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Highest Paying Medical Jobs

Earn the Most with these Lucrative Health Careers

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Healthcare isn't all about money, but if you want a medical career that pays the highest salary, these jobs may be for you. Of course, these jobs are not obtained the most easily. On average, the higher a salary is, the more education and experience is required.

Find out which healthcare careers offer the highest salaries.

1. Advanced Practice Nurses

Happy female nurse looking away
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Not all nursing careers are lucrative, but the more advanced nursing roles which require a minimum of a master's degree, can pay extremely well. Advanced practice nurses include nurse practitioners, CRNAs (nurse anesthetists), and clinical nurse specialists, among others. Not only are these nursing careers very well-paying, they also offer a rewarding level of clinical authority which enables the advanced practice nurse to have a significant impact on patients directly and take on more of a leadership role within the health treatment team.

Advanced practice nurses earn from $80,000 to $150,000 annually, on average, depending on the type of nursing role and level of experience.

2. Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons are also high earners in the healthcare field. The precise salary level depends on the type of physician or surgeon. Surgeons earn more than physicians typically, with neurosurgeons topping the list, as some earn over a million dollars annually. Orthopedic surgeons and plastic surgeons are also high earners. Even the "lowest" earning physicians earn six figures.

Although the pay is high, the required investment of time, school, and money needed to become a doctor are also large. After college, prospective doctors must complete a four year medical school program, and then 3-7 years of residency training, depending on the medical specialty they wish to practice. Some specialists must also complete additional years of training after residency, called fellowships. Therefore, many doctors begin their careers hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. However, if you can handle the investment, the career can be extremely rewarding, both financially and intrinsically.

3. Physician Assistant

Physician assistants are another high-paying healthcare career. Physician assistants work in medical offices or hospitals and treat patients. Depending on the state in which the physician assistant works, they may be able to prescribe some medications and work independently. However, most states require physicians to sign off on prescriptions and other aspects of the P.A.'s work. However, physician assistants are able to treat most patients independently without any direct involvement from a physician.

Physician assistants must have a bachelor's degree plus a master's degree from a physician assisting program. The average salary for physician assistants is about $85,000 per year for primary care, and close to $100,000 for surgical P.A.s

4. Pharmacist

Pharmacist is yet another healthcare profession that enjoys a hefty paycheck, with an average income of about $117,000 according to the MGMA (Medical Group Management Association). Pharmacists must obtain a doctoral level degree, a PharmD, in order to work as a pharmacist in the U.S. Pharmacists work in a variety of settings including hospitals, retail drug stores, and medical clinics.

5. Optometrist

An optometrist is a medical professional with a doctorate degree from an accredited optometry program. Optometry is the medical science of assessing patients' eyesight, diagnosing deficiencies or abnormalities, and fitting the patient with the appropriate prescription of eyeglasses or contact lenses for vision correction.

6. Chief Executive Officer - Hospital or Healthcare System

CEOs of hospitals and healthcare systems are among the highest earners in the healthcare field. In fact, the salaries of many hospital CEOs have recently come under heavy scrutiny in light of the rising costs of healthcare in the U.S. and the need for America's healthcare system to operate more cost effectively. However, running a hospital is a huge responsibility and one which requires a highly-qualified executive who can handle a great deal of pressure and stress. Not only is a hospital CEO responsible for a facility, the employees, and the multi-million dollar budget, but the hospital CEO is also responsible for hundreds of lives at any given time.

It's difficult to quote an average salary for hospital CEOs, because the bulk of their compensation is paid out as benefits and bonuses. Therefore, their actual annual "salary" may be quoted in the low 6-figures, but many CEOs make mid- to high- six-figure salaries, and some earn 7-figure, multi-million dollar annual payouts after bonuses are included.

To become a hospital or healthcare system CEO, you must first start out as a healthcare administrator and work your way up to the C-level role. A minimum of a master's degree is required typically, such as an MBA or Master's of Healthcare Administration, plus many years of experience as a healthcare executive.

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