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20 jobs with extraordinarily high lifetime earning potential

You may not start out making the big bucks with these jobs, but the payoff in 10 years is high.

20 jobs with extraordinarily high lifetime earning potential

Starting salaries aren’t everything.

Some careers that pay relatively well at the start lose their salary momentum over the long haul. For a more patient approach, check out what a position pays 10 years down the road—it’s a far better barometer of your potential lifetime earnings.

Full disclosure: You’ll need lengthy specialized education (think advanced medical or business degrees) and a willingness to accept a relatively low entry-level salary to land many of these, but the investment pays off. Here are 20 positions with high mid-career earnings, according to PayScale.

Orthopedic Surgeon

Experienced median salary: $405,000

What they do: Physicians and surgeons are the highest earning professionals in the health care world, and orthopedic surgeons do particularly well once they hit their stride. These physicians manage special problems of the musculoskeletal system, which includes the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves. Many orthopedic surgeons specialize in certain areas, such as the foot and ankle, spine, hip or knee. They may also choose to focus on specific fields like pediatrics, trauma or sports medicine.

Education required: Doctoral or professional degree

Find orthopedic surgeon jobs on Monster.

Anesthesiologist

Experienced median salary: $340,000

What they do: Anesthesiologists administer anesthetics to patients during surgeries, monitoring patients’ vital signs throughout and adjusting the dosage of pain medications. They can also work outside of the operating room, in in-hospital and pre-hospital emergencies, intensive care units, acute pain units and chronic pain consultations.

Education required: Doctoral or professional degree

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Psychiatrist

Experienced median salary: $219,000

What they do: Psychiatrists evaluate patients’ mental health through a series of tests that analyze a person’s behaviors, symptoms and past medical history. If issues are present, a psychiatrist then creates plans of action, prescribing  treatments, medications or both. Psychiatrists also work to prevent mental disorders, especially with people who have been through traumatic events.

Education required: Doctoral or professional degree

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Reservoir Engineer

Experienced median salary: $193,000

What they do: Specialists in the petroleum industry, reservoir engineers are responsible for locating fossil fuels underground and determining if they are worth investing in. They are experts in geology, fluid mechanics and various technologies. Some industries look for reservoir engineers with specialization in drilling mechanics, reservoir rock properties or petroleum economics. Most of them work in the petroleum industry, but some have gone on to consulting or academic positions.

Education required: Bachelor’s degree

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Associate Partner, Consulting Services

Experienced median salary: $192,000

What they do: The exact duties of a consulting services partner will vary by industry. Most will work with the management team in collecting and analyzing data for improved decision-making. Their goal is to look for ways to enhance an organization’s growth and efficiency, which also often means implementing new procedures and protocols. It’s a position where strategic thinking, business acumen and a comprehensive understanding of one’s given industry are a must.

Education required: Bachelor’s degree

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Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Experienced median salary: $160,000

What they do: Working closely with anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists are responsible for providing anesthesia and related care before, during and after surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic and obstetrical procedures. They also provide pain management and some emergency services. They often remain with the patient throughout a procedure to monitor vital signs and adjust the anesthesia as necessary.

Education required: Doctoral or professional degree

Find nurse anesthetist jobs on Monster.

Petroleum Engineer

Experienced median salary: $157,000

What they do: Some petroleum engineers work in the field, while others work at drilling sites. In the field, petroleum engineers will recommend locations for the drilling derrick, test the drilling samples and decide the safest way to retrieve the oil or gas. Petroleum engineers at drilling sites also oversee the building and operation of drills, oil derricks and other necessary equipment. Petroleum engineers will work on the design and retrieval of oil or gas through pipelines.

Education required: Bachelor’s degree

Find petroleum engineer jobs on Monster.

Software Development Director

Experienced median salary: $155,000

What they do: Software development directors oversee the software development process, through early coding stages through the product’s final delivery. They coordinate with software programmers to ensure that company objectives and project requirements are being met. Software development directors are also heavily involved in strategic decisions, planning processes and hiring decisions. They work with other colleagues to prioritize projects and work through the development process efficiently.

Education required: Bachelor’s degree in computer science

Find software development director jobs on Monster.

