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List of High-Paying Health Professions: Career Overviews

The healthcare industry offers many career options with varying educational and licensure requirements. Many high-paying careers are available, but are often paired with titles requiring the highest levels of schooling and experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts strong continued job growth in the healthcare industry from 2008-2018; read on to learn more about career outlooks and salary expectations for some of the highest-paying healthcare positions.

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Career Overview of Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons are healthcare providers who have specialized in an area of medicine; specific examples include pediatricians, primary care physicians and neurosurgeons. All physicians and surgeons must complete a bachelor's degree and then a 4-year medical degree program. After medical school, these individuals go on to complete residencies and sometimes fellowships, depending on a chosen scope of practice, specialty or sub-subspecialty. All physicians and surgeons are required to be licensed in order to practice medicine and must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an average annual salary of $140,060 for physicians and surgeons working for hospitals. Data from the BLS also reflects that those practicing in physicians' offices had average salaries above $200,000 that year (

Career Overview of Dentists

Dentists provide oral healthcare to help prevent issues and maintain good oral health. In general, these professionals practice general dentistry, but some go on to become specialized--such as orthodontists, oral surgeons or maxillofacial surgeons. Becoming a dentist requires completing a 4-year dental degree program. Specializations can require completing additional post-graduate work or a residency program. Dentists must pass the National Board Dental Examinations and be licensed by the state in which they practice.

In May 2012, the BLS reported an average salary of $163,240 for general dentists. Orthodontists were reported to make $186,320 a year in 2012, according to the BLS.

Career Overview of Optometrists

Testing people's vision, screening for glaucoma and fitting individuals for glasses or contact lenses are a few of the duties of an optometrist. Most optometrists practice general optometry, but specialties do exist--such as pediatric optometry or vision therapy and rehabilitation. Aspiring optometrists must complete at least a 4-year optometry degree program. Those wishing to specialize typically go on to a residency program.

All optometrists must be licensed in order to practice. Candidates must take and pass national board exams as part of the process to become licensed by a state. The BLS reported that the median salary of optometrists was $97,820, with ranges from $52,590-$184,530 or more as of May 2012.

Career Overview of Pharmacists

Pharmacists work in hospitals and pharmacies. They dispense medications to patients while providing advice and information on correct dosage and drug interaction. Pharmacists offer guidance to physicians and other healthcare professionals in medication prescribing. Some pharmacists go on to work in research of medications.

After completing pre-pharmacy education, aspiring pharmacists complete a 4-year pharmacy degree program (PharmD). Pharmacists must be licensed by the state in which they work. Additionally, they are required to take and pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX). In May 2012, the BLS indicated that pharmacists had a median salary of $116,670, with ranges from $89,280-$145,910 and over.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics