Seven High-Pay Jobs, No Grad School Required

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Think you need more than a bachelor's degree for a high-paying job? Think again.

By Andrea Duchon

These days it can be easy to get caught up in the educational rat race. It seems like everyone is dying to tell you how a bachelor's degree just isn't enough anymore if you want to compete for top, high-paying careers.  

But Danielle Mund, a certified career and entrepreneur coach, wants to tell you otherwise:

"While many people will tell you that you need a graduate degree to stand out from the crowd or earn a great paycheck, I disagree. No matter what degree you have, success takes hard work, dedication, and passion, but if you know where to look, there are many different positions in industries that pay well," she says.

So where do you look to find these well-paying careers that require only a bachelor's? How about below?

Career #1: Accountant

Do you love keeping track of your family's finances or can't resist giving your friends tax advice around April? Great news: A career as an accountant could let you combine your numerical passions with a steady paycheck - minus the extra years in academia.

"It's no secret that people who work with money generally tend to make money, and accountants are no exception to this rule! They're constantly working with financial statements and records to make sure taxes and other payments are correct and paid on time," says Mund.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

What Accountants Make*: The U.S. Department of Labor lists the median income for accountants as $63,550, while the 90th percentile earns $111,510, and the 10th percentile earns $39,930.

The Right Bachelor's for the Job: The Department of Labor says that you'll need a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field for most accountant positions. But Mund has a special pro tip that could net you even more cash:

"Although a bachelor's degree is the only requirement for an entry-level position, most accountants choose to get extra training and become certified [as a CPA] - that extra certification is really an investment in earnings potential."

Career #2: Registered Nurse

A career as a registered nurse could allow you to work in the health care industry, without spending all of your time in medical school. So it's a great option if you wear your caring heart on your sleeve, and want to be compensated for it well - without hitting the books again after earning a bachelor's degree.

Why does this career pay so well? Mund says that because nurses are highly trained in their field, they often find themselves working in a constantly demanding job that often rewards them with an equally high paycheck.

"They also need to be compassionate and work with people all day or night, so a good nurse will get paid more for the ability to balance both skills well," she says.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.

What Registered Nurses Make*: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, registered nurses make a median wage of $65,470 annually, $94,720 for those in the 90th percentile, and $45,040 in the 10th percentile.

The Right Bachelor's for the Job: No graduate degrees needed here. The Department of Labor says you have three education paths you can choose from to qualify for an entry-level position as a registered nurse, and a bachelor's degree in nursing is one of them. The other options are an associate's degree in nursing, or a diploma. All registered nurses must also be licensed, the Department says.

Career #3: Civil Engineer

Civil engineers oversee the building of things like roads, airports, and water supply systems. If that sounds intriguing to you, it gets even better. You don't need more than your bachelor's to pursue this career, and it could also pay big bucks.  

"[B]ecause it's a civil engineer who puts the stamp of approval on bridge and tunnel building plans, it ultimately means they're responsible for the safety of millions of people over a long period of time, which adds to the many reasons why this career pays so well," says Mund.

Mund also adds that the fact most civil engineering jobs are government-backed doesn't hurt the pay grade, either.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Engineering Program.

What Civil Engineers Make*: The median wage for civil engineers is $79,340, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. As for the 90th or 10th percentile of earners, they report $122,020 and $51,280 salaries, respectively.

The Right Bachelor's for the Job: Earning a bachelor's degree in civil engineering is required if you want to be a civil engineer, says the Department of Labor. Further, your degree should be from a program that is accredited by ABET - formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Why? The Department says a program accredited by ABET is needed to gain licensure, and a license is required to work as an engineer.

Career #4: Human Resources Manager

If you're the type of person who can balance a full plate of serious activities with an upbeat, friendly personality, a career as a human resources manager could be a great choice for you. The best part? It's attainable without a master's degree and rewards with a nice paycheck.

Mund says that while "human resources manager" is a pretty dry term, the role this person plays in an organization is actually incredibly important. She gives an explanation as to why:

"People in this position act as the gate keepers and leadership trainers of a company's single most important asset - their employees. Because they play a large part in the potential overall success of a company, their role is highly valued - and therefore it's also often well paid," she says.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Human Resources Program.

