Top 10 Highest Paying Medical Degrees and Graduates Salaries

Top 10 Highest Paying Medical Degrees and Graduates Salaries

We rank the highest paying medical jobs in 2023 using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Key Takeaways

  • Getting a medical degree requires hard work but it can lead to a high paying job in health care.

  • Most medical professionals earn a higher than average median salary with opportunities leading to high six-figure salaries.

  • Some of the highest paying jobs in medicine include nurse practitioner, occupational therapist, physician assistant, physical therapist, and more.

Getting a medical degree may be challenging, but it can also be a pathway to a wide range of rewarding and high-paying jobs. For those who are pursuing careers in medical and surgical care, that pathway will usually include pursuit of a medical doctor (MD) degree as well as state-based licensure.

However, there are several high paying medical careers that you can begin with a master’s degree. For instance, aspiring physician assistants may be able to enter into their field with a master’s degree in health science.

Generally speaking, however, the highest paying medical jobs will usually be those reserved for those who have earned their doctoral degree or an equivalent terminal medical degree.

Not sure where to start? Take a look at the very best research universities in the United States. Each of these programs offers access to an array of excellent and highly regarded doctoral or professional degree programs. You can also look into the top emerging medical fields and specializations.

Or, read on to learn more about these high paying medical jobs!

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What can you do with a medical degree?

Your career prospects will depend on the type of medical degree you pursue. The healthcare industry is an extremely broad field with countless job functions. Medical practitioners, physician assistants, mental health professionals, surgeons, and administrative personnel all must work together to provide medical care, treat patients, treat medical conditions, utilize medical equipment, and otherwise ensure the operational success of healthcare facilities.

This means that medical degrees come in all shapes and sizes. Earning a Medical Degree (MD) from a med school with recognition from the American Medical Association (AMA) can help you get on the pathway to a career as a physician, surgeon, or emergency room doctor. Some aspiring physicians may pursue general medical education and become primary care providers.

Others may choose an area of specialization such as osteopathic medicine, radiation therapy, treatment for cancer patients, work with Alzheimer’s disease sufferers, and much more.

You would also need a specialized doctoral degree in order to become a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or to perform surgical procedures of all kinds. Likewise, those who wish to pursue a dental medicine degree or become full-fledged oral and maxillofacial surgeons will be required to earn specialized doctoral degrees in dentistry and dental surgery.

There are also numerous pathways to the highest paying medical jobs for advanced practice registered nurses. Whether you plan to become a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist or even a chief nursing officer, you will need to earn a specialized doctoral or professional degree in nursing.

In other words, you have a lot of options, but each of these high paying medical jobs requires a very specific degree pathway.

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How We Identified the Highest Paying Medical Jobs

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, we’ve identified and ranked the highest paying degrees for students with a medical degree. The highest paying medical degrees are ranked using the median salary for 2021.

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The 10 Highest Paying Medical Jobs

The medical jobs ranked below include a wide range of high paying opportunities for physicians, surgeons, registered nurses, and more.

1. Physicians and Surgeons

  • 2021 Median Salary-$208,000+

Physicians and surgeons have the highest median salary of all medical professionals. This job title covers a lot of ground, including both primary and specialty healthcare physicians and surgeons. As a doctor, you would typically perform diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, review medical histories, and advise patients on both preventative care and treatment plans for specific medical conditions.

Physicians and surgeons will usually earn a bachelor’s degree in medicine, biology, health science, or a related field. This undergraduate study would typically be followed by a medical degree, which can take roughly four years to complete. The training and education required thereafter can vary depending on your area of specialization.

2. Dentists

  • 2021 Median Salary-$163,220

Dentists are responsible for helping patients achieve good oral health care as well as treating patients who have problems with teeth, gums, and other parts of the mouth. Some dentists may pursue additional surgical training in order to provide dental surgery services. Dentists may also prescribe medication to assist patients with pain management.

Dentists will typically earn a bachelor’s degree in biology, health science, or a related area before going on to earn a dental medicine degree through an accredited dental program. After earning your degree in medical dentistry, you would be required to earn a dental license through the state where you practice. Licensing usually requires passage of both written and clinical exams.

3. Podiatrists

  • 2021 Median Salary-$145,840

Podiatrists are medical doctors responsible for treating patients with medical conditions relating to the foot, ankle, and lower leg. Podiatrists may conduct diagnostic tests, provide treatment, and conduct surgery.

To become a podiatrist, you must earn a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree. This is generally followed by a 3-year residency program and, subsequently, licensing through the state where you practice.

4. Pharmacists

  • 2021 Median Salary-$128,570

Pharmacists are responsible for dispensing prescription medications and educating patients on the proper dosage and potential side effects of prescribed medications. Pharmacists will typically coordinate directly with the physician offices that prescribe medications to ensure the proper administration of drugs.

