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The Most Satisfying Jobs That Also Pay Well

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Love Your Job

Feeling burned out, underpaid, and underappreciated at a current job? It’s time to look for one that provides more satisfaction. Pay can be a big part of that, so after looking at the top listings from U.S. News & World Report’s “100 Best Jobs,” Cheapism eliminated all lower earners; but the professionals we spoke with across various professions also often express love for jobs that allow them to form relationships with people and provide a sense they are helping, leaving patients, customers, or clients in a better position than when they arrived. Is there a job we missed? Tell us in the comments.

Related: Jobs With Flexible Hours and Great Hourly Rates

Smiling young cheerful woman waiting for a dental exam

30. Dental Hygienist

Median Salary: $77,090

Education Required: Associate’s degree in dental hygiene

Why It's Satisfying: Kirsten Wimmer, of Woodbury Pediatric Dentistry in Minnesota, loves being a dental hygienist for many reasons, including flexibility that allows her to spend plenty of time with loved ones “while also giving me the thrill of working in health care.” She praises the financial stability, but her favorite thing “is making people fall in love with their smile. It warms my heart to see people leave my chair with a smile on their face.”

Related: Great Second Careers That Don't Require More School

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29. Marketing Manager

Median Salary: $142,170

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree

Why It's Satisfying: In working with companies to maximize profits, marketing managers get to work independently with significant responsibility, from hiring team members to tracking budgets. They can apply their skills in almost any field, which can mean being able to find something to promote that they are passionate about.

Related: Craziest Marketing Stunts of All Time

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28. Operations Research Analyst

Median Salary: $86,200

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree

Why It's Satisfying: These professionals help companies run smoothly and more efficiently. Especially in hard times, the money saved through their analysis could mean the difference between pay cuts or job losses for other employees — or even a company bankruptcy. Analysts can work within many industries, from health care to commercial shipping.

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27. Psychiatrist

Median Salary: $208,000

Education Required: Doctorate degree involving four years of medical school, followed by a four-year residency in a specialty 

Why It's Satisfying: Considering the stigma surrounding mental health, these professionals have a tough but meaningful job to do, playing a critical role in helping people live safe and happy lives.

Flightdeck View

26. Pilot

Median Salary: $130,440

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree for most pilots; it takes approximately two years for copilot licensing 

Why It's Satisfying: Mark Harstad, an airline pilot for Spirit Airlines, says there is a lot to love about his job. “Having a unionized job means good benefits and excellent pay. I also have a lot of time off to spend with my family and downtime during trips to explore the area.” Being a pilot also offers flexibility and constant challenges, which keeps things interesting, he said. 

Related: Air Travel Perks We Miss


25. Cartographer

Median Salary: $65,470 (figure from 2021)

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree, likely with an internship

Why It's Satisfying: Thomas Faessler loves digging into the research needed in cartography that he can combine with his artistic skills to communicate information — which is why he’s been making maps for more than a decade. 

Couple consulting with a female financial manager at the bank

24. Financial Adviser

Median Salary: $87,850 (figure from 2021)

Education Required: At least a bachelor’s degree

Why It's Satisfying: Daniel Hart, a financial adviser at Bulbfin in London, says his job is tough but benefits such as healthy pay, flexible hours, and the ability to move around within the industry outweigh the downsides. “The perks are great for me personally, but importantly I also have a great sense of purpose and get immense satisfaction from helping people reach their short, medium, and long-term financial goals,” Hart says. 

Related: Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Financial Adviser

Industrial engineer in factory

23. Mechanical Engineer

Median Salary: $88,430 (figure from 2021)

Education Required: At least a bachelor’s degree 

Why It's Satisfying: Jessica Buck, an engineer for Toyota, says her job provides lots of opportunities to learn and problem-solve. “Being a ride and handling engineer also is a lot of fun. I get to tune suspension characteristics with the design engineers to deliver the on- and off-road performance,” she says, suggesting plenty of chances to ride around in test vehicles. “I’m grateful I chose a versatile degree like mechanical engineering.” 

Disabled man using a prosthetic and doing physiotherapy

22. Orthotist and Prosthetist

Median Salary: $70,190

Education Required: Master’s degree

Why It's Satisfying: Professionals in this field make life-changing devices for their patients. Whether fitting a prosthetic leg for a soldier or braces on a child with disabilities who couldn’t walk otherwise.

