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Damn, it feels good to be a doctor
Nine of the 10 highest-paying jobs in the U.S. are in medicine
Anesthesiologists have the top-paying job in medicine.
Anesthesiologists have the top-paying job in medicine. Thinkstock/iStockphoto
T

hough it's tempting to pick a future career based on hard research from CelebrityNetWorth.com, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is probably a safer resource. And according to the department's Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Survey, nine of the 10 highest-paying careers in the U.S., on average, are in medicine. 

There are drawbacks, however. Most doctors spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their education, with the average med school grad owing $139,517 in debt. The payments only continue from there: Most doctors must buy medical malpractice insurance, which varies by state and specialty, but can reach into six figures. 

Here are the nine highest-paying professions, with their yearly salaries. For the record, number 10 is chief executive, with an average yearly salary of $176,840. 

1. Anesthesiologist
The job: If you've ever had surgery (or watched Grey's Anatomy), you know the anesthesiologist as the doctor who tells you to count backwards from 100, then sends you "under." But anesthesiologists keep working while you're unconscious: They take care of you during and after surgery, managing your fluids, heart rate, and pain, and making sure you don’t croak on the table. They also work the intensive-care unit, which involves dealing with emergencies like cardiac arrest, and managing acute and chronic pain during recovery. So next time an anesthesiologist is about to send you into darkness, give him a high-five: He has the best paying job in the U.S.

Average pay: $232,830

2. Surgeon
The job: While there are many specialties within surgery, from neurosurgery to plastic surgery, the most common procedures for general surgeons, according to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, are appendectomy (removing the appendix), breast biopsy (removing breast tissue for examination), and carotid endarterectomy (removing blockage from carotid arteries). Not the most glamorous operations, but also not the most stressful. On the downside, general surgeons pay one of the highest malpractice insurance premiums, and each year 15.3 percent face malpractice claims, behind thoracic surgeons and neurosurgeons.

Average pay: $230,540

3. Obstetrician and gynecologist
The job: Gynecologists and obstetricians (lumped together because most doctors choose to combine the specialties) both deal with women’s reproductive systems, and with women and children during pregnancy, birth, and post-natal care. They perform everything from mammograms to cesarean sections, and deal with any complications during birth. OB-GYNs are responsible for the health and safety of a lot of babies, which sounds like a lot of pressure. But on the flip-side, they get to hang out with a lot of babies — which sounds adorable.

Average pay: $216,760

4. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons
The job: These doctors operate on the mouth, jaw, neck, and head, performing tooth extractions, cleft lip and palate repair, and head and cosmetic surgeries. On the extreme end, oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform face transplants: Bernard Devauchelle was the first to do so successfully, in 2005.

Average pay: $216,440

5. General internist
The job: Internists are the doctors who take care of all the non-surgical needs of patients' insides. Unlike surgeons or anesthesiologists, internists usually maintain long-term relationships with patients, advising other doctors about their health history and working out diagnostic problems as they crop up. Malpractice insurance rates are low, relative to surgeons.

Average pay: $191,520 

6. Orthodontist
The job: Rated one of the least stressful jobs in medicine, orthodontists fix malocclusions, or "improper bites," which often means straightening people's teeth with braces and retainers. Some orthodontists also perform facial reconstruction surgeries. On average they work about 30 to 40 hours per week. 

Average pay: $186,320

7. Physician and surgeon (all other)
The job: This varies — anything from cardiologists, who specialize in heart defects and diseases, to pediatricians, who deal with children. All the specialties clumped together make an average of $88.86 an hour.

Average pay: $184,820

8. Family and general practitioner
The job: A general practitioner doesn't specialize in a particular part of the body, but usually acts as a "family doctor." They treat patients for acute illnesses, and provided health education and preventative medicine. General practitioners have one of the lower-stress jobs on this list, and in most states pay on the low-end for malpractice insurance.  

Average pay: $180,850

9. Psychiatrist
Job: Psychiatrists treat mental disorders, prescribe psychiatric medicine, and order or perform lab tests to determine mental illnesses. 

Average pay: $177,520

Sources: NCBI, Screwpile Communications, Bureau of Labor Statistics, New England Medical JournalScience Daily

Carmel Lobello is the business editor at TheWeek.com. Previously, she was an editor at DeathandTaxesMag.com.

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