10 High Paying Medical Jobs

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Explore some of the highest-paying medical jobs in the US and what you need to do to qualify for a career in the health care field.

[Featured Image]:  Advance Practice Registered Nurse,  consulting with a patient.

When you’re considering a career in the medical field, salary expectations can have a great influence on your specialization selection. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Career Outlook reports wellness careers are projected to have strong growth with many job openings through 2031. The medical field is expected to have higher than median wages for all occupations in 2021.

This article will explore 10 high-paying medical jobs in the US and what you need to begin your medical career journey.

Medical careers with high pay

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects health care job opportunities to grow 13 percent by 2031, with an anticipated two million new jobs [1]. Additionally, they report that the median annual wage for health care workers was $75,040 in May 2021. With the proper education, you can qualify for a six-figure position in hospitals, physician offices, private practice, and other health care settings.

Here are 10 of the highest paying medical jobs, their median salaries according to BLS.gov, and their job outlook (with projected growth from 2021 to 2031):

1. Physicians and surgeons

Median annual salary: $208,000 [2]

Job outlook: 3 percent [2]

As a physician or surgeon, you can work in a hospital or group practice, nonprofit agency, insurance company, university as a teacher, or in a private practice. Some physicians and surgeons have private practices and work in hospitals.

Physicians and surgeons need a bachelor’s degree and a medical degree. Depending on the specialty, you may need three or more years in internship and residency programs. Some specialties can require as many as nine years of internship and residency. Some of the highest-paying physician and surgeon positions and their average salaries include [3]:

  • Cardiologists diagnose and treat heart and blood vessel diseases and conditions. They specialize in valve problems, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. Some cardiologists work with adults, and others specialize in pediatric heart conditions that are often congenital. Cardiologists can earn a median annual salary of $353,970 [4].

  • Emergency medicine physicians treat injured and ill patients in urgent medical situations. They tend to patients whose illnesses or injuries require immediate attention. Emergency medicine physicians can make $310,640 a year [4].

  • Pediatric surgeons collaborate with physicians who care for fetuses, infants, children, and adolescents to determine the best treatment for illnesses and diseases. They treat pediatric diseases like cancer, trauma, and birth defects. Some pediatric surgeons perform surgery that can include appendix removal and repairing birth defects. Pediatric surgeons can earn around $290,310 yearly [5].

  • Neurologists diagnose and treat disorders of the brain and nervous systems, such as Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and epilepsy. Some specialize in pediatric neurology and treat children with autism, behavioral disorders, or other neurological conditions. Neurologists can earn an annual salary of $267,660 [4].

  • Family medicine physicians are generalists who work with patients, often entire families, for health maintenance and conditions that occur in everyday life. The family medicine physician treats infections, bone fractures, and other short- and long-term illnesses. Family medicine physicians could earn a median salary of $235,930 [4].

2. Advanced practice registered nurses

Median annual salary: $123,780 [7]

Job outlook: 40 percent [7]

An advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) is a registered nurse who has received advanced training, education, and experience in the nursing field. You can pursue one of three different types of APRN roles:

  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) administer anesthesia and monitor vital signs during surgery or a procedure that requires a patient to be asleep. The nurse anesthetist speaks with the patient before their procedure to obtain medical information necessary for safe anesthesia administration. CRNAs are typically the highest-paid APRNs, with a median annual salary of $195,610 [6].

  • Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) provide care to women during their pregnancies. Depending on the requirements of the state in which you work, you may deliver babies, assist surgeons with cesarean births, and provide wellness care. In some states, a CNM can provide a mother with maternity care throughout her pregnancy. The median annual salary for a nurse midwife is $112,830 [6].

  • Nurse practitioners (NPs) provide primary care under the supervision of a physician and work with patients to improve their health. In some states, an NP can prescribe medications and order laboratory tests. You can expect a median annual salary of $120,680 as a nurse practitioner [6].

Each specialization requires a master’s degree in an advanced practice nursing program.

