Best Careers [2024 Ultimate Guide]

By Joy Cromwelle
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on April 13, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
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Do you ever read inspirational quotes on social media about living your best life, and wonder if your career is working against you instead of for you?

Careers

Or maybe you are sitting in front of your computer scrolling through endless job ads, wondering what career to pursue?

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The key to unlocking the career of your dreams is knowledge. Begin with a broad knowledge of the various career fields that are available today, and then specialize your search to discover the perfect career that matches your goals and ambitions.

Career Fields

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment market can be broken into 10 different career fields, allowing you to narrow down your focus to one of these industries.

  • Animal Care and Science
  • Architecture and Engineering
  • Art and Design
  • Business and Financial
  • Computer and Information Technology
  • Entertainment and Sports
  • Farming, Fishing, and Forestry
  • Government
  • Healthcare
  • Life, Physical, and Social Science

As you explore the various options available to you, keep in mind both the earning potential as well as the viability of that particular industry. No one wants to be stuck with outdated skills!

Highest Paying Careers

For many people, how much a job pays is a top consideration when considering potential careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for all American occupations is $45,760 per year. The high-paying jobs below tend to make significantly more each year.

Both of these fields offer plenty of opportunity for growth, a lot of different job prospects, and plenty of job security.

Anesthesiologist

Anesthesiologist careers

When people have surgeries or other medical procedures, they’re immensely grateful for the work of anesthesiologists. These medical professionals are experts in pain relief.

During surgeries, they administer medications to reduce patients’ awareness of what’s happening or the sensations that they feel. They must monitor a patient’s condition and adjust the drug levels throughout the procedure.

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Anesthesiologists are medical doctors, so this positions requires earning a bachelor’s degree and then a medical degree. After graduating from medical school, it would be time for you to complete a residency. Next, you’d take exams and complete any additional requirements for licensure in your state.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, anesthesiologists earn a median salary equal to or greater than $208,000 per year. They often work in hospital settings, but jobs may also be available in outpatient surgical facilities, doctor’s offices, or oral surgery centers. In many facilities, anesthesiologists can be called on to respond to medical emergencies at all hours.

Dentist

Dentist careers

Doctors who care for the teeth and gums are known as dentists. They promote good oral hygiene and diagnose and repair problems in the mouth. Their work can include placing fillings, performing oral surgeries, and fitting patients for replacement teeth. Dentists can usually prescribe drugs and administer anesthesia, too.

To become a dentist, it’s necessary to first earn a bachelor’s degree and then enroll in dental school. Most dental programs are 4 years long. After completing school, you would need to become licensed by your state. Some graduates then continue into a residency program for specialized training. Specialties in this field include endodontics and periodontics. Other dentists focus on pediatric or public health dentistry.

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Dentists usually work in dental offices. They are sometimes associates in larger dental practices, but a practitioner can also be the sole dentist on staff or the owner of an independent practice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dentists earns a median of $163,220 annually.

IT Manager

IT Manager careers

If you have a knack for technical tasks, then you may be a fitting candidate for a career in computers and information technology. While many tech jobs pay good money, you might be able to bump your salary up even higher with a job in management.

Typically, an IT manager is in charge of an organization’s computer systems. Their responsibilities may include upgrading hardware, budgeting for the tech department, and safeguarding data security. In addition, managers are often in charge of the various employees within the computer department.

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Those who are interested in this field usually study computer science, information technology, computer engineering, or a related topic in college. The minimum educational requirement for many management roles is a bachelor’s degree, but graduate studies can be beneficial. Most managers have also acquired work experience in the field.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that computer and information systems managers make a median annual salary of $159,010.

Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and Health Services Manager careers

Managers, executives, and administrators in health-related settings fall into the category of medical and health services managers. They take care of much of the behind-the-scenes planning and coordinating tasks that keep healthcare facilities running.

Medical and health services managers can be responsible for leading staff members, planning budgets, and complying with government regulations. Some professionals in this field focus on using technology to maintain patients’ records. Others head up various departments within a facility.

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For many management positions, only a bachelor’s degree is required. Business classes are helpful, and it’s also useful to take courses that address working in healthcare settings. Most people gain related experience before moving into management roles.

Hospitals, physician groups, and government agencies often hire for this position. Nursing homes are another common work environment for administrators, but those jobs require special licensure. The median salary for medical and health services managers is $101,340 each year (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse Practitioner careers

Nurses who want to advance in their field can consider becoming advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). One of the most common types of APRN is a nurse practitioner.

Nurse practitioners provide medical care for patients in a variety of ways. At appointments, they may perform exams and discuss patients’ symptoms. They can provide diagnoses and give patients treatment advice. Nurse practitioners often work closely with supervising physicians.

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To become a nurse practitioner, it’s necessary to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and get licensed. These master’s programs are open only to registered nurses (RN). Typically, an applicant to an ARPN program also holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Alternatively, some schools provide extended programs for students who don’t already have a BSN and an RN license.