In order to become a pharmacist, you must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.). The basic threshold for entering this program is a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biomedicine, or a related field.

The Pharm.D. degree is a 4-year professional degree that serves as the basic threshold for licensing. Students will typically be required to sit for two sequential exams before qualifying to work as pharmacists.

5. Optometrists

  • 2021 Median Salary-$124,300

Optometrists provide diagnosis, treatment, and medical and surgical care for conditions relating to eyes and vision. This includes treatment for diseases, injuries, and disorders of the eye.

In order to become an optometrist, you would typically need a Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. The basic threshold for entering the O.D. program is typically a bachelor’s degree in biology, health science, or a related field. Following completion of your doctoral program, you would typically be required to earn a license in the state where you practice.

6. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

  • 2021 Median Salary-$123,780

Advanced practice registered nurses perform an extremely wide range of functions. Advanced practice nurses may include nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and more. Among the wide range of functions performed under this umbrella health care title, nurses provide direct patient care, help patients manage pain, administer anesthesia, perform diagnostic tests, dispense prescription medications, and implement patient treatment plans.

Students who plan to become nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, or nurse practitioners must earn at least a master’s degree specific to the role they plan to pursue. After earning a master’s degree, you would generally be required to pass a certification exam and earn licensing in the state where you practice.

7. Physicians Assistants

  • 2021 Median Salary-$121,530

Physician assistants work closely with physicians to diagnose, treat, and manage pain for patients. As a physician assistant, you would typically perform a wide range of functions related to patient care including diagnostic testing, review of patient medical histories, and implementation of patient treatment plans.

To become a physician assistant, you would typically need a master’s degree in an area like nursing, medical science, or health science. Physician assistants are also required to earn a license from the state where they practice.

8. Veterinarians

  • 2021 Median Salary-$100,370

Veterinarians are medical doctors responsible for the care of animals. Veterinary medicine may be practiced in a wide range of contexts including for farming operations, zoological societies, or as primary medical providers for privately owned pets. Some veterinarians will have surgical training as well.

To become a veterinarian, you must earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. The basic threshold for enrolling in a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program is a bachelor’s degree in biology, zoology, or a related area. You will typically be required to earn a license in the state where you practice.

9. Physical Therapists

  • 2021 Median Salary-$95620

Physical therapists support patients through recovery from illness or injury. This includes oversight of physical therapy exercises, support with pain management, and implementation or recovery and treatment plans. Some physical therapists will specialize in supporting the needs of elderly patients with mobility, strength, and conditioning challenges.

To become a physical therapist, you must earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. The basic threshold for enrolling in this terminal degree program is a bachelor’s degree in a related area such as physical education or kinesiology. You would also be required to earn a license in the state where you practice.

10. Occupational Therapists

  • 2021 Median Salary-$85,570

Occupational therapists support patients who may be struggling with everyday activities due to illness, injury, or chronic disability. As an occupational therapist, you’ll play a lead role in educating patients on how to effectively manage and overcome physical limitations. This may be through exercises, pain management, strength training, and more.

In order to become an occupational therapist, you would typically need a master’s degree in occupational therapy or a related field such as kinesiology. You would also be required to earn a license in the state where you practice.

Career Outlook for Students with Medical Degree

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Degree Level: Bachelor's

  • Location: The U.S. (Private Schools)

Career Salaries

CareerJob GrowthAvg. Salary
Family Medicine Physicians3.70%$195,595
Physicians, Pathologists5.30%$193,776
Physicians, All Other3.05%$192,334

Average Career Salaries

Bottom 10%MedianTop 10%

Promising Job Markets

StateCost of LivingAvg. Salary
#2 Mississippi18% higher than average$204,947
#3 Wisconsin7% higher than average$230,945
#4 Oklahoma13% higher than average$206,606
#5 Wyoming2% higher than average$232,715
#6 South Dakota7% higher than average$219,588

Top Industries

IndustryAvg. Salary
Family Medicine Physicians$195,595
Physicians, Pathologists$193,776
Physicians, All Other$192,334

Looking for a career in medicine that doesn’t require a doctoral or professional degree? Earning an online bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration could be a great alternative pathway into the healthcare industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a health services manager may earn a median salary of well over $100,000 per year. This makes it one of the highest paying jobs in health care that doesn’t require an advanced degree.

Healthcare administrators, health services managers, and other non-medical healthcare professionals play an absolutely critical role in ensuring that emergency rooms, outpatient clinics, and other healthcare facilities are functioning in compliance with all proper safety standards and medical principles, and that all healthcare workers under their charge are providing quality care.

Interested in other high paying degrees? Check out our rankings of the highest paying easy degrees, highest paying doctorate degrees, or the highest paying MBA degree concentrations. We even rank the highest paying jobs without college degrees.

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