3. Physician assistants

Median annual salary: $121,530 [8]

Job outlook: 28 percent  [8]

The role of a physician assistant varies, but most can examine patients, order diagnostic tests and laboratory work, diagnose and treat patients, and prescribe medication.

A physician assistant must hold a master’s degree and a license to practice in the state where they work. You will work under the supervision of a physician in this role.

4. Pharmacists

Median annual salary: $128,570 [9]

Job outlook: 2 percent [9]

Pharmacists dispense prescription medications and counsel patients on how to take and store them. Some pharmacists hold health and wellness screenings, and if their state licensing board allows, they can give immunizations such as flu and pneumonia shots. Pharmacists must have a Doctorate of Pharmacy (PharmD) and obtain state licensing.

5. Registered nurses

Median annual salary: $77,600 [10]

Job outlook: 6 percent [10]

As a registered nurse (RN), your duties will depend on where you work, but most RNs work directly with patients under the supervision of a charge nurse or physician. Duties include providing patient care, recording symptoms and medical history, operating medical equipment, and counseling patients on aftercare.

Some RN job titles include:

  • Critical care nurse

  • Neonatal nurse

  • Public health nurse

  • Cardiovascular nurse

  • Rehabilitation nurse

According to the BLS, registered nurses can obtain a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in nursing or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Registered nurses must be licensed in the state where they work.

Some registered nurses start as certified nursing assistants (CNAs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs). A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) typically take four years to complete. In contrast, diploma nursing programs usually take two to three years.

6. Physical therapists

Median annual salary: $95,620 [11]

Job outlook: 17 percent [11]

Physical therapists work with injured or ill patients to improve movement and manage pain. They often work in hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, and home health care. Some physical therapists are self-employed. Physical therapists need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and to meet their state’s requirements for licensure, which include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.

7. Occupational therapists

Median annual salary: $85,570 [12]

Job outlook: 14 percent [12]

As an occupational therapist, you’ll work closely with patients needing therapy for daily living skills. Patients may be ill, injured, or disabled and need to learn how to use adaptive equipment and exercise for mobility and pain relief. Some therapists work in school settings, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and home care. The position requires a master’s degree or a doctorate and state licensing. All physical therapists must pass the national examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

8. Radiation therapists

Median annual salary: $82,790 [13]

Job outlook: 6 percent [13]

Radiation therapists operate the equipment used to deliver concentrated radiation therapy to tumors. The goal of radiation treatment is to shrink or eliminate cancers and tumors. A radiation therapist is part of an oncology team. Most employers require radiation therapists to hold an associate or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy. Many states require radiation therapists to be licensed or certified, which often includes passing a national certification exam administered by the  American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

9. Speech-language pathologists

Median annual salary: $79,060 [14]

Job outlook: 21 percent [14]

As a speech-language pathologist, you’ll work with patients with speech and language problems, such as difficulty speaking, inability to speak, and stuttering. Speech-language pathologists also work with those who have difficulty understanding language. Some speech-language pathologists work in schools, hospitals, or offices with other types of therapists. You usually need a master’s degree for this role, and all states require licensure.

Speech-language pathologists can further their careers by earning the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

10. Nuclear medicine technologists

Median annual salary: $78,760 [15]

Job outlook: 2 percent [15]

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare and administer radioactive drugs to patients undergoing imaging or treatment. They work with physicians and other health care professionals in the diagnostic field. In some areas, nuclear medicine technologists also serve as emergency responders during a nuclear disaster. 

The position typically requires an associate degree from an accredited program, and some states and employers require certification and licensing. Certification is available from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).

Next steps 

If your goal is to have a career in the medical field, you can learn more with the Introduction to Healthcare course offered by Stanford University on Coursera. If you have a bachelor’s degree and want to advance your career, the Master of Public Health accredited degree program offered by the University of Michigan can be completed in 24 months.

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Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Healthcare Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm.” Accessed March 8, 2023.

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