Related: Veterans Benefits You Don't Want to Miss

Physical therapist working with patient

21. Physical Therapist

Median Salary: $91,010

Education Required: Doctorate of physical therapy, which involves a four-year graduate program 

Why It's Satisfying: Whitney Eakin, of Travel Therapy Mentor, says physical therapy is rewarding for the opportunity to spend time one-on-one with patients and see them improve their mobility, reduce pain “and most importantly improve their quality of life, often by providing alternatives to surgery and pain medication.”

Related: Popular Activities Physical Therapists Wish You'd Stop

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20. Marriage and Family Therapist

Median Salary: $51,340

Education Required: At least a master’s degree 

Why It's Satisfying: Marriage and family therapists get to counsel individuals and couples to improve their relationships and their lives, sometimes after meeting them at their absolute worst.

Related: What to Do When a Family Member Becomes a Stranger

Child who is doing physiotherapy in a clinic with the help of therapists, walks towards her mother.
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19. Occupational Therapist

Median Salary: $86,280

Education Required: Master’s degree

Why It's Satisfying: Mikkayla Johnson, co-creator of the OT for Me Box, loves helping kids. Being a pediatric occupational therapist is “the most rewarding career I could ask for,” she says, because she gets to be creative while helping children develop skills to take care of themselves, make friends, ride a bike, or just play.

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18. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

Median Salary: $208,000 (figure from 2021)

Education Required: Doctorate

Why It's Satisfying: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons diagnose and treat head and neck cancer, repair cleft palates, and improve the function and appearance of oral and facial structures after trauma — work that can transform lives. 

Related: Countries Where Americans Can Save Big on Medical Care

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17. Financial Manager

Median Salary: $134,180

Education Required: At least a bachelor’s degree in the field

Why It's Satisfying: Flexible working hours are the best thing about being a financial manager, says David Adler of Net Influencer. “I don't have to work fixed schedules and can see clients whenever I want,” he says, though he also enjoys establishing relationships with his clients and helping them meet their goals.

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16. Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Median Salary: $47,660

Education Required: At least a bachelor’s degree; some counselors have up to a doctorate degree demanding eight to 12 years of education

Why It's Satisfying: Although it pays less than some other health care professions, this job is satisfying to people such as Dr. Brian Wind, a clinical psychologist and the chief clinical officer at JourneyPure of Kentucky and Tennessee. “As a former addict in recovery myself, I've gone through the recovery process and faced the struggles of addiction and poor mental health. I love my job because I can help others in the same situation,” Wind says. “It is a privilege to be employed in a field that is a ‘heart mission’ for me.” 

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15. Information Security Analyst

Median Salary: $103,590

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree 

Why It's Satisfying: As the world becomes increasingly digital, the role of information security analysts becomes more important. These professionals know each day they go to work they are helping companies run smoothly while protecting sensitive and important data. 

Related: Scary Cyberattacks that Hacked Millions of Users

Anesthetist in operating theatre

14. Anesthesiologist

Median Salary: $208,000

Education Required: Doctorate needing four years of medical school; an anesthesiology residency lasts at least four additional years

Why It's Satisfying: Anesthesiologists are like miracle workers for patients, taking away often excruciating pain during surgery or childbirth.

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13. Physical Therapist Assistant

Median Salary: $59,770

Education Required: Associate’s degree and supervision by a licensed physical therapist

Why It's Satisfying: Margie Nguyen, of Not Just a PTA in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore area, says there's “no better feeling” than helping someone recover from an injury and get back to playing the sport or activity they enjoy. “I have a rewarding career because I get to help people every day. I make a difference in their lives. I wake up every day wanting to go to work,” Nguyen says.

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12. Information Technology Manager

Median Salary: $146,360 (figure from 2021)

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree

Why It's Satisfying: Even jobs that aren’t considered “tech” jobs rely on technology every day to function; IT managers work behind the scenes to keep it all running smoothly by troubleshooting, determining needs, and providing upgrades. They get the satisfaction of being the backbone to a successful and smooth-running organization. 

Related: Cheap Online Graduate Degree Programs to Jump-Start a Career

Young woman during a dental check-up

11. Orthodontist

Median Salary: $208,000

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree followed by four years of dental school culminating in a three-year orthodontic residency

Why It's Satisfying: Dr. Emilia Taneva, a board-certified orthodontist in Chicago, gets to give patients “their dream — healthy, happy smiles.” Treating children and adults adds to a sense of variety. “Every day and every patient is different, so there’s no chance I’ll ever be bored while I’m working,” Taneva says.

