What are the common threads between the highest-paying professions? According to Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Chief Economist for Glassdoor, there tend to be three factors: higher educational requirements, skills that are in demand, and protection from automation or competition. Check out the Glassdoor list of the 25 highest-paying jobs in America for 2016 and see how well they match up to those criteria. (Note: The salaries listed are median base salaries.)
1. Physician – The medical profession tops the list with a base salary of $180,000. Medical careers consistently top the high-paying job lists and are far above the second-place category in 2016.
2. Lawyer – Representing your legal needs (or that of your opponent) ranks second on the salary chart. The legal profession draws an average salary of $144,500.
3. Research and Development Manager – Doctors and lawyers were no surprise, but R&D managers were probably not your expected choice for third place. Yet R&D managers draw an average salary of $142,120, not far behind lawyers.
4. Software Development Manager – Managing the development of that killer software — or the boring but necessary software for businesses and infrastructure — draws $132,000.
5. Pharmacy Manager – Pharmacies handle more than the simple filling of your prescriptions, and pharmacy managers pull down $130,000 as a result.
6. Strategy Manager – What does a strategy manager do? Find the best path to implement a business' goals and initiatives with the resources at hand. They average $130,000 in salary.
7. Software Architect – Software architects are responsible for technical standards, architectural design, and approval methods at various steps along the software development path. They average $128,250 in pay.
8. Integrated Circuit Design Engineer – They create the fabrication patterns for computer chips and bring in an average of $127,500.
9. IT Manager – IT managers handle all aspects of a business' electronic networks and information systems. The job pays $120,000.
10. Solutions Architect – This job title can cover many variations, but the common thread is creating robust solutions to problems. That diverse skill brings in $120,000.
11. Engagement Manager – These managers of customer/vendor relationships earn $120,000.
12. Applications Development Manager – Designing, coordinating, and managing corporate information systems demands a salary of $120,000.
13. Pharmacist – Handling your prescription needs earns an average of $118,000.
14. Systems Architect – High-level design and planning of IT systems pays an average of $116,920.
15. Finance Manager – Manage the money of others and earn good money of your own — $115,000 on average.
16. Data Scientist – Collecting and interpreting/analyzing data streams earns you $115,000.
17. Risk Manager – Assess and manage risk for a living and earn $115,000.
18. Creative Director – Let your creativity shine and harness and focus that of others while earning $115,000.
19. Actuary – Actuaries also assess risk, but with an emphasis on predicting future events. This skill brings in $115,000.
20. Data Architect – Data architects focus more on the storage and management process for large databases. They average $113,000 in salary.
21. Tax Manager – Handle the tax needs of larger entities and earn $110,000.
22. Product Manager – Take on the responsibility of managing a product line and earn $107,000.
23. Design Manager – Having responsibility for the design of new products or processes earns $106,500.
24. Analytics Manager – What does it all mean? Analytics managers can determine the real meaning of data sets for an average salary of $106,000.
25. Information Systems Manager – These are the folks responsible for the day-to-day operation of information systems, and are paid $106,000 for their efforts.
Note that fourteen of the 25 titles end with "Manager". Good managers are hard to find, and impossible to automate... so far.
If you want to target one of these professions as your own, remember that there are always reasons for high salaries. It may be long hours, levels of responsibility, stress, or some other factor, but every high-salaried profession has some tradeoff. To the extent you can, choose a profession that lets you do what you love in life — because money alone cannot buy happiness inside or outside of a job. However, if you're all about bringing home the bacon, perhaps you should consider a career in sports. We are still trying to crack the list of world's richest athletes.