What’s more important in a job: the salary or how happy it makes you? According to Scott Dobroski, a community expert at the job site Glassdoor.com, 80 percent of hunters say salary is the No. 1 consideration when mulling over an offer. He adds, however, that New Yorkers in particular see jobs as more than just a matter of salary and compensation with factors like long hours, perks and personal priorities weighing into the decision to take a job or not. “It depends on the individual work-life balance,” Dobroski says. “Some people can make minimum wage and be happy, others can be high-income and be miserable.”
But how to know what’s right for you? It helps to arm yourself with the information on what careers pay the highest in New York City. We’ve taken a look at the top end of the spectrum — based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics — exploring all aspects of the five highest-paying careers. You’ll find job descriptions, salary ranges (including comparisons to national averages), education requirements (along with associated costs), extra skills required, general job satisfaction, and occupational outlook, which is the percentage the job is expected to grow between now and 2020. It’s a load of data, but when we’re talking about the rest of your working life, you need the facts and lots of them.
On the business card: Anesthesiologist, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, orthodontist, surgeon, obstetrician and gynecologist, family and general practitioner, internist, pediatrician, psychiatrist, nurse anesthetist.
The fine print: Medical professionals diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses in patients, take medical histories, prescribe medication, and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. Depending on what type of medical professional one becomes, additional duties will likely include some of the things you’ve seen on Grey’s Anatomy.
Show me the money: NYC: $158,570–$221,650; nationally: $154,390–$232,830.
How long will I be in school? A long, long time. You’ll need a doctoral degree, which commits you to a minimum of four years of undergraduate school and four years of medical school.
How much will all that schooling cost? Take a four-year bachelor’s at a reputable college and then add another $150,000-$300,000 for medical school.
What else do I need to do? Did we mention the three to eight years of internships and residencies?
Pluses: You get to help people, work in a high-status occupation and stay up-to-date on advances in medical science. The salary is nothing to sniff at either.
Minuses: It often takes anywhere from 11 to 14 years to finish all of the required training, and all that schooling comes with a load of debt (the 2012 mean was $166,750 per student, according to the AAMC). As well, a recent survey by NerdWallet.com found that only 48 percent of doctors surveyed would choose the same career if they got a do-over. So you’ve got a one in two chance of being happy!
Occupational outlook: 24 percent growth, higher than the 14 percent average.
On the business card: CEO, financial manager, sales manager, marketing manager, general and operations manager.
The fine print: Top executives devise strategies and policies to ensure an organization meets its goals. They plan, direct and coordinate operational activities of companies and organizations. Financial managers, in particular, produce financial reports, direct investment activities and develop strategies and plans for the long-term financial goals of their company.
Show me the money: NYC: $156,280–$217,680; nationally: $114,850–$176,840.
How long will I be in school? Take a four-year bachelor’s degree and add on a usually two-year MBA at a top business school.
How much will that schooling cost? Bachelor’s degree, plus $7,000–$120,000.
What else do I need to do? Either you’re starting your own business or putting in a minimum of five to 10 years of related managerial experience in an area of specialty.
Pluses: You’re the boss! As well, salaries can be high and often come with many fringe benefits such as expense accounts, opportunities to travel internationally, and a large support staff.
Minuses: Long hours, including on evenings and weekends, are standard for most executives and general managers. The work can also be stressful because executives are under intense pressure to succeed (and those who perform poorly are often fired quickly). A 2010 survey by BlueSteps.com, a site connecting executive recruiters with job applicants, noted that 41 percent of top executives were dissatisfied with their jobs, and 70 percent of them were actively looking for new opportunities – whether or not that just means they’re looking for the next better thing or seeking to flee their old bad thing is up to you.
Occupational Outlook: 5–9 percent growth, lower than the 14 percent average.
On the business card: Airline pilot, duh.
The fine print: Airline pilots fly and navigate airplanes that transport people and cargo on a fixed schedule. Pilots also fly aircraft for other reasons, such as charter flights, rescue operations, firefighting, aerial photography, crop dusting and (if they have their own plane) just for fun.
Show me the money: NYC: $162,770; nationally: $128,760.
How long will I be in school? Many pilots learn how to fly in the military, but another (less arduous) option is to earn an AA or BA from a civilian flying school certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. Most airline companies are also beginning to require at least two years of college, and many prefer pilots have a bachelor’s degree.
How much will that schooling cost? Beyond the somewhat optional bachelor’s degree, flight school is about $35,000 and you’ll also pay for flight hours needed to be certified.
What else do I need to do? To qualify for a commercial pilot’s license, you must be at least 18 years of age and have at least 250 hours of flight experience. After being hired by an airline, there’s also additional training: 6 to 8 weeks of ground school, 25 hours of additional flight school, and annual training to maintain certification.
