Do jobs that are more fun usually pay less money?

Highest and Lowest Paying Jobs in the U.S.

Surgeons might save lives and be among the highest paid Americans, but that doesn’t mean morale is high.
Surgeons might save lives and be among the highest paid Americans, but that doesn’t mean morale is high.

If you think the jobs that pay the most are also the most fun, perhaps you should talk to someone in one of those professions. You might find the opposite is true. Take a look at a 2014 list of the median salaries for some of the highest paying jobs in the U.S. [source: CareerCast]:

  • Surgeon — $233,150
  • General practice physician — $187,200
  • Psychiatrist — $178,950
  • Orthodontist — $149,310
  • Dentist — $146,340
  • Petroleum engineer — $130,280
  • Air Traffic Controller — $122,530
  • Pharmacist — $116,670
  • Podiatrist — $116,440
  • Attorney — $113,530

Beyond fat paychecks, the thing many of these professions have in common is general job dissatisfaction. Surgeons, general practitioners and podiatrists might rank well here, but surveys find that only a small minority of doctors feel positive about their jobs [source: Jauhar]. Even worse, dentists and attorneys are said to have the highest rates of suicide and depression [source: Tuttle and Davidson]. And air traffic controllers' jobs have been called one of the most stressful careers around, alongside miner and police officer [source: Montgomery].

The other thing that the highest paying jobs in the country have in common is the amount of work involved in getting one. The majority of these positions require a secondary degree, and some also involve extensive internships or residencies. This can mean taking on massive student loan debt in the process, which can impact not only finances but also one's physical well-being [source: Dugan and Kafka].

On the flip side, a list of the lowest paying jobs — all but one of which pay less than $20,000 per year — doesn't seem like much fun either [source: Tahmincioglu]:

  • Fast Food/Food Preparation — $18,000
  • Dishwasher — $18,000-$23,000
  • Cashier — $19,000
  • Host and Hostess — $19,000
  • Amusement Park Worker — $19,500
  • Movie Theater Usher — $19,600
  • Farm Worker — $19,700
  • Personal Healthcare Aid — $20,300

You would think that amusement park workers would be having at least some fun. But many workers at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for example, say they're hungry, homeless and miserable, living below the poverty line and barely able to eke out an existence working for the happiest place on Earth [source: Olorunnipa].