Before you can decide which jobs are overpaid, you need to know the national average salary. For 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average worker earned $53,621. Some jobs that require advanced skills command higher salaries and are not necessarily “overpaid.” But an assessment of which jobs are legitimately overpaid requires some level of subjectivity — which you might disagree with, especially if you benefit from such a high salary. Here’s a list of jobs that might qualify, based on a comparison of average salaries both within and outside of specific industries.
Click through to find out how these generous salaries stack up to the average income in America.
1. Anesthesiologist — $269,600/$129.62 per Hour
Anesthesiologists provide critical medical services. Without an anesthesiologist, most major surgeries, including life-saving ones, would be impossible. It takes a lot of time and effort to even become an anesthesiologist — four years of undergraduate study, four years of medical school and four years of anesthesiology residency. All that time and effort pay off, however: Anesthesiologists top out as the highest-paid profession in all of America, at $269,600 per year on average, making them by definition an overpaid career.
2. Orthodontist — $228,780/$109.99 per Hour
Orthodontists study for years to earn their accreditation, and the time pays off, as they earn an average salary of $228,780. Orthodontists earn more than the average physician, psychiatrist or CEO — others on the notoriously overpaid list. Part of the reason some think orthodontists are overpaid is that they are primarily focused on a single enterprise, that of fixing or straightening teeth, which is often cosmetic in nature and not life-threatening.
3. Physicians and Surgeons — $210,170/$101.04 per Hour
In an era of high health costs, it’s only natural that physicians and surgeons are considered overpaid — doctors can buy some pretty crazy things with their salary. The argument is strengthened by the hard numbers, which show that average physicians and surgeons earn $210,170 per year — nearly quadruple the average American salary. Of course, doctors of all types have to put in their due, paying for expensive medical training that consists of graduate school, internships and residency.
4. Psychiatrists — $200,220/$96.26 per Hour
Psychiatrists are on the notoriously overpaid list because they are essentially paid just to talk to people, a service most healthcare plans cover. They also qualify as overpaid on a simply technical basis, as they generally charge hourly rates but only provide sessions for 50 minutes at a time. In spite of the training psychiatrists have to go through — they are legitimate medical doctors, having attended medical school and earning an M.D. — their salaries are far above the average, topping $200,000 per year.
5. CEOs — $194,350/$93.44 per Hour
Americans tend to consider CEOs untrustworthy. Only 11 percent of respondents in one poll regarded CEOs as the most reliable source of information about a company. Considering CEOs earn about 365 percent of the average American salary, combined with their low levels of trust, they are, in general, overpaid — and CEOs enjoy outrageous perks, as well. But the averages only tell a small part of the story; when it comes to publicly traded companies, CEOs earn closer to $11 million.
6. Dentist — $178,670/$85.90 per Hour
No one likes going to the dentist. People like paying for the dentist even less. At average earnings of $178,670, the typical dentist is certainly compensated well. The truth is that dentists provide necessary services, from helping prevent cavities to warding off gum disease — and they even tackle more significant medical problems. For many patients, however, paying any money for procedures that sometimes cause pain or are scary means that dentists are overpaid.
7. Congressional Representative — $174,000/$83.65 per Hour
Politicians are an easy group to single out as being overpaid because a large portion of Americans think they don’t provide much value. In February 2018, a Rasmussen Poll revealed that just 15 percent of U.S. voters thought that Congress was doing a good or excellent job — which represented a slight uptick over the 13 percent reading in November 2017. As of 2017, rank-and-file Congressional representatives earned $174,000, and the Speaker of the House earned $223,500.
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8. Petroleum Engineers — $147,030/$70.69 per Hour
Petroleum engineers essentially help oil companies make money by telling them where and how to drill for fossil fuels. Although some petroleum engineers have advanced degrees and specialized training, only a bachelor’s degree is necessary to break into the field. In addition to frequent travel, petroleum engineers pull down nearly three times the average American salary, and about 50 percent more than electrical engineers.
9. Marketing Manager — $144,140/$69.30 per Hour
Marketing managers are in a growing industry, with overall employment expected to grow 10 percent per year to 2026. Although their services are integral to companies with products to sell, marketing managers are facilitators rather than creators. Their jobs help generate sales and revenue, which is why they earn more than $90,000 per year above the average American salary, but they don’t generate any actual products themselves.