Pluses: The majority of pilots are members of a union, which tend to have strong benefits packages. The job also involves a lot of travel, which means the opportunity to see parts of the world you may not otherwise have access to. Plus, those travel benefits extend to your off-hours, too … and to family members. As well, according to a survey from PrivateFly, a private jet service in the U.K., more than half of pilots describe flying as “very stimulating” or “interesting.” The study also found that actual satisfaction with flying itself depends highly upon what type of flying is being done: helicopter and military pilots are happiest (62-63 percent satisfaction), followed by private jet pilots at 56 percent.
Minuses: The airline industry isn’t exactly on a money-making streak and in recent years has cut benefits. As well, schedules can be unpredictable, with several days of work in a row followed by several days off. Being a pilot also includes a lot of time away from home, up to three or four nights a week, which can make for a difficult personal life. And if you’re the sort of person who wants to work well past retirement age, or let yourself go physically, then this isn’t the job for you: Pilots have a mandatory retirement age of 65 and are subject to regular physicals. In contrast to the happy helicopter, military and private jet pilots uncovered by PrivateFly, 27 percent of commercial airline pilots find flying “generally the same day to day” or “repetitive and dull.”
Occupational outlook: 11 percent growth, lower than the 14 percent average.
On the business card: YOUR NAME, Esquire
The fine print: Attorneys advise and represent individuals, businesses and government agencies on legal issues or disputes. This involves representing people in court, researching the law, presenting evidence, and negotiating settlements when appropriate. The specializations are endless, from intellectual property law to business law to divorce law.
Show me the money: NYC: $156,190; nationally: $129,410.
How long will I be in school? You’ll need four years of undergraduate school and three years of law school to get that law degree.
How much will that schooling cost? After the bachelor’s degree at a school of your choice, you can plan on $69,000-121,500 for a three-year law degree.
What else do I need to do? To practice law, you’ll have to pass a written bar exam in the state in which you want to practice law. In New York, 61 percent of the people taking the exam passed in 2012. So, bone up!
Pluses: Lawyer jokes aside, there’s a lot of social cache that comes with being an attorney. You can choose your own practice specialty, which means that if you want to help people (by practicing environmental law, family law, or social justice law), you can do that. Being an attorney also presents the intellectual challenge or matching legal code to arguments that will stand up in court. As well, the larger firms known for working their young lawyers to the bone offer perks such as cab rides home after late nights, free meals, on-site gyms, private offices (even for first-year associates) and regular social events.
Minuses: High salaries in the legal profession often come with high levels of stress and double-digit hours, especially if you want to be on the partner track. Expect to be chained to your desk for the first few years if you want those six-figure salaries to keep on climbing, and kiss your personal life good-bye. And don’t forget the job market: The old joke that there are more people in law school today than there are lawyers on the planet isn’t that much of a joke. The mental health picture isn’t pretty either: Of 28 occupations evaluated in a 1990 Johns Hopkins University study, lawyers were the most likely to suffer depression and were more than 3.6 times more likely than average to be depressed. (They’re also second only to doctors in car crashes, with sleep deprivation a likely cause.) They also experience a suicide rate that’s twice the national average according to a 1990s study by the National Institute for Mental Health, as well as higher rates of alcoholism and drug abuse.
Occupational outlook: 10 percent growth, lower than the 14 percent average.
COMPUTER AND INFORMATION SYSTEMS MANAGERS
On the business card: Computer and Information Systems Manager
The fine print: Ever watch The IT Crowd? Take away the basement setting and the self-deprecating British humor and what you’re left with is the planning, coordinating and directing of computer-related activities in an organization, including installing and upgrading hardware and software, ensuring network security, and supervising other IT professionals.
Show me the money: NYC: $154,950; nationally: $129,130.
How long will I be in school? Plan on four years for a bachelor’s degree in a computer- or information science-related field.
How much will that schooling cost? It really depends on whether you’re going public (and in-state or out) or private, but anywhere from 34,620–$116,224.
What else do I need to do? You’ll need several years of lower-level experience in a related IT job to make your way up the ladder to the management level, which often includes such positions as the CTO, or Chief Technology Officer, who oversees the technology plan for an organization.
Pluses: Especially in the start-up sector, there are lots of perks that come with IT jobs. The chance to be the first to play with the best and most expensive technology, travel, and work just about anywhere in any field. As well, those who graduate from college with Information Systems majors have a higher job satisfaction rating with their career path (54 percent) than any other college major, and a rating higher even than the average among all careers (46 percent) according to a New York University Stern School of Business study conducted in 2011.
Minuses: Everyone and their mother will ask you to fix their computer problems, and you’ll likely work at least 40 hours a week (often at odd hours if you’re doing system maintenance), and the amount of stress can be intense — especially when networks go down and you’re the one in charge of getting them up again.
Occupational outlook: 18 percent growth, higher than the 14 percent average.