High-Paying Jobs in the U.S. By Kate Lorenz for CareerBuilders.com February 8, 2005 "Do what you love and the money will follow" is great in theory, but the truth of the matter is, certain jobs and fields simply pay more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey, published in August 2004, showed that white-collar earnings -- which averaged $21.85 per hour -- were the highest among occupational groups. Blue-collar pay averaged $15.03 per hour, while the hourly pay of service occupations averaged just $10.40. Though many of these occupations require an advanced degree, there are jobs at every education level that pay more than other jobs for workers with similar levels of schooling. Here, courtesy of the Employment Policy Foundation, is a look at the best-paying occupations at varying education levels: Top Paying Jobs Overall The jobs that pay the most require at least a four-year college degree. According to the Employment Policy Foundation, the nation's 12 top-paying jobs -- and the mean annual income reported in 2003 (the most recent year data was available) for each -- were: Physicians and surgeons $147,000 Aircraft pilots $133,500 Chief executives $116,000 Electrical and electronic engineers $112,000 Lawyers and judges $99,800 Dentists $90,000 Pharmacists $85,500 Management analysts $84,700 Computer and information system managers $83,000 Financial analysts, managers and advisers $84,000 Marketing and sales managers $80,000 Education administrators $80,000 Though many of these occupations require an advanced degree, there are jobs at every education level that pay more than other jobs for workers with similar levels of schooling. Here, courtesy of the Employment Policy Foundation, is a look at the best-paying occupations at varying education levels: Top Paying Jobs That Do Not Require a High School Degree These jobs tend to require substantial on-the-job training and work experience rather than formal education and schooling: Industrial production managers $36,000 Bailiffs, correctional officers and jailers $36,400 Paralegals and legal assistants $36,400 Drafters $36,000 Construction manager $33,600 Electricians $31,900 Top Paying Jobs for High School Graduates These occupations emphasize work experience and on-the-job training rather than formal education: Computer software engineers $58,900 Computer/information systems managers $56,400 Computer programmers $55,000 Network systems and data communications analysts $49,000 General and operations managers $48,000 Database, network and computer systems administrators $48,000 Top Paying Jobs for a Two-Year College Degree The following jobs tend to be technical in nature, emphasizing skills developed on the job as well as job-specific training and certifications: Healthcare practitioners $66,000 Business analysts $58,000 Electrical and electronic engineers $57,000 Mechanical engineers $56,800 General and operations managers $54,000 Computer and information systems managers $50,400 "A look at expected earnings over a lifetime shows the economic benefit of higher education attainment," says Tony Carnevale, who chaired President Clinton's National Commission for Employment Policy and authored several books, including America and the New Economy: How New Competitive Standards are Radically Changing American Workplaces. A person with a doctoral or professional degree, for example, is expected to earn about $3 million over the course of his or her working life while a person without a high school diploma is expected to earn less than $1 million. "Despite an increasing supply of well-educated workers, the college wage premium has nearly doubled since 1980, largely because of the added value of a college education in the new knowledge economy," adds Carnevale. The Employment Policy Forum concurs, but stresses that these numbers are only averages. Individual earnings depend on many factors including geographic location, employer size (average hourly earnings ranged from $15.06 in organizations employing between one and 99 workers to $24.09 in those with 2,500 workers or more), industry (workers in goods-producing industries earned $18.46 an hour vs. those in service-producing industries who earned $16.44 an hour) and the worker's skills and characteristics.