10. Lawyers — $139,880/$67.25 per Hour
Lawyers are perennial among the most disliked professionals in America. The entire industry is held in low regard in terms of contribution to society, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The average lawyer salary of $139,880 is more than double the national average, but it doesn’t end there. The best-paid lawyers can earn $208,000 per year or more, compared to the $53,180 average paralegal salary.
11. Financial Managers — $139,720/$67.17 per Hour
Financial managers help monitor and maintain the financial health of a company or organization. As such, they fulfill an important role. In any given company, however, a financial manager has many underlings who are doing a lot of the same work, such as creating reports and making financial projections. At a $139,720 average salary, financial managers earn nearly four times the amount of financial clerks, who earn $38,080 annually.
12. Sales Managers — $135,090/$64.95 per Hour
Sales managers lead others to generate more business. They develop systems and teams to improve the amount of revenue a company earns. Sales managers typically are not selling anything themselves, just motivating and facilitating others to do more work. The more work that their team does, the more money they make, even though they don’t generate any product or service of their own. For their efforts, sales managers typically earn $80,000 more than the national average wage, sometimes more if they receive bonuses.
13. Personal Financial Advisors — $123,100/$59.18 per Hour
Financial advisors can offer valuable advice to investors who need help with their financial plans. One of the complaints about advisors is that they might not have a fiduciary responsibility to act in a client’s best interests, and they can earn commissions regardless of whether their recommendations earn any money for clients. At an average salary of $123,100, financial advisors earn more than double the national average.
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14. Pharmacist — $120,270/$57.82 per Hour
Pharmacists must earn a four-year Doctor of Pharmacy degree before they are allowed to work. Afterward, they work in hospitals, drugstores or general markets dispensing prescription medications. Their job is undoubtedly critical, as dispensing a wrong prescription can be life-threatening. Some consider pharmacists overpaid, however, as they are mainly office-based and generally follow written instructions from doctors on prescription pads rather than making actual diagnoses.
15. Economist — $112,860/$54.26 per Hour
Economists analyze market and financial trends and offer projections about their future movements. Although the insights of economists can prove valuable, they are ultimately just opinions, even though they might be expert ones. Economists will be the first to tell you they have no crystal balls, and they are often wrong. With a more than six-digit salary on average, many average wage earners would consider economists to be overpaid.
16. Political Scientist — $112,250/$53.97 per Hour
Political scientists fall into the same “overpaid” reasoning as economists. Their insights are important for politicians, who need accurate reads of the thoughts of the American people. They also provide fodder for daily talk shows, who need information and projections about the American political landscape. Essentially, political scientists — who must have a master’s degree or Ph.D. — earn well into the six digits for providing their opinion and interpretation of various data points.
17. Lobbyist — $108,904/$52.36 per Hour
A lobbyist is a paid influencer. Lobbyists seek to persuade government officials to enact legislation that would benefit a particular group. In public perception, this essentially means that lobbyists are mercenaries, hired guns that will do whatever they have to do to get the government to bend their way. Many Americans have a negative perception of lobbyists, feeling that they have undue influence in politics and more access to politicians than the average American. A six-digit salary that is double what the average American earns makes lobbyists notoriously overpaid.
18. Brand Strategist — $97,000/$46.63 per Hour
Continuing the theme, brand strategists fall into the information/opinion realm occupied by economists and political scientists, with a company-specific twist. A brand strategist helps businesses identify their target market and develops ways to appeal to potential customers. When accurate, these types of insight are extremely valuable to individual companies. In terms of relative pay, earning nearly double what the average American makes can make these strategists seem overpaid.
19. Psychologist — $94,650/$45.51 per Hour
To become a psychologist, you’ll need at least a master’s degree; many psychologists have doctoral degrees. A psychologist observes and interprets, offering opinions on how to improve processes and behaviors. But a psychologist is not a medical doctor and is not qualified to make medical diagnoses, nor can psychologists prescribe medications. Psychotherapy has value to those who need it, but a psychologist earns more than $40,000 over the average American.
20. Professional Athlete — $83,730/$40.25 per Hour
Athletes are an interesting category when it comes to salary. Much like actors or other performers, a large number of athletes don’t make that much money at all. Consider minor league baseball players — they, too, are professional athletes, but in their first season, they can only earn a maximum of $1,100 per month. On the other end of the spectrum, full-blown baseball stars like Mike Trout will earn over $34 million in 2018. Some athletes can indeed be considered overpaid, both in terms of the average American salary and the wage of an average worker in their own industry.
About the Author
After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.