Nurse practitioners often work in doctor’s offices and hospitals. Based on information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for nurse practitioners is $120,680 per year.

Orthodontist

Orthodontist careers

Orthodontia is a dental specialty that deals with straightening teeth or fixing oral alignment issues. These dentists use braces, retainers, and other dental appliances to achieve those results.

An orthodontist’s work may not only help patients feel better about their appearance but also resolve their pain, sleep troubles, or breathing issues. After earning a bachelor’s degree, orthodontists-to-be enroll in dental school. If you choose this career path, you’ll typically spend about 4 years in dental school and then move on to an orthodontic residency for several years.

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Starting your professional career will also require becoming licensed by your state. Orthodontists usually work in dental offices. They may share a practice with other dentists or have independent offices. Many of their patients are kids and adolescents. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median annual salary for orthodontists is equal to or more than $208,000.

Physician

Physician careers

Also known as doctors, physicians are medical professionals who provide care for patients. Their responsibilities typically include performing exams, making diagnoses, and offering treatment options. Physicians called surgeons also perform surgical procedures.

There are many different types of physicians. For example, dermatologists treat people’s skin and nail issues. Pediatricians provide health services for children. Neurologists specialize in the brain and the nervous system. Cardiologists care for the heart.

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Prospective physicians are required to complete a bachelor’s degree and a medical degree, and you can gain work experience during a residency. Certain specialties require extra time in residencies or post-residency fellowships.

To work as a doctor, you’ll also hold state licensure. Depending on your training, you can either be licensed as a doctor of medicine (MD) or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO). The median yearly salary for physicians is equal to or greater than $208,000, but salaries vary among specialties (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Physician Assistant

Physician Assistant careers

While doctors and nurses are the first medical professionals that come to most people’s minds, physician assistants also have a key role to play in many medical practices.

Often known as PAs, these members of a medical team can handle many of the same duties as doctors and nurse practitioners. For example, PAs can talk to patients about their symptoms, run tests, and provide diagnoses. They can write prescriptions, administer vaccines, and stitch wounds.

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Becoming a PA requires a bachelors degree and a masters degree. Most students spend about 3 years completing the masters program before becoming licensed. You may be suited for PA school if you have previous experience working in patient-care settings.

PAs often work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and outpatient health facilities. They typically work under the supervision of a doctor. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for physician assistants is $121,530 per year.

Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-Language Pathologist careers

Clear speech doesn’t come easily for everyone. Some people need the intervention of a speech therapist, also known as a speech-language pathologist.

Whether the communication difficulties are related to physical disabilities, developmental delays, diseases, or other causes, speech-language pathologists create treatment plans to help. Speech-language pathologists also help people who have swallowing problems. Swallow tests and therapies can be a vital part of helping people safely get the nutrients that they need.

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For a career in speech-language pathology, you’ll first earn a bachelors degree and then enroll in a masters program. After finishing your graduate studies, you can gain hands-on experience through a fellowship. Your state may also require licensure or registration.

Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for speech-language pathologists is $79,060 per year. Common work settings include schools, therapy offices, hospitals, and residential care facilities.

Statistician

Statistician careers

If you have an analytical mind and a head for numbers, then you might excel in the field of statistics. Statisticians gather data, run analyses on it, and share their findings.

Some statisticians enter the field with bachelors degrees in statistics, while others have masters degrees. As you prepare for this career, you can expect to take many advanced math classes. Statistical analyses factor into decisions made in many different sectors every day.

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Whether you’re interested in business, finance, agriculture, sports, community improvement, science, public health, or another field, you might be able to integrate your knowledge of statistics with a meaningful career in that area. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists $95,570 as the median annual salary for statisticians.

These professionals work in varied sectors. Some of the top employers of statisticians are research and development firms, healthcare agencies, insurance companies, and the federal government.

Highest Paying Careers

As our country ages, the value of your personal health increases exponentially. While money can’t buy good health, working in the health industry is definitely since many of the top-earning careers are in health care!

Careers Annual Median Salary Job Growth [10 Years]
Physicians $208,000+ 3%
Orthodontists $208,000+ 8%
Dentists $163,220 8%
Pharmacists $128,570 -2%
Computer Network Architects $120,520 5%

(Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Did you find a career in this list that piques your interest? If not, let’s specialize our knowledge by exploring careers that may fit your life according to the unique circumstances of your life.

Best Careers for Helping Others

Best Careers for Helping Others

Do you find your days are motivated by compassion and a desire to care for others? Perhaps you want to consider using your compassionate heart in a career, with one of the best careers for helping others.

