There are many people who believe that the when choosing a career path and life direction, one should steer towards the highest paying career for which they could possibly qualify after several years of education, training, and 80-hour work weeks. To demonstrate, there is never a shortage of investment bankers looking for work. I have an alternate point of view: self-fulfillment usually has little to do with career choice or money earned, but having money (that is, not spending money) opens doors for more choices (for spending money among other things).
Did potential earning power play a role in your decision to pursue a career path? Let us know in the comments.
While I cite investment banking as a high-earning job, it’s not the highest according to data compiled by the government’s Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates from 2008 and published recently. If you are in search of the almighty dollar, it pays to go to medical school.
Surgeons top the list with an average annual salary of $206,770, up 8% since last year. Following surgeons, the next highest earners on average are anesthesiologists with $197,570 each year. Third on the list are orthodontists, who earn an annual $194,930 on average. Obstetrician and gynecologists earn $192,780. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons round out the list with an average annual income of $190,420.
I would have expected higher salaries for these jobs on the coasts, as many cost-of-living calculators adjust for high salaries in New York and Los Angeles. According to the survey, however, if you want to earn more money in these jobs it pays to move to the mid-west. Surgeons and obstetrician and gynecologists earn more in Wisconsin than in any other state. New Hampshire, the lone east coast representative, is lucrative for orthodontists, and oral surgeons do best in Michigan.
On the other side of the spectrum are the jobs that do not command high salaries. In fact, these jobs usually feature hourly wages and are often not full-time. They probably should not be compared with the other careers since they are in a class of their own.
The lowest earning job is the combination of food preparer and server, including the fast food industry. A worker in this job will expect to earn on average $17,400. Fast food cooks do slightly better with $17,620. The next rung on the income ladder contains dishwashers (of the human, not machine, sort) who earn an annual $17,750. If you are a dining room or cafeteria attendant or a bartender helper, your income averages $18,140. Shampooers deserve bragging rights among the low-paid with their annual pay of $18,300.
Of these top worst-paying jobs, you’ll do better by moving to Washington, D.C. Shampooers, fast food workers, and food preparers and servers earn the most there. Dishwashers earn more in Nevada, and dining room or cafeteria attendants, or bartender helpers maximize their income in Hawaii.
Did potential earning power play a role in your decision to pursue a career path?
Published or updated May 12, 2009.