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July 22, 2021

The 25 'Best Paying Jobs,' according to US News

Daily Briefing

    U.S. News & World Report released its 2021 list of the 25 "Best Paying Jobs" in the United States, and all 10 of the top-ranking jobs are in the health care industry.

    Provider compensation model not working? Here’s how to fix it.

    How U.S. News determines its 'Best Paying Jobs'

    The 2021 "Best Paying Jobs" are a subset of the 2021 U.S. News list of "100 Best Jobs."

    The "100 Best Jobs" list is based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). To compile its rankings, U.S. News identified the professions with the largest projected number and percentage of openings from 2019 to 2029, and then evaluated them against seven measures, including:

    • Median salary;
    • Unemployment rate;
    • 10-year growth volume;
    • 10-year growth percentage;
    • Future job prospects;
    • Stress level; and
    • Work-life balance.

    Of the resulting "100 Best Jobs," the 25 professions with the highest median salaries were then selected for the "Best Paying Jobs" list.

    One limitation of the data is that BLS reports salaries in ranges that, during the period included in the U.S. News report, extended only up to $208,000 per year. As such, any job with a median salary higher than that level was reported as paying $208,000 annually.

    The 'Best Paying Jobs'

    Health care professions up made all 10 of the top jobs on the list.

    Anesthesiologists—for whom BLS reported a median salary of at least $208,000—topped the rankings. Although BLS reported the same median salary for several other medical professions, those jobs didn't score as well by other measures, such as number of projected jobs and unemployment rate, according to U.S. News.

    The health care occupations among the 25 "Best Paying Jobs" of 2021, along with their associated salary as reported in BLS data, were:

    1. Anesthesiologist ($208,000);

    2. Surgeon ($208,000);

    3. Oral and maxillofacial surgeon ($208,000);

    4. Obstetrician and gynecologist ($208,000);

    5. Orthodontist ($208,000);

    6. Prosthodontist ($208,000);

    7. Psychiatrist ($208,000);

    8. Physician ($206,500);

    9. Pediatrician ($175,310);

    10. Nurse anesthetist ($174,790);

    11. Dentist ($155,600);

    18. Podiatrist ($126,240);

    20. Pharmacist ($128,090); and

    22. Optometrist ($115,250).

    ("Best Paying Jobs," U.S. News & World Report, accessed 7/20; "Best Jobs Methodology," U.S. News & World Report, 1/12)


    Advisory Board's take

    5 ways to achieve an effective physician compensation model

    It’s no simple task to earn a medical degree or be a doctor—especially during a pandemic that makes it difficult to practice medicine—so it’s not surprising that physician jobs continue to be among America's best-paid, according to U.S. News.

    But it's one thing to acknowledge that these professionals are highly compensated, and another thing entirely to design a compensation model that treats employed physicians, and everybody else in your organization, fairly. How can you keep top talent while being responsive to local forces, all while keeping care as affordable as possible for patients?

    Our research has identified five factors to keep in mind. And while these things are easier said than done, we hope you can harness some value from our findings.

    1. Define your compensation philosophy—and then stick to it.

      Your compensation philosophy serves as a guide that stops conversations from turning into arguments. Not only should you communicate your philosophy transparently within your organization, but you also should reference it constantly as you develop and improve your compensation model.

    2. Be careful that your financial incentives don't drive unintended consequences.

      For example, if you incentivize your team to hit a specific metric, you can inadvertently drive them to prioritize short-term objectives over long-term goals. Before rolling out a new compensation model with incentives, it's crucial to consider what unintended consequences could result from the new model.

    3. Pay attention to the whole team, not just the individual.

      Any list of the best-paid jobs inevitably focuses on compensation at the individual level. But how does one person's pay affect the whole team contributing to their—and your organization's—success?

      A significant portion of provider compensation will remain based on their individual performance, but we believe that introducing a collective approach can benefit the overall organization. By assessing compensation at the unit level, you can see a boost in performance on major strategic initiatives such as access, service, quality, and cost.

      Just as importantly, collective compensation incentives foster a "we over me" culture in the workplace.

    4. Give everyone a path to success.

      Incentives should, of course, be realistic and obtainable—but it's important to take the next step and actively help your providers achieve those targets. You might, for instance, help providers share their workloads appropriately so that one person's success doesn't result in another's failure.

    5. Consider penalizing behavior that falls below your expectations.
    6. Most compensation models rely heavily on "carrots," but we think that "sticks" can play a role too—especially if a physician's behavior falls below baseline expectations. For instance, should physicians really be incentivized for "good citizenship" behaviors such as completing their charts on time and attending meetings? Or should they instead be penalized for failing to exhibit these behaviors? There's no universally right answer, but penalties should at least be on your options list.

    To learn more about designing a provider compensation model that works, read our more detailed research brief on the subject, or dive deeper with our report from the frontier of physician compensation. You can also check out our physician executive's guide to change leadership for tools to manage change across the physician enterprise.

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