Seven High-Pay Careers - No Grad School Needed

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Looking for a career that pays well, but don't want to spend years in grad school? You can pursue one of these careers with just a bachelor's degree.

By Lee Nelson

You might think that the only way to land a high-powered career with an impressive paycheck is by going to grad school. And you'd be wrong.

In fact, there are a number of professions that report a median annual salary higher than $70K and don't require a master's degree.

Many lucrative careers that don't require a graduate degree are computer- or people-based (managing a staff), says Judi Lansky, career coach, entrepreneur, and president and founder of Lansky Career Consultants in Chicago. The reason, she says, is that many of these careers require more on-the-job experience and skills.

Read on to learn more about seven high-paying careers that won't require sitting in a lecture hall any longer than you have to.

Career #1: Applications Software Developer

Median
Annual Pay
$90,060*
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners
$55,190*
Top 10 Percent of Earners
$138,880*

Chances are you use apps on your iPhone and software on your computer all day long. What if you could pursue a career as an applications software developer, where you actually design these programs?

Applications software developers might create a piece of an application or system and plan how those pieces all come together, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And you don't need a master's to pursue this career.

Why It Pays Without Grad School: "You need skills and creativity with this job, and not just anyone can sit down and do it," says Lansky. So, businesses are willing to pay them great salaries for their skills, she says.

And Lansky says that applications software developers are technical wizards who don't need graduate school. Why? They don't really need the broad view that you get with a master's degree to do the job, she says.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

Education Options: The Department of Labor says software developers typically earn a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field. It notes that a degree in mathematics is acceptable.

Career #2: Public Relations Manager

Median
Annual Pay
$95,450
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners
$51,630
Top 10 Percent of Earners
$180,480

Are you always promoting your favorite restaurants, event venues, and products that you love to your friends and family? You might be right for a career as a public relations manager.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, public relations managers typically create and maintain a good public image for an organization or client.

Why It Pays Without Grad School: "The job is valued in the labor market because you have to know how to write, speak, and listen well," says Lansky. "The whole internet is hungry for material from businesses, and businesses need public relations managers to promote them to potential customers."

So why doesn't this career require a graduate degree? Lansky says that the many skills used in this role have been acquired through an undergraduate degree and can be learned on the job specific to that company.

But don't expect to start making the big bucks right away. The Department of Labor says, "Public relations managers must have several years of experience in a related public relations position."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Program.

Education Options: While some employers might prefer those with master's degrees, they generally require a bachelor's degree in public relations, communications, journalism, or business for public relations management positions, says the Department.

Career #3: Information Security Analyst

Median
Annual Pay
$86,170
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners
$49,960
Top 10 Percent of Earners
$135,600

Computer hackers are everywhere, and that can be scary in an age where everything we do is digital. Enter information security analysts.

These professionals monitor a company's networks for security breaches and help those using computers in the business learn about security products, says the U.S. Department of Labor. And grad school? Not required.

Why It Pays Without Grad School: "Everyone and every business worries about their data being hacked," Lansky says. All types of industries need information security analysts to protect data from getting into the wrong hands, and "companies are willing to pay well for someone with that talent and knowledge," she says.

As for grad school, she says that information security analysts don't necessarily require a graduate degree, because the skill set can be learned through their undergraduate degree and through their work experience.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Programming and Software Program.

Education Options: The Department of Labor says that if you're interested in a career as an information security analyst, you'll usually need at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, programming, or a related field.

Career #4: Medical and Health Services Manager

Median
Annual Pay
$88,580
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners
$53,940
Top 10 Percent of Earners
$150,560

You get things done quickly and efficiently. You organize schedules and finances with amazing ease. Why not put those skills to use as a medical and health services manager?

Those in this role might manage a specific department, an entire facility, or a medical practice for doctors, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And you don't have to go to grad school to pursue this career either.

Why It Pays Without Grad School: "The health field is growing leaps and bounds. There are new hospitals and clinics popping up all over, and every one of those locations needs a manager," says Lansky. And organizations and companies are willing to pay big for someone who can run things smoothly and efficiently, she says.

Plus, medical and health services managers don't necessarily need a graduate degree, because every location is different. One thing is certain: Every medical company wants their managers to know specific information and take on specific responsibilities once they get on the job, Lansky says.

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

Education Options: Although master's degrees may be common in this career, the Department of Labor says prospective medical and health services managers hold a bachelor's degree in health administration. However, some health care facilities may hire candidates with on-the-job experience instead of formal education, the Department notes.

Career #5: Art Director

Median
Annual Pay
$80,880
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners
$43,870
Top 10 Percent of Earners
$162,800

You have an eye for good design, and you'd like to take that talent to a professional level. Your next career pursuit could be as an art director.

Art directors typically work in a variety of fields such as advertising, public relations, book agencies, or the motion picture or video industry, says the U.S. Department of Labor. And all you need is a bachelor's as preparation to pursue this career.

Why It Pays Without Grad School: "This is a job that requires someone to be very visual and creative and come up with ideas that others cannot," says Lansky. "But an art director also needs to have computer skills and people skills. It's high-pressure with tight deadlines, and that's why it is admired so much."

Wondering why there's no grad school required? A bachelor's degree has already put in motion the skills needed for the job of an art director, Lansky says. And the other skills particular to that industry can be learned on the job.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Art Program.

Education Options: The Department of Labor says art directors usually earn a bachelor of arts or bachelor of fine arts degree, and many start out as a graphic, industrial, or set designers. They might also work in another art occupation, such as a photographer or fine artist.

Career #6: Human Resources Manager

Median
Annual Pay
$99,720
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners
$59,020
Top 10 Percent of Earners
$173,140

Keeping employees happy and healthy is becoming more and more important to companies that want to maintain and attract the best of the best, Lansky says. And that's where a human resources manager steps in.

HR managers might coordinate and supervise the work of specialists and support staff and manage staff issues such as firing and mediating disputes, according the U.S. Department of Labor. The best part: You don't need a master's to get your foot in the door.

Why It Pays Without Grad School: "You have to deal with a lot of different people, personalities, and situations, and that's why it is valued in the workforce," says Lansky.

So why isn't grad school a necessity? "It is the least analytical job in the business world, and you have to be a people person. You can't learn to be a people person in graduate school," Lansky says.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.

Education Options: A bachelor's degree in human resources or business administration is usually needed for a career as a human resources manager, says the Department of Labor. However, some positions are taken by experienced people with other backgrounds such as finance, education, and information technology, the Department says.

Career #7: Computer Programmer

Median
Annual Pay
$74,280
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners
$42,850
Top 10 Percent of Earners
$117,890

Could it be time to transform your computer-savvy skills into a lucrative career as a computer programmer?

The U.S. Department of Labor says that a typical day as a computer programmer could consist of debugging programs by testing for and fixing errors as well as creating program language from the designs created by software developers. And, you guessed it - you don't need grad school to pursue this career.

Why It Pays Without Grad School: "Every kind of business needs computer programmers, and the need is only going to get bigger," Lansky says. "Someone has to tell the computers what to do since they aren't human, and that's where computer programmers come into play and are valued by employers."

However, the job doesn't require a master's degree, because many of the technical skills are acquired with work experience, she says.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Programming and Software Program.

Education Options: Most computer programmers have a bachelor's degree, but some employers hire candidates who have an associate's degree, says the Department of Labor. Most of these workers major in computer science or a related field.

* All salary figures for careers come from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 data.

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