Doctors, pilots and lawyers deliver essential services, often at strange hours and under high stress.
And they're paid well for their effort.
Doctors earn more than anyone else in the private sector, averaging $145,688 a year, according to a Bizjournals.com analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Airplane pilots and navigators rank second at $128,406, followed by lawyers at $118,004. The numbers are for 2004, the latest year available.
Seven occupations made the six-figure list of salaries. Joining doctor, pilots and lawyers are: optometrists, with an annual average of $116,403; medical-science professors, $115,786; marketing and advertising managers, $103,883; and law professors, $103,283.
The bureau estimated wages and hours for hundreds of jobs, based on a survey of employers in the private and public sectors. Bizjournals.com narrowed the focus to full-time workers on the private side and removed statistics for part-time employees and government workers.
The Bizjournals.com study shows the connection between salary and education. Seven of the top 10 jobs require postgraduate degrees, while two call for bachelor's degrees. Airlines generally prefer that pilots be college grads, though they don't insist upon it, but they do require the rigorous commercial pilot's license.
The typical private-sector worker earned $37,715 in 2004. Waiters and waitresses, the lowest-paying occupation, earned $8,751 per year. That figure does not include tips, which were not covered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey.
It's no surprise that professional, technical and managerial jobs dominate the upper end of the private-sector rankings. White-collar jobs paid an average of $46,744 in 2004, far ahead of the blue-collar average of $32,618.
The top 59 occupations in the salary standings are classified as white collar. The highest-paying blue collar job is oil well drillers, who rank 60th overall and earn $62,409 per year.
The study found no link between annual wages and hours. Employees at nine of the 10 lowest-paying jobs averaged more than 1,900 hours at work in 2004. But four of the 10 highest-paying jobs fell below the 1,900-hour threshold, with airline pilots averaging just 1,083.
Physicians yield first place in the rankings when salaries and hours are combined. Pilots soar to the top with average earnings of $118.58 per hour. Then come doctors ($66.58) and law professors ($66.55 per hour).
American City Business Journals, Inc.