Dentist

Experienced median salary: $151,000

What they do: Dentists are medical professionals who are experts of the mouth and teeth. Using dental instruments, X-rays and other dental equipment, they examine the teeth, gums and related tissues of a patient. They treat diseases, infections and malformations of teeth, gums and related oral structures. Some perform cosmetic dental procedures to improve the appearance of a patient’s smile.

Education required: Doctoral or professional degree

Find dentist jobs on Monster.

Security Director, Computing/Networking/Information Technology

Experienced median salary: $147,000

What they do: The director of computing, networking and IT security is responsible for maintaining the security of the IT infrastructure of an organization. They monitor protocols, establish procedures and enforce policies to keep sensitive information guarded. It’s a job that’s found increasing demand in the wake of highly publicized corporate security leaks, spurring significant growth in the field.

Education required: Bachelor’s degree in computer science or related field

Find IT security director jobs on Monster.

Pharmacy Director

Experienced median salary: $144,000

What they do: Pharmacy directors oversee all operations of a pharmacy, including directing the staff, business planning and meeting all federal requirements. They are also responsible for purchasing, inventory, order processing, utilization and distribution of products and services. The pharmacy director may also communicate with patients and handle some hiring and human resource duties.

Education required: Pharm.D. degree

Find pharmacy director jobs on Monster.

Director of Strategic Planning

Experienced median salary: $141,000

What they do: A director of strategic planning is an executive title used in numerous fields and industries. People in this role often work with senior management to guide and consult them through long-term planning for an organization. They update the company’s plans to ensure they are on track to meet their goals and identify key issues that arise along the way.

Education required: M.B.A.

Find director of strategic planning jobs on Monster.

Division General Manager

Experienced median salary: $140,000

What they do: Division general managers oversee day-to-day operations in their part of an organization. They are responsible for mentoring staff, budgeting, coordinating and adjusting schedules as needed. The division general manager ensures there is a safe, efficient work environment that allows employees to work and meet the company’s objectives.

Education required: Bachelor’s degree

Find division general manager jobs on Monster.

Auditing Director

Experienced median salary: $140,000

What they do: An auditing director supervises and leads audit managers and is responsible for the work performed by audit teams. Some work within public accounting firms and are responsible for providing independent opinions on the reliability of financial statements. Others oversee internal audits of an organization and report on the effectiveness of its controls, the efficiency of its operations and its compliance with policies and regulations.

Education required: Bachelor’s degree, and in most cases a CPA

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Director, Financial Planning & Analysis

Experienced median salary: $139,000

What they do: Directors of financial planning and analysis evaluate financial and business operations to identify changes that need to be made to optimize the organization’s performance. Their reports are used to help managers and executives make better decisions.

Education required: M.B.A.

Find director of financial planning and analysis jobs on Monster.

Business Development Director

Experienced median salary: $138,000

What they do: Business development directors’ jobs vary based upon the company they work for. Their responsibilities include developing operational strategies, coordinating action plans or communicating with different departments. Business development directors also work closely with clients, often giving them sales presentations or negotiating contracts.

Education required: Bachelor’s degree

Find business development director jobs on Monster.

Principal Software Engineer

Experienced median salary: $137,000

What they do: A principal software engineer’s mission is to maximize performance while minimizing the costs of a project. To achieve that goal, they oversee all technical aspects of a company’s projects. They may be involved in researching, designing and developing products.

Education required: Bachelor’s degree in computer science

Find principal software engineer jobs on Monster.

Principal Architect

Experienced median salary: $135,000

What they do:  A principal architect serves as the leader of the architectural team, managing the budget and resolving issues for an architectural building project. The principal architect delegates tasks to other employees, but is ultimately in charge of the building design.  

Education required: Bachelor’s degree in architecture

Find principal architect jobs on Monster.

Software Development Manager

Experienced median salary: $131,000

What they do: Software development managers can work in numerous specialized fields, such as medical, military, business, scientific and general computing applications. As managers, they often delegate tasks to their engineering staff and report the development status to their higher-ups.    

Education required: Bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field

Find software development manager jobs on Monster.

Data Scientist, IT

Experienced median salary: $123,000

What they do: Data scientists conduct data studies and experiments to create new data models, improve current data and build new data set processes. They have advanced knowledge of data-mining techniques such as clustering, regression analysis, decision trees and support vector machines.

Education required: Ph.D. in computer science or a related field

Find data scientist jobs on Monster.

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