Highest-paying jobs with the most and least competition

Feeling optimistic about work?

You’d be forgiven for being less than cheerful about the prospect of getting a great new job in the present climate. But many professionals have taken the sudden downturn and high unemployment as a moment to reflect and reboot.

It’s a different world than a year ago. Sure, hundreds of thousands are forced to sign up for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance scheme each week.

And in the UK, redundancies hit a record high in the last quarter. But there are plenty of reasons for job hunters to be optimistic:

In this spirit of optimism, Resume.io decided to point job hunters in the right direction.

We used PayScale to identify hundreds of job titles in the US and UK that offer a wage to put you in the top 15% of earners. And then we used LinkedIn to discover how many people were applying for each type of job.

The result is our guide to the highest-paying roles with the most and least competition for each vacancy.

Key Findings

  • The highest-paying US job with the least competition is Assistant City Attorney (average wage: $76,028), with an average of 1.2 people applying for each position.
  • The most competitive highest-paying job in the US is Senior Vice President of Operations ($170,674), with 159 applicants per job.
  • In the UK, the highest-paying job with the least competition is Aircraft Pilot (£68,713), with exactly one applicant per position.
  • The toughest highest-paying role to land in the UK is Vice President of IT (£86,500), with 162 candidates for each job.

The Highest-Paying US Jobs with the Least Competition are in Law and Nursing

This interactive illustrates the competition for the highest-paying job titles in each sector. The lower the competition number the less competition there is for the role.

Resume.io has scoured 1000’s of job ads to discover which have the most (and least) competition.

An Assistant City Attorney earns $76,028 on average but has only 1.2 applicants per role – in other words, for five out of six vacancies, you would be the only applicant. Like those odds? At the time of writing, there are 68 such jobs available in the States.

That Juris Doctorate is starting to look valuable since the second-least competitive role is also a legal one: an Administrative Law Judge earns $83,379, and your odds of success are 50-50. But the highest-paying, low-competition job is Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. An “NP” can command a salary of $108,623 and will be one of just 2.7 people applying for the job.

Top jobs in the UK’s trouble aviation industry have little competition

Our second interactive visualizes the data on highest paying vs. competition for jobs in the UK. As above, a low score indicates less competition per vacancy.

The UK job market is the weakest in Europe. However, the top 10 highest-paying jobs with the least competition offer a brighter picture than the US. In fact, just you and at most one other person will apply for any of the top 10 UK jobs in our study.

However, four of those top 10 jobs are in aviation. The least competitive job is for aircraft pilot – for which you would be the only applicant (hope you can fly!). This job comes with an average wage of £68,713. Other low-competition jobs include family physician (£50,391/1.2 applicants per job), Data Science Manager (£70,000/1.6), and head teacher (£55,096, 1.6).

Competition for jobs, sector-by-sector

The following interactives reveal the top ten highest-paying, low-competition jobs in four sectors. Click the button to switch between US and UK data.

Accounting and finance:

An average of 40 people apply for each job in Accounting and Finance in the US, for an average salary of $98,015. It might not sound too encouraging, but there are some good opportunities out there. For example, apply to be an auditing manager, and you’ll be up against just six fellow applicants chasing a $90,726 salary.

This sector is a bit more competitive in the UK, with 45 applicants per vacancy. It also has a lower average wage, at £57,809 (around $78,696). But there are several shoo-in roles: Senior Manager Auditor (£63,808/1.2 applicants per job), Senior Underwriter (£45,636/2.2), and Tax Director (£91,771/6.4) are all positions that give a good return for your application-filling time.


Business is competitive in the States, with 60 applicants for each job – for an average salary of $94,347. In fact, Chief Estimators and Strategy Managers will be up against 120+ rivals for each position they apply. Your best business bet is as an Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Director ($112,513 with 16.1 applicants) or Regulatory Affairs Manager ($103,142/17.7).

Competition is not so fierce in the UK, where the sector average is 42 applicants for a £54,416 salary. Business management positions are appealing, such as Senior Manager Auditor (£63,808/1.2) or Data Science Manager (£70,000/1.6). However, the route to the executive suite is crowded. Vice President of IT is the toughest, with 162 applicants, but you’ll also be fighting 100+ rivals to become a Chief Marketing Officer, Managing Director, or Vice President of Operations.


American IT specialists must go up against an average of 53 competitors for an average $102,222 wage. But those with the capacity to become a Lead Software Engineer face good news: an average salary of $118,322 with just 7.2 people applying for each role. IT Consultants and Technical Services Managers face even less competition, albeit for lower salaries.

UK computer boffins have it a bit easier. Applicants for Senior Manager Auditor, Data Science Manager, and Software Development Manager vacancies often find themselves the only one up for the job. In fact, there are 15 UK IT job titles that attract fewer than 10 people for each position.

Managers and Executives:

General Managers and Executives are the hardest-fought-for roles in the US employment landscape. An average of 74 people compete for an average $121,778 salary. Your best shot is to become a Clinical Operations Manager, with an $83,460 salary and 9.4 up for each job. After that, the competition starts to get steep.

The same can be said for the UK, where an average of 57.4 people go for each job, making it the most competitive sector. But there are six job titles that attract fewer than three applicants: Senior Manager Auditor, Data Science Manager, and Software Development Manager. The best paid of these is Data Science Manager, which has an average salary of £70,000 but only 1.6 people applying to each position.

Out-thinking the competition

Things will get better. “The headline numbers are steadily moving in the right direction,” says Mark Cahill, Managing Director of ManpowerGroup UK. “We are seeing a continued resurgence in key sectors like finance and business giving us reasons to be cheerful as we head into 2021.”

But more to the point: things will be different. There has never been a better moment to realign your professional outlook and start something new. To take a risk and aim high. To fine-tune your job-hunting strategy and make it count. Why not start by applying for the highest-paying job with very little competition?

Methodology and sources:

How did we define the highest-paying roles?

  1. Highest-paying roles were defined as the top 15% of earners in the UK (£45,000+) and USA ($75,000+).
  2. Salary data for each role was collated from PayScale.

How did we discover the competition for each role?

  1. We searched for each job title on LinkedIn Jobs.
  2. We took the average number of applicants for each job posting on the first page of results.

This article first appeared on Resume.io.