What Human Resources Managers Make*: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median wage for human resources managers is $99,720 a year. At the 90th percentile, they typically earn $173,140, while the 10th percentile earns $59,020.

The Right Bachelor's for the Job: You usually need a bachelor's degree in human resources or business administration if you hope to score a job as an HR manager, according to the Department of Labor.

But you'd also do well to remember that a certain level of experience in the job is needed before you start raking in the big bucks. The Department says that you'll need to demonstrate the ability to organize, manage, and lead others, in addition to possessing a solid understanding of federal, state, and local employment laws.

Career #5: Public Relations Manager

If your dream job includes attending press conferences, public speaking, and a sturdy paycheck, welcome to the world of public relations. This career path often involves representing clients in the best possible light and working to make sure their corporate message gets heard.

So what makes for a successful PR manager? Mund provides an illustrative example: "In a single day, a really successful PR manager can turn a story about paper towel holders into pure glamour by getting a hot celebrity raving over them - all before the evening news. Now, if you owned the paper towel holder company, what kind of money do you think you'd be willing to pay for that? Probably a lot."

But Mund warns that like HR management, this career might not always be a moneymaker right out of the gate.

"It takes real dedication and outside-the-box thinking, as well as creative communication skills to succeed," she says. Mund also cautions that you will need to prove yourself in a number of ways before noticing a difference in your bank account.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Program.

What Public Relations Managers Make*: So what's in the bank account of most public relations managers? According to the U.S. Department of Labor, public relations managers earn a median of $95,450 annually, while the 90th percentile of earners makes $180,480, and the 10th percentile earns $51,630.

The Right Bachelor's for the Job: A bachelor's degree in public relations is typical for a career as a public relations manager, but the Department of Labor also says you could earn a degree in journalism, communications, English, or business instead - since employers hire candidates with those degrees as well.

Career #6: Financial Analyst

Do you plan your day around when the New York Stock Exchange opens and closes, and can't get enough of the latest NASDAQ news? A career as a financial analyst could pay off in dividends in your personal sector, as well as your professional one, without sending you back to school for a master's degree.

"Like accountants, financial analysts also work with money and provide guidance to both individuals and businesses on their money plans," says Mund. "As a financial planner you need a solid understanding of financial markets and different types of investments, as well as the laws around these things. And if you do well for your clients, you can do well for yourself."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.

What Financial Analysts Make*: Earners in the median range of payouts see $76,950 annually, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The 10th percentile earns $47,130, while the 90th percentile earns $148,430.

The Right Bachelor's for the Job: If you want to prepare to pursue a career as a financial analyst, you'll need a bachelor's degree in a field like accounting, economics, finance, statistics, or business administration, as the Department of Labor says one of these is required for most positions. Knowledge of options pricing, bond valuation, and risk management is also important, says the Department.

Career #7: Medical and Health Services Manager

Have you always dreamed of working in the health care industry but can't bear the thought of spending countless years in medical school? A bachelor's degree in health care administration could get you in the hospital door and prepare you to pursue a career as a medical manager - while potentially putting stable money in your pocket each month.

When you're considering if this path makes sense for you, Mund urges you to think about the career in this way: What's the one thing we all want, inevitably lose at some point, and oftentimes believe life isn't worth living without? Our health.

"In simple economic terms, that means there is money in the health care industry - and therefore, money available for you. Medical and health services managers plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services, which is not only a necessary position in health facilities, but always in demand and something that either the government or individuals are willing to pay for," says Mund.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.

What Medical and Health Services Managers Make*: The median salary range for this career is $88,580 annually, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The 90th percentile earns $150,560, while the 10th percentile earns $53,940.

The Right Bachelor's for the Job: According to the Department of Labor, "Prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor's degree in health care administration." While studying that degree, you may take courses in subjects like hospital organization, accounting, and strategic planning, the Department says.

* All salary information from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Employment and Wages data, May 2012.

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