I strongly believe that people looking to pursue a new career are best advised to choose one that they find interesting and stimulating. The reason is simple: In their productive years, most people spend 1,800+ hours at work (not including commuting time). If you spend that much time doing something you don’t like, this is guaranteed to make you unproductive, miserable, and unhealthy.
Yet it is obvious that earnings can impact significantly our well-being and job satisfaction too. When doing what we love comes at a cost of financial hardship to us and our families, this is also likely to make us unproductive and miserable (and eventually kill the passion for your selected occupation). The ever increasing cost of post-secondary education also makes it mandatory for most people to do a simple cost-benefits calculation before pursuing an education in their selected field (and often taking on student debt).
So we analyzed all job postings indicating a salary, advertised online by employers in Ontario and BC in the first 5 months of 2016. We removed managerial jobs from our analysis as the pay rates for those can vary significantly. We also removed odd / unusual jobs with where less than 10 positions (indicating a pay rate) were advertised.
Here are the 5 best paying professional occupations that we arrived to, along with the average hourly wage for each of them (in cases where hourly wages were provided, we assumed 1,920 work hours per year):
- Doctors (General Medical Practitioners, Family Physicians, and Specialist Physicians): $273,561 per year
- Lawyers and Notaries: $118,650 per year
- Information System Architects: $104,870 per year
- Software Engineers and Designers: $86,995 per year
- Pharmacists: $85,920 per year
Most people will not be surprised to learn that doctors, lawyers, and software engineers get paid well. We have all heard about the chronic shortage of doctors across Canada. And, getting the education needed to become a doctor or a lawyer takes longer and costs more than most other occupations. Yet I find several things quite interesting. For example, I was somewhat surprised by the pay gap between the top paying occupation (Doctors) and the second best paying one (Lawyers and Notaries): Doctors make more than double as much as lawyers.
Also, while this is not obvious from the consolidated numbers above, there are significant regional variances in the income outside of the healthcare sector. While doctors and pharmacists in BC get paid about the same as in Ontario, Ontario’s employers pay between 10% and 20% more to Lawyers and Software Engineers.
Finally, it is worth noting that there may be well paying occupations that are rarely advertised online (for example, dentists). There were also high paying sales occupations advertised online (especially for real estate agents and sales persons) but we removed them from our analysis, because the pay that they offer is mostly commission-based, and therefore highly variable (and difficult to compare with salaried occupations).