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Jan. 18, 2021, 11:22 a.m. EST

The No. 1 job in America pays $100,000 a year — and it’s not in Silicon Valley

The annual ‘best jobs’ rankings are based on salary, openings, work-life balance, and stress level

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By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch


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For the first time in three years, software developer did not make the No. 1 spot.

Can you have a job with high satisfaction that also pays six figures? Yes, if you choose wisely.

U.S. News & World Report has come up with an answer for jobs that pay $100,000 a year or more. “No single job suits all of us, but many of the best ones have a few attributes in common,” it says in its annual ranking of “best jobs” for 2021. For the first time in three years, software developer did not make the No. 1 spot. Dentists were also knocked out of the top 5 this year and rated No. 9 on the list.

No. 1 was physician assistant (median salary of $112,260 a year; the required education is a Master’s degree); followed by software developer ($107,510 a year, requiring a Bachelor’s degree); nurse practitioner ($110,700 a year, requiring a Master’s degree); medical and health services manager ($100,980 a year, requiring a Bachelor’s); and physician ($206,500 a year, requiring a Doctorate).

The researchers looked at jobs with the largest projected number and percentage of openings from 2019 to 2029, as determined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They then looked at a series of other factors rated on a scale of 1 to 10, including stress levels, future career prospects, unemployment rate, and a projected 10-year growth in number of those jobs.

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A separate 2020 ranking by Glassdoor of “ 50 Best Jobs in America ” listed front-end engineers (computer programmers who make a median base salary of $105,240 a year) at No. 1 — knocking data scientists from the No. 3 spot to the No. 4 spot after four years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They were followed by java developer ($83,589), data scientist ($107,801), product manager ($117,713) and devops engineer ($107,310).

The Glassdoor score was determined by weighing three factors equally: Earning potential (median annual base salary), overall job satisfaction rating and number of job openings. For a job title to be considered, it must receive at least 100 salary reports and at least 100 job satisfaction ratings shared by U.S.-based employees in one year. C-suite and intern level jobs were excluded from the data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.16% , S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.02%  and Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -0.36%  had a tumultuous 2020. They were marginally higher Thursday as investors weighed the likelihood of a more generous stimulus under incoming President Joe Biden amid increased risk of more political unrest after the siege on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump last week.

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Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch's personal-finance editor and The Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.

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