PilotsEye Ubiquitous/Press Association Images

The Office for National Statistics publishes a list every year that inspires envy and frustration around the country. It's the list of the best-paid jobs in the UK - which appears as part of the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. It reveals - perhaps unsurprisingly - that the fattest cats of them all are chief executives.

But which other occupations make the list, and why are they so well-paid?



1. Chief executives and senior officials

Their average pay is £85,223 a year (plus of course all the benefits, bonuses and share perks that come with this sort of role). This is up a shocking 11% from this time last year, making it by far the best-paid job in the UK (excluding people like footballers and celebrities who tend to be self-employed and therefore fall outside of this survey).

The question is why they are worth it. The general argument is that as the head of the organisation they are ultimately responsible for everything goes on - legally, morally and financially. Many are not in the job for long, so this salary will have to last them in the years in the wilderness after they are asked to leave.

The other common reason given for paying these guys the big bucks is because they are having to complete with other firms paying similarly inflated salaries.

Not everyone is convinced. Neal Lawson Chair of Left-leaning think tank Compass said: "It's time the government took action on excessive pay, it's absolutely right that we now rein in the bonus bandits that created the economic crisis and ensure a fair, just and sustainable economy."

2. Aircraft pilots and flight engineers

Average pay is £78,736, which is up 14% in the last 12 months. This is a classic case of two things: first it is a highly specialised job for which an enormous amount of training and experience is required - which means there us always a shortage of qualified individuals.

The second issue is that many are operating in highly unionised regimes, with the power to negotiate very strong working terms, conditions and pay. It means that pilots - who carry the weight of responsibility for passenger safety - can command high salaries.

3. Medical practitioners

The average pay here is £71,279 - a far cry from the days when doctors were routinely poorly paid and driven into the ground.

Clearly there's a huge amount of training required - with a six year degree and then any specialist training on top. This is always going to bring down the number of people who qualify, and therefore push up wages.

However, this is another heavily unionised environment, which has allowed the unions to negotiate very generous packages for doctors. It means that even though there is a pay freeze in place, doctors are often still entitled to an incremental increase in pay just for doing the same job for another year.

Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, which negotiates this with unions has told The Kings Fund review body: "Everyone, including doctors, knows these are challenging times for us all. The simple truth is that NHS organisations cannot afford an unnecessary increase in doctors' pay rates over the next year without it impacting on patient care." So we could see a reversal in time.

4. Marketing and sales directors

Here the average salary is £68,245, and is roughly keeping pace with inflation. These roles have become central to many organisations, fighting declining sales as a result of a shrinking in consumer spending power.

These high salaries are a reflection of the fact that an individual who has shown that they have the ability to thrive in this environment is like gold dust, and is paid accordingly.

5. IT and telecoms directors

The average pay is £63,622, which is up 8% from this time last year. The driver here is the rarity of knowledge and expertise among these specialists. Every major organisation needs someone with these skills nowadays, and yet there are very few high-level individual with the ability to set strategy and manage such a vital part of the business - especially when they have to have the technological expertise as well.

6. Company lawyers

The average pay here is £61,544, up 4% from last year. This is partly as a result of the qualifications and training required as individuals make it through the lower-paid levels of the profession.

7. Transport associate professionals

These are people like air traffic controllers and ship captains, and they are paid an average of £61,414 - up 8% in a year.

This is a result of a combination of things. These are demanding roles, there's a lot of training involved, and it takes someone who naturally has a lot of skills that not all that many people have. Of course, it helps that these are highly unionised jobs too, with plenty of people pushing pay up on their behalf.

8. Senior police officers

Here average pay is £59,037 - up 3.8%. Those who reach the highest levels of the force are tasked with politically difficult roles. In many cases they have also spent decades working their way up - through rounds of increasingly difficult examinations and selection boards.

9. Financial managers and directors

The finance department wears the trousers in a lot of organisations, with average salaries of £55,504 reflecting the increasing power of the role in tough times.

10. Senior officers in protective services

These are officers in the army, fire service, ambulance and prison service, where the average salary is £55,503, up 3% in a year. These are tough and dangerous roles, with commensurate salaries.