According to a recent report from CareerCast, the top 10 highest-paying jobs of 2015 are concentrated in just five industries: healthcare, business, engineering, technology, and transportation. 6 of the top 10 jobs are all in the healthcare sector, and typically require a doctoral degree in addition to residencies.
The jobs and salary estimates below are from the CareerCast 2015 Jobs Rated Report, and the education requirements are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
||Median Annual Salary
||Typical Education Requirement
||Physician (General Practice)
||Corporate Executive (Senior Level)
||Air Traffic Controller
Three factors leading to high pay
GoodCall spoke with several experts to determine why these particular jobs are paying so well right now.
“As I look at the list of the top-paying jobs of 2015, three factors quickly jump to mind that are largely responsible for driving these paychecks upwards: employer demand, the skills gap, and required education levels,” says Daniel Masata, Senior Vice President of Adecco Engineering & Technology and Adecco Medical & Science.
Masata says the STEM skills gap in the U.S. has been well documented, leading to projections of 2.4 million unfilled STEM job vacancies by 2019. “High market demand, thanks to the rising STEM skills gap, will likely keep these occupations on this list of highest-paid jobs for years to come.”
Up to 34 million additional people are now eligible for medical treatment as a result of the Accordable Care Act, which is also driving demand for medical services across the board. “As new medical treatments become available and people generally live longer, demand for healthcare professionals rises,” says Masata. “Couple this with the high levels of education doctors must achieve, and it should come as no surprise that many of the highest paid jobs are in the medical field.”
The recent explosion of data has also created a need for people who can understand, interpret, and apply information to help companies gain a competitive edge. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, in the next three years, the U.S. could face a shortage of anywhere from 140,000 to 190,000 workers with the type of intensive, analytical skills necessary to effectively analyze data.
According to Dr. Michael Li, founder of The Data Incubator, “Data science is a very rare
trifecta hybrid of skills: software engineering, math and statistics, and
practical business sense.” Dr. Li, who has worked as a data scientist for Foursquare and a rocket scientist for NASA, says, “Each of these is a skill that could take years
to master, but finding someone who has all three is like looking for a
And the scarcity of such individuals drives up salaries for data scientists.
“Data has in recent years become a central part of business strategy, and companies today are looking for individuals who can analyze and interpret complex data sets, manipulate and convert these into visually understandable models, and communicate these insights in ways that allow managers to make actionable decisions,” explains Jason Moss, co-founder of Metis, a data science boot camp with locations in New York and San Francisco. “Because data science is a relatively new field and demand for those with the right skills is much greater than supply, data scientists are extremely attractive to employers, and able to command strong salaries.”
The sole business profession on the list, senior level corporate executive, also requires a combination of specific skills. “Leaders at this level need both social and emotional skills. They must be able to lead management teams, coach and advise, inspire and sway,” says Dr. Jeff Kudisch, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, and also Assistant Dean of Corporate Relations and Managing Director of the Office of Career Services. “There is also a heightened emphasis on analytics and the ability to navigate a constantly-changing business environment.”
Air traffic controller is the only job included on the list that can be pursued with an associate degree. However, don’t make the mistake of assuming it is the easiest job in the top 10. Air traffic controllers must pass an 8-hour computer-based exam, in addition to a yearly physical and a biannual job performance exam. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that this job is so stressful that controllers can retire at the age of 50 if they have 20 years of experience; they are forced to retire at the age of 56 regardless of how long they have worked.