Career Percentage of Individuals Who Feel their Job is Meaningful Annual Median Salary
Dermatologists 100% $208,000+
Construction Managers 100% $98,890
Police and Detectives (Federal) 100% $93,970
Firefighters 100% $50,700
Nurse Midwives 98% $112,830
Neurosurgeons 97% $255,110

(Source: Forbes, The 25 Most Meaningful Jobs that Pay Well, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Best Careers for Moms

Best Careers for Moms

Ask any mom on the street how she’s doing, and the odds are in your favor she will reply “Busy!” Juggling the demands of family with a rising career is a tough balance, but these careers can set you in the right direction, with either flexible scheduling, part-time employment, or the option to work from home if necessary.

Career Annual Median Salary The Mom Factor
Dental Hygienists $77,810 Flexible hours or part-time employment
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers $77,740 Opportunity to work shifts that don’t conflict with kids’ schedules
Web Developers $77,030 Work at home, set your own hours
Market Research Analysts $63,920 Many contractors work from home
Acupuncturists $60,570 Practitioners can often set their own hours

(Source: Charyn Pfeuffer, Best Jobs & Careers for Working Mothers, Monster.com, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Best Careers for Women

Best Careers for Women

Are you tired of hitting the glass ceiling at work? Well, the best way to break glass is where cracks have already formed. So consider one of these careers where other strong women have a great track record of success.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Chief Executives $179,520
Computer and Information Systems Managers $159,010
Pharmacists $128,570
Lawyers $127,990
Nurse Practitioners $120,680

(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Highlights of Women’s Earnings)

Best Careers for Introverts

Best Careers for Introverts

Are you wondering how to be successful in the professional world when being with others drains you emotionally? One of these careers might be the sweet spot for you, allowing you the freedom to be an introvert while still climbing your career ladder.

Career Annual Median Salary
Astronomers $128,160
Geoscientists $83,680
Social Media Specialists $62,800
Film and Video Editors $62,680
Court Reporters $60,380

(Source: Susan Adams, Forbes, The 10 Best Jobs for Introverts, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Best Careers for Extroverts

Best Careers for Extroverts

Do you thrive in social situations, moving from one connection to another, while keeping all the details straight in your head? If so, consider one of these careers where your strengths as an extrovert can really shine!

Career Annual Median Salary
Marketing Managers $135,030
Lawyers $127,990
Sales Managers $127,490
Managers, All Other $124,650
General and Operations Managers $97,970

(Source: Forbes, The 20 Best Paying Jobs for People Persons, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Best Careers for the Future

Best Careers for the Future

Instead of trying to direct your career like a distracted driver, with one eye on the road and one eye trying to read a map, take a moment to pull over and analyze what careers are looking the most promising for the future.

Career Annual Median Salary Projected New Positions in 10 Years
Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers $110,140 409,500
Registered Nurses $77,600 276,800
General and Operations Managers  $97,970 226,300
Financial Managers $131,710 118,200
Physicians and Surgeons $208,000+ 24,800

(Source: Andy Kiersz and Rachel Gillett, The 21 Most Promising Jobs of the Future, Business Insider, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Finding a career that meets your present needs while unlocking your future goals and ambitions can be difficult. But it doesn’t have to be an impossible task with the right knowledge and direction.

Best MBA Careers

Interested in getting your MBA but uncertain about the best MBA careers? Check out our in-depth guide into the Top 10 MBA Careers.

Best Careers to Fit Your Life

Best Careers to Fit Your Life

In choosing a career, sometimes the best way to find your perfect fit is to first look inward at your unique characteristics and qualities instead of letting a job board posting dictate what direction you take your career.

In choosing a career, sometimes the best way to find your perfect fit is to first look inward at your unique characteristics and qualities instead of letting a job board posting dictate what direction you take your career. Asking yourself the following questions may help you narrow down the vast selection of job possibilities as you search for the career that’s best for you:

  • Do I want a career focused on helping others?
  • How much schooling am I interested in pursuing?
  • How much do I need to earn for the lifestyle I’m envisioning?
  • If I had to choose, would I prefer less stress or higher pay?
  • What sort of hours would I like to work?
  • What topics or interests am I passionate about?
  • Where do my skills lie, and how can I channel them into a productive career?
  • Would I rather work with people or on my own? With my hands or on a computer?

Your answers to these questions can help you rule out certain job sectors and can point you toward others where you could find your ideal career match.

Choosing the Best Career for You

Choosing the Best Career for You

Picking out the right career can help you find satisfaction in your work. Whether your goal is flexible hours, a fulfilling mission, high pay, or a fast-paced environment, there’s a career out there for you.

To discover the right fit, it’s necessary to take into account your interests and abilities, too. College degrees can also contribute to your job success, helping you gain industry knowledge and develop essential skills. The degrees that will get you the farthest are ones from accredited universities.

To get started on the path to your ideal career, you can explore accredited colleges and the programs they offer.

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WRITTEN BY
Joy is pursuing a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership from Capella University. She holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management from Amberton University, as well as a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Columbia College. With over 20 years of experience navigating online degrees and courses, Joy focuses on helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.