By Maxwell Rotbart

For the first time in four years, general dentistry has been dethroned in the annual “Best Jobs” ranking by U.S. News & World Report.

In its stead, U.S. News has crowned software developer as the best job in America.

The U.S. News rankings, which date back to at least 2010, identify top professions based on a variety of metrics, including salary; availability in the job market; projected industry growth; and the amount of stress impacting those who work in the field.


US News Logo

While based on these criteria, software developers hold America’s top-rated job, the dental industry still dominates the Top Ten list, with general dentists ranked at #2; orthodontists at #5; and oral and maxillofacial surgeons tied at #8 with OB-GYN and physician



General dentists on average, earn $154,000 annually, more than almost any profession in America, although orthodontists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons boast America’s best-paying jobs, taking home 35% more each year than their general dentist colleagues.

Unfortunately, the average earnings for general dentists has not kept up with inflation. The inflation rate between 2017 and 2018 was 2.05%; the income of the average dentist only grew 0.78% in the same time period. By comparison, the salary of software developers grew 1.84%, also not keeping pace with inflation, but a significantly higher growth rate than general dentists.

Furthermore, many new dentists expecting a handsome salary will see their compensation sapped for years to come, contending with dental school debt and the lower salaries often associated with corporate dentistry.

“Health care jobs often require a human element, so they can’t be exported or entirely replaced by robots — at least not yet.”

For example, the UCLA School of Dentistry predicts that local students will pay more than $275,000 to complete its four-year DDS program, averaging close to $70,000 each year. Non-California residents will have to cough up significantly more.


Job Market

The job market for general dentists is among the strongest in the nation. The unemployment rate in 2018 is a miniscule 0.4%, which is up from an almost non-existent rate in 2017. Other well-paying industries have significantly higher unemployment rates (indicating a lack of demand in the job market), including podiatrist (2.1%); medical and health services manager (3.3%); and petroleum engineer (5.9%).

U.S. News personal finance editor Susannah Snider, speaking to the New York Daily News, noted that healthcare industry jobs, in general, are among the most secure in the nation: “Health care jobs often require a human element, so they can’t be exported or entirely replaced by robots — at least not yet.”



In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecast a 19% growth in the dental profession for the coming decade; impressive compared with other professions including nuclear power operators, who are expecting a 1% decline (bad luck for Homer Simpson and his $78,000 annual salary); airline pilots and flight attendants (+4%); biomedical engineers (+7%); zoologists (+8%); and teachers (+10%).

On the other hand, some professions are expecting large leaps in employment opportunities, including solar photovoltaic installer (which only pays $39,000 a year), expected to rise 105%; nurse practitioners (+36%); and massage therapists (+26%).



The U.S. News & World Report finds that dentists experience an “average” amount of job-related stress, varying from practice to practice, depending on the number of patients that each dentist chooses to schedule and the services provided.

The American Dental Education Association notes that among the benefits that offset stress in the dental industry include:


  • The joy that comes from “positively transforming a patient’s life”
  • Developing career independence that provides job flexibility
  • Earning respect among non-industry colleagues
  • Engaging in creative problem-solving as part of a team


Dental Assistants

Other than software developer, there is no technology career listed in the top #25 of the U.S. News ranking. Prosthodontist and dental hygienist each hold a spot in the top #25.

One other dental-related career that appears on the U.S. News list is dental assistant, sneaking in at 98th place (just beating out political scientist, #99 and substance abuse counselor, #100).

Contributing writer Maxwell Rotbart specializes in covering business, education, and history-related topics. He is the author of The State of Israel: Prime Ministers, available from
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