Top Health Care Careers: Info About the Highest Paying Careers

Health care is a broad area of study that can discuss the treatment methodologies, ethics, and laws related to patient care and overall health. Continue reading for an overview of the available training programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

Healthcare is a broad field with many possible career paths. Physicians represent the highest-paying jobs in this field, with numerous specialties providing care for a variety of different health concerns and conditions.

Essential Information

Health care is a vast and general field, and people who are interested in working in the health care industry may choose specialist degree programs to prepare for specific careers. The highest-paying careers in health care are those of various medical specialists. All require a bachelor's degree, four years of medical school and a minimum of two years of advanced training in the form of a residency, internship or both. Some specialties require additional training beyond the residency, such as a fellowship.

Career Titles Gastroenterologist Surgeon Anesthesiologist Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
Education Requirements M.D. M.D. M.D. M.D.
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* +14% for all physicians and surgeons +14% for all physicians and surgeons +14% for all physicians and surgeons +14% for all physicians and surgeons
Median Salary (2015) $297,590** $187,200 or more for all physicians and surgeons* $187,200 or more* $247,524**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Career Options

Below are descriptions of some of the highest paying health care positions. Although these are high-paying positions, there is also a high level of stress involved with these career paths, especially since mistakes could lead to serious patient injuries or fatalities. In addition, these specialists may work extended and odd hours, and specialists may have to travel to different medical facilities to treat and monitor patients.


Gastroenterologists specialize in treating diseases of the gastrointestinal system and liver. They must complete a 2- to 3-year gastroenterology fellowship following their medical school residency. Some choose to embark on a second fellowship to become gastrointestinal (GI) oncologists or GI radiologists.


Surgeons are physicians specially trained in performing operations. Some perform general surgery, while others specialize further in certain areas of the body, such as the heart, brain, musculoskeletal system, or in plastic or reconstructive surgery. General and specialty residencies for surgeons are provided by independent medical centers and universities and last 2-7 years. The added advantage to university-based residencies is that they include teaching experience.


Anesthesiologists are responsible for pain relief and maintenance of the vital body signs of surgical patients. They work in labor and delivery, operating rooms and intensive care. According to the American Medical Association, anesthesiologists must complete an internship after medical school, followed by a 2-year residency in anesthesiology.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

These dental surgeons diagnose and treat diseases and injuries of the face and mouth region. They remove impacted and diseased teeth, plan and replace dental implants, repair facial bones and tissues and treat pathologic conditions, such as infections of the jaw, oral cavity and salivary glands. After four years of dental school, they must complete a residency and pass a written and oral exam.

Career and Salary Info

All of the career titles listed above are identified as physicians or surgeons, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), open positions for these professionals are estimated to grow 14% during the decade between 2014 and 2024. Salary statistics reported by the BLS in 2015 found that surgeons, anesthesiologists, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons each made an annual median salary of $187,200 or more. In terms of average annual salaries, surgeons made $247,520, anesthesiologists earned $258,100, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons received $233,900, per BLS data from 2015.

Physicians and surgeons represent the highest-paid members of the healthcare field. Regardless of specialty, these healthcare professionals must undergo extensive education and specialty training that can last for years. The healthcare field is constantly changing and evolving, so these careers require ongoing education.

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