Friday, January 24, 2014

Top 5 Overpaid Jobs in America

Whether you're looking to use your unique skills to earn as much money as possible, or you're just angry that some people earn outrageous salaries, you should know about some of the high-paying jobs in America.

#1: CEO

Pay: $14.1 million

CEOs who work for one of the country's top 350 firms can expect to earn about $14.1 million, including money from stock options.

It hasn't always been this way. CEOs have always earned high salaries, but recent trends have made them extraordinarily wealthy. Consider that between 1978 and 2012 CEO compensation increased by about 875 percent.

In 1965, CEOs earned 18.3 times more than the typical employee. Conversely, in 2012, that number jumped to 202.3.

No other job has seen that kind of growth.

#2: Meteorologist

Pay: $360,000 in top markets

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Atmospheric scientists, which includes meteorologists, get paid nearly $90,000 a year. That seems like a fair salary for scientists who've earned PhDs and do the kind of work that could help humanity avoid climate change.

But meteorologists don't do those things. They're more like TV personalities than scientists. Despite this, they get paid much more than those working in hard sciences. Chief meteorologists working in a top ten TV market earned about $360,000 in 2012. Even those in the 31 to 40 markets earned almost $200,000.

That's a pretty good salary for someone who only guesses the weather correctly about 73 percent of the time. Imagine what would happen to a doctor who messed up 27 percent of the time. She wouldn't keep her job for very long. But meteorologists have set the bar low enough that they get praised for telling people about the weather taking place right outside their windows.

#3: Petroleum Engineers

Pay: $138,900

Petroleum engineers can work in practically any area of the petroleum industry. Some of them extract oil; some design pipelines; some oversee safety standards.

For this work, they earn about $138,900. Now, that's a lot of money, but it's nothing compared to what a CEO can earn. Consider, though, that many petroleum engineers start their careers with only four years of experience. That means an engineer can start earning major money right out of undergraduate school. At least the CEO probably spent a couple of years in business school. 

#4: Patent Attorneys

Pay: $170,000

Patent attorneys are some of the best-compensated lawyers in the US. Making $170,000 might sound fairly reasonable considering that these lawyers protect the intellectual property rights of individuals and businesses. They could do a lot of good work that protects creative people from losing a lot of money to unscrupulous competitors.

A lot of patent attorneys, however, aren't doing this kind of productive work. Many of them are overpaid because they're actually making it harder for companies to develop and profit from new ideas. A company named Personal Audio has even hired patent attorneys to sue some of the world's most popular podcasters, claiming that podcast technology steals from an earlier patented idea.

That idea: cassette tape recordings of magazine articles. If you have a hard time seeing the connection between cassette tapes and podcasts, then you've just realized why so many people think that patent attorneys are overpaid.

#5: Data Scientists

Pay: $133,000

Data scientists usually have advanced degrees in mathematics and computer science. Given how much education they need, $133,000 might not seem like too much money.

Consider what most data scientists actually do and how it affects your life before you decide that they get justly compensated.

Data scientists often work with huge amounts of information that they take from websites, apps, and other types of technology. Some scientists use their skills to predict earthquakes and improve technology. Those professionals deserve high salaries.

Unfortunately, a lot of people in this field just mine data so they can target you for advertisements or sell your "private" information to companies that want to know more about your habits.

The ability to invade privacy, organize information, and sell it to companies that make life (and the Internet) worse shouldn't mean that these people earn more than $100,000 a year. If the world got to vote, data scientists would probably earn some of the world's lowest salaries.

What other overpaid jobs can you think of? Do you plan to pursue a career in one of these areas?

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