Patent attorney ($170,000). We tend to think of patents as the breakthrough insights of revolutionary inventors, but they're increasingly a form of warfare among corporations seeking to prevent each other from gaining a technology edge. The lawyers who fight those battles are among the highest-paid professionals PayScale surveys.
Investment consultant ($111,000). Financial advisers can help develop a long-term investing strategy, but they sometimes hawk products on behalf of favored financial firms or advocate active trading—which racks up fees—rather than more proven buy-and-hold strategies. Consumers have become widely skeptical of financial professionals.
Data scientist, IT ($133,000.) Big data is the next big thing, and these quantitative experts—typically with doctorates in math or similar fields—earn big bucks for developing the models and algorithms that will help corporations gain a marketing or competitive edge. What's in it for the ordinary people whose data is being scrutinized is less clear.
(Methodology: PayScale.com, which conducts detailed surveys on compensation, sorted data on thousands of occupations by three variables, each weighted equally: total median cash compensation for a worker with 10 years of experience or more, relative to the median for all jobs; the degree of job stress workers report in each field; and how meaningful workers say their job is. Jobs with high relative pay, low stress and low meaningful ratings were rated as "overpaid," while jobs with low relative pay, high stress and high meaningful ratings were rated as "underpaid." U.S. News combined some job categories to prevent repetition and make the list more representative of the entire economy.)
Rick Newman's latest book is Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback To Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.