1. Anesthesiologist: These doctors play an integral role in keeping patients alive — and asleep — during surgery — no matter how long it may take. Their handsome paychecks reflect the responsibility and risk involved in their jobs.
2. General Surgeon: These surgeons are highly specialized and in high demand, performing surgery on the digestive tract, skin, breasts and hernias. Sub-specialties include trauma surgery, laproscopic surgery and vascular surgery.
3. Emergency Room Physician: Emergency room physicians are on the front lines in a crisis, caring for everyone from trauma victims to sick kids. An ability to think quickly and care for a wide variety of patients makes them valuable assets at every hospital. It also brings some perks.
4. Obstetrician / Gynecologist: With long hours, heavy malpractice insurance costs and extensive training, obstetricians and gynecologists invest a lot in becoming doctors. But the rewards — caring for women through their pregnancies and delivering newborns — are worth it, they say.
5. Psychiatrist: Unlike many mental health professionals, psychiatrists can prescribe medications to help treat patients with mental illnesses. Their specialized knowledge and medical degrees make them some of the highest paid in the mental health field.
6. Primary Care Physician: Primary care doctors take care of you when you have a cold, give you your flu shot and can refer you to a specialist when you come in with a trickier problem. Caring for patients from cradle to grave can come with high financial rewards.
7. Nurse Anesthetist: These nurses help anesthesiologists administer anesthesia during surgery. Because of the extensive training required and demanding nature of the job, they are the highest paid in the nursing field.
8. Product Management Director: Every new widget and gizmo that you see on a website was birthed by a product manager. They help meld business requirements, creative visions and technical constraints to make projects happen.
9. Software Engineering / Development Director: Software engineering directors are in charge of creating new products and helping expand what’s possible with software products.
10. Sales Director: Sales directors are in charge of setting — and meeting — sales goals for their teams, generating new business and serving as mentors for new staff. In tough economic times, sales directors who bring in business are worth their weight in gold.
11. Dentist: Nobody likes to go to the dentist, but everyone has to (twice a year!). That means those who put in the time to become a dentist can often bring in handsome salaries, especially if they specialize in fields like oral surgery.
12. Actuary: Responsible for weighing a company’s financial risk and uncertainty, actuaries assess financial instruments, such as pricing products or securing cash reserves. The combination of education required and responsibility make it one of the country’s most lucrative professions.
13. Senior Sales Executive: Senior sales executives need to be both customer-savvy and willing to put in a lot of time traveling to meet clients. They must also always be sure their staff is representing the product and company in the best way to make the sale.
14. Software Architect: A software architect helped design the software on which you’re reading this article right now. In fact, they have a hand in the creation of everyday products from word processors to computer games. High demand for their skills let software architects demand hefty paychecks.
15. Attorney / Lawyer: While public-interest lawyers may not rake in the big bucks, corporate litigators are still making six-figure salaries, even as the economic downturn has made competition for spots at prestigious firms more intense.
16. Management Consultant: Companies hire management consultants to become more profitable and efficient, trusting them to find unseen solutions to their problems. High salaries help compensate for long hours spent at work and on the road.
17. Research & Development Manager: Companies spend millions creating new products, from software to potato chips. Research and development managers are in charge of taking new ideas and making them a reality.
18. Computer and Information Scientist: These techies research computer science issues as either theorists, designers or inventors, creating new products and solving hardware and software problems.
19. Accounting Director: Accounting directors keep track of the money going in and out of a company and manage the accounting staff. It’s a big job that often comes with hefty paychecks.
20. Optometrist: Optometrists care for our eyes — diagnosing vision problems, measuring color perception and testing our ability to focus. These doctors spend as much time in school as M.D.s — and their specialized knowledge allows them to charge high fees for their services. But the rewards are more than just monetary.