12 Jobs That Are So Overpaid They Practically Feel Like Scams

Many people would say these professionals do not earn the large salaries they receive
Updated April 11, 2024
Fact checked
Covering face with money

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While many workers struggle to move beyond living paycheck to paycheck, others are drowning in cash.

In fact, it could be argued that many of these latter workers are ridiculously overpaid.

Some jobs bring wild levels of compensation — we’re looking at you, CEOs — that often seem hard to justify. Others bring little to no value to people’s lives, regardless of how much money the job makes.

Here are a few jobs where workers earn a lot more than their efforts warrant.

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Hospital CEO

Chris Ryan/KOTO/Adobe doctors and business people talking

If you thought doctors were paid too much, their salaries are nothing compared to hospital administrators.

These top-level employees can make salaries in the multiple millions of dollars annually — even if they work at nonprofit hospitals.

Professional athlete

Andrey Burmakin/Adobe two basketball players in action

We all love watching a good game of professional football or basketball, but these athletes are notoriously overpaid for the amount of work they do and how important it is to society.

For perspective, the minimum salary for a rookie in the NFL is $750,000 — about 10 times the median household income for the average American.

Star actor

fabrus/Adobe holding clapperboard during the production

Famous actors are widely known for making more money than they likely deserve. Hollywood stars can make millions of dollars per film, and some do multiple films per year.

Some contracts also allow actors to make more money on the back end if the movie does well.

These salaries are in stark contrast to the industry median pay for all actors as a group, which is only $17.94 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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pressmaster/Adobe talking about his position loudly

Many federal politicians make good money. For example, members of the House and Senate make well above six figures for jobs that only require them to work less than half of the days in a year.

That doesn’t include any money they get from consulting, speaking, book deals, or other pursuits.

Business CEO

marvent/Adobe business ceo talking on phone

Running a large corporation is no small feat. But CEO pay at S&P; 500 companies now tops an average of $16.7 million, according to the AFL-CIO.

Are the efforts of CEOs that much more valuable than those of their employees, who make a fraction of that each year? The bigwigs may be important, but they’re not that important.

Hedge fund manager

MP Studio/Adobe man using multiple monitors

Hedge fund managers rake in huge amounts of cash. Yet, research has found that a large percentage of hedge funds underperform the Standard and Poor’s 500 index — often by a large margin.

Professional gamer

dusanpetkovic1/Adobe winning tournament in video game

Many of us dreamed of playing video games for a living when we were kids. Crazily enough, there are people who actually do this in real life.

The e-sports gaming industry has exploded, and prize pools now reach millions of dollars. However, it’s questionable whether these folks are making a real contribution to society in exchange for their efforts.

Plastic surgeon

Flamingo Images/Adobe doctor drawing with marker

Heart and orthopedic surgeons have an easier time justifying their high salaries than plastic surgeons do. A bypass or hip replacement is a lot more critical to life than a nose job.

Despite this fact, Salary.com says plastic surgeons make a median of more than $419,300 per year.

College football coach

zphoto83/Adobe football coach

In 43 of 50 U.S. states, college football coaches are the highest-paid state employees, according to a report from The Sports Daily. These coaches often make millions of dollars per year.

Considering that the BLS says the average post-secondary teacher makes around $76,920, it’s safe to say that many college coaches are wildly overpaid.

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Andrey Popov/Adobe private detective taking photos

The salary range for celebrity photographers is pretty wide: Some barely scrape by while others make six figures or more.

However, any profession that involves harassing or stalking people probably gets paid too much. Federal and state laws have been enacted that provide some protection from the intrusion of paparazzi photographers.

Social media influencer

rh2010/Adobe marketing in social media concept

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much these niche celebrities make, but reports suggest that some can make thousands of dollars per post.

That’s not including ad revenue, which can be substantial for YouTubers with millions of subscribers.


Antonioguillem/Adobe dentist examining a patient teeth

Unlike dentists, much of what orthodontists do is cosmetic rather than medically necessary. For straightening out your teeth, these professionals make a median annual salary of $174,360 per year, according to the BLS.

By contrast, dental assistants make an average of less than $50,000 per year.

Bottom line

deagreez/Adobe having a lot of money

While you might struggle from day to day just to add money to your savings account, others are rolling in cash thanks to what they earn.

In the end, whether or not a job pays too much is in the eye of the beholder. But many folks will agree that at least some of the jobs on this list are ridiculously overpaid.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.

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