like my husband to get that lawyer job. He makes less than half that much, and he’s in private practice.

    My job isn’t listed, but depending on my mood, it’s either flexible or depressingly poorly-paid.

  51. zekedms says:

    Sadly, airline employees aren’t on the list. The gate agents and rampers make from 7.50 to 11 an hour, after several years with some carriers. In the case of Mesa-airlines, 12 of them.

    And you wonder why the luggage is broken and you can’t get information from anyone at the counter…

  52. EditorPerson says:

    I thought the Consumerist credited the photos they use from their Flickr pool? It should be credited to Demedulce.

  53. EditorPerson says:

    @EditorPerson: … and it is after the jump! Never mind!

  54. Krag says:

    A new soldier enlisting in the US Army as a Private (E-1) and getting an automatic promotion at 6 months to Private Second Class will make $16,171.80 for the first year.

  55. zolielo says:

    Congressmen or Senators
    University Professors or Administrators

  56. nequam says:

    It’s good to point out that there are large disparities based on location and specialty within some of these categories. For example, the average starting salary at large law firms in Boston last year was around $145,000. By contrast, starting salaries for prosecutors are below $40,000.

  57. WhatsMyNameAgain says:

    How do you find out how much Executive Directors of nonprofits make? Isn’t that public information? Because The ED of the nonprofit I work for should be on that best paid list, I’m sure.

  58. bbbici says:

    I guess i’m biased because i’ve worked in popular restuarants and bars, but i made more as a bartender during my university years ($20-30/hour) than the job i have now that needs my 3 degrees. But i guess i had reached the pinnacle of bartending– probably in the 95th %ile.

  59. Secularsage says:

    Good to see my career field, Marketing Manager, is in the upper half. Of course, I’d have to get an MBA to make 6 figures, but hey… even if we’re part of the useless third of society, at least we get compensated well :-)

  60. RonDMC says:

    Well, this is incredibly skewed because it doesn’t take such things as tips, tip-share, etc into account for bartenders. A bartender only makes $18,5K a year?

    Yeah, right. You mean a bartender only reports enough tips not to get audited by the IRS.

    Also, for executives, managers, etc. I expect that to be much, much higher when you consider bonuses, perks, travel, etc. This seems to only address raw salary.

  61. mathew says:

    So, Americans will pay people more money to do their laundry than they will to look after their kids.

  62. nerdsavant says:

    I’m incredibly sad now. Thanks Consumerist.
    I make less than the lowest on this list. Only slightly less, but still. This is after college, too. I was definitely making much more before as a bartender.

  63. skotech says:

    The title of this article should be re-named “Want to feel bad about your career? Look no further.”

  64. skotech says:

    Everyone should also note, This list is based on Reported Income. I don’t think most service oriented people report ALL their cash income, i sure didn’t. :)

  65. amalgamator says:

    That list made my day! (I’m in dental school!)

  66. facted says:

    @Her Grace: That’s often cited, but it’s actually not true (malpractice for anesthesiologists is actually pretty low on the scale of things…about 20,000 depending on where you practice). They get sued quite a bit, but they are rarely found to be responsible.

  67. juri squared says:

    Having just received an $8,000 pre-insurance partial bill from the top three people on this list (for a c-section, natch), I can certainly believe it.

  68. firefruze says:

    Bite me Accountants, Marketing is where its at woot! That really surprises me that Marketing Managers showed up on the list but not Accountants. I definitely have to post this list somewhere to remind myself that I won’t be forever poor after I graduate….. I just maybe have to go to the states to get unpoor :P

  69. Robobot says:

    If it were possible to take tips into consideration, this list would be very different. I’ve met hairdressers who make 80-100k anually thanks to tips.

    Since I work in a coffee shop I’m also wondering about those numbers. There is no way in hell they took tips into consideration there.

  70. bowersst says:

    Michael Moore is going to have an aneurysm when he sees those numbers.

  71. Jesse in Japan says:

    These figures are averages, people. Yes, there are a lot of waitresses who work at five star restaurants and can take home a thousand dollars a night in tips, but there are also waitresses at IHOP making less money than you’ve probably got tucked under your couch. They are NOT saying that all bartenders make the same amount of money or that all lawyers make the same amount of money.

    Incidentally, I make over 200K a month… too bad it’s not paid in dollars.

  72. MeOhMy says:


    That’s often cited, but it’s actually not true (malpractice for anesthesiologists is actually pretty low on the scale of things…about 20,000 depending on where you practice). They get sued quite a bit, but they are rarely found to be responsible.

    Defending a lawsuit is a costly affair whether you win or lose.

  73. @Her Grace: “I have a feeling a lot of those top jobs pay a small fortune yearly in insurance. The malpractice on an anesthisiologist is sky-high.”

    Yes — there’d be a big difference between a doctor (or lawyer) making that salary and paying his own malpractice premiums and a doctor (or lawyer) working for an employer who paid him that salary AND paid his premiums for him.

    @Starfury: “I work for lawyers and I know that the Associates are getting much more than the $113k starting pay. The partners make even more.”

    At the largest firms in A VERY FEW PARTS OF THE COUNTRY. Associates start at about $50,000 here (with the same student loans, incidentally, as those making $145,000 starting; housing costs adjust with salary when you move somewhere smaller, but student loan payments don’t). Very few partners make as much as $113,000 in my city. Many mid-range firms in “first-tier” cities (the ones where big firms start associates at $145k) start associates at around $80,000.

    @WhatsMyNameAgain: “How do you find out how much Executive Directors of nonprofits make? Isn’t that public information?”

    Should be on the tax filings, maybe the 990?

  74. Chicago7 says:

    It seems unlikely that a full time bartender would make only $18,000. Is this what the IRS forces them to report as salary and tips? If you are working 260 days a year, 8 hours a day and only getting $18000, you need to move to another bar.

  75. nequam says:

    Considering that few people would argue with the idea that doctors are well paid and food service workers are not, I’m surprised that so many commenters want to quibble with the actual numbers.

    Also, for somebody to say that salaries where they live/work are lower than the reported “mean annual wages” says little about the accuracy of the numbers. Take for example the case of attorneys. The fact the a lawyer working outside of a large metropolitan area earns less (or far less, it appears) than the $113K provided by Forbes, may be mathematically insignificant. In fact, New York, Chicago, D.C., L.A and other places where starting salaries are high account for the vast majority of attorneys in the country. In Boston, for example, a single office (without regard to how many other offices a firm has throughout the country/world) may employee 300+ attorneys. There are entire cities and towns accross the country that are not served by that many attorneys. Therefore, the salary of an attorney in Chicago is likely a better indicator of the average figure than is the salary of some lawyer in EBF.

  76. Trackback says:

    From Reuters, via the New Zealand Herald: Contrary to the notion that American tourists are obnoxious, a survey of 15,000 European hoteliers found that Americans ranked second, behind the Japanese, as the world’s politest and most preferable guests.

  77. Trackback says:

    Eat Sleep Drink Music hosts an Album Cover Quiz (with prizes!); Lost in the ’80s relives some full-length terror, Dale Bozzio style, then looks back at Chris & Cosey; AM, Then FM asks: Do you know your Pops?, then shows some Tom Jones love; Some Velvet Blog scopes out buzzed-about The…

  78. rellog says:

    I don’t buy into the figures given here. As a former pre-med major looking into Podiatry, I did some extensive research into their average salaries in my area (a fairly major metropolitan area) and it was nowhere near the $118K reported here. I talked to doctors that delivered pizzas and sold Amway in their offices to come up with the repayments for their loans. Granted, that was about 10 years ago, but I doubt it has skyrocketed that much since then…