Related: Graduate Degrees That Can Help You Earn Over $100K

Curious Puppy

10. Veterinarian

Median Salary: $99,250

Education Required: Doctorate that some complete with an additional three-year residency

Why It's Satisfying: Spending your day surrounded by puppies and kittens is just one reason to love being a vet. “I can be a voice for the sick and injured who cannot speak,” says Kara Nelsen, an emergency vet at Allied ER Vet in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The job also brings a wide range of job opportunities that allow for career exploration. “This job comes with a lot of responsibility, and sometimes burden, but I still wake up every day believing it is all worthwhile,” Nelsen said.

Little beautiful girl at the dentist smiling

9. Dentist

Median Salary: $158,940

Education Required: Doctorate entailing four years of dental school

Why It's Satisfying: Kate Ring, a dentist in Oklahoma City, appreciates her field’s “rare opportunity to form lifelong relationships with patients” — seeing people at least twice a year. Dentistry is also a “unique blend of science and art,” Ring says.  

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8. Data Scientist

Median Salary: $98,230

Education Required: At least a bachelor’s degree; some jobs may require a master’s degree

Why It's Satisfying: William Cannon, a data scientist and the CEO of Signaturely, a digital signature business in Walnut, California, loves his profession for its challenge — and the feeling when a challenge is met. “Data presents real logical problems, as well as revolutionary solutions, once a problem is cracked,” Cannon says.

Cute little boy at speech therapist office

7. Speech-Language Pathologist

Median Salary: $80,480

Education Required: Master’s degree followed by a nine-month, supervised clinical fellowship for certification

Why It's Satisfying: Speech-language pathologists get to spend every day helping kids learn to communicate, read, and write, and can work in a variety of settings. Professionals in the field delight in the meaningful work of helping people learn to communicate or eat and drink safely after a stroke or injury.

Businesswoman Analyzing Financial Chart On Computer

6. Statistician

Median Salary: $92,270

Education Required: Master’s degree

Why It's Satisfying: Statisticians have the freedom to work in many fields, meaning they can find a job that gives them personal satisfaction while analyzing data to solve real-world problems. There’s also plenty of upward mobility, according to people in the field. 

Related: Careers Where Women are Paid More than Men

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5. Physician

Median Salary: $208,000

Education Required: Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree demanding four years of medical school followed by a three- to eight-year residency, depending on specialization

Why It's Satisfying: “Getting to be there for people through the best and worst times of their lives is one of the most amazing things about being a family practice doctor,” says Dr. Kristen Budahn, of Glencoe Regional Health in Minnesota. “It is such a privilege that people let you into the most intimate moments, from delivering a baby to sitting with a family as their loved one passes away and everything in between.”  

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4. Medical and Health Services Manager

Median Salary: $104,280

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree

Why It's Satisfying: Shann Hastings, a public health adviser for the federal government, enjoys being able to support communities working to end opioid overdoses and underage drinking. “The individuals who work for the organizations that receive grant funds are extremely dedicated to positively changing their communities, and it’s rewarding to be part of their efforts,” Hastings says.

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3. Nurse Practitioner

Median Salary: $111,680

Education Required: At least a master’s degree 

Why It's Satisfying: Nurse practitioners are able to provide direct care to help patients stay healthy physically and mentally, but with less educational requirements than a physician — which can mean independence and financial stability with less school and debt.

Related: We Asked Nurses About Their Favorite Walking Shoes

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2. Software Developer

Median Salary: $110,140

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree for most jobs; some are available with as little as nine to 12 months of training

Why It's Satisfying: Any software developer gets to face and overcome daily challenges and puzzles, often with flexible hours and the ability to work remotely. For software engineer Sherri Byrne-Haber in Cupertino, California, there’s even more, since she works in the field of accessibility, making software to help people with disabilities. “There are not many people who can wake up in the morning looking forward to their tech job and say to themselves, ‘Time to improve someone's life again today.’ Accessibility engineers can,” she says. 

Related: Jobs That Could Grow Even During a Recession

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1. Physician Assistant

Median Salary: $115,390

Education Required: Master’s degree

Why It's Satisfying: “I am able to see my own patients and formulate my own plan,” says Glencoe physician assistant Abby Bennett. She also enjoys the sense of teamwork that can come with helping patients, and that the career “provides a comfortable income with fewer years of schooling than a medical doctor.” 

Related: Jobs That'll Soon Be Lost to Automation