Low-Stress, High-Paying Jobs

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These jobs prove that not all highly paid work will have you pulling your hair out from stress.

By Terri Williams

Who doesn't want a high-paying job? However, if the job's stress level is just as high as its salary, it may not be worth it for many people.

And according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workplace stress can cause anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and aggressive behavior. It can also result in cardiovascular disease and other medical conditions.

On the other hand, low-stress jobs offer a high level of autonomy and empowerment, which leads to fulfillment and satisfaction, according to Liza Sichon, an executive coach, speaker, and human resources consultant at Executive HR Coach in Silicon Valley, California.

What do these low-stress jobs have in common? According to Sichon, they have clearly defined requirements, so there is no need for a supervisor to hover over your shoulder and check your work frequently - cutting down on anxiety and stress.

And here's the good news: While nearly all jobs carry some level of stress, and these levels can vary from person to person and situation to situation, there are a lot of low-stress, high-pay jobs out there. Keep reading to learn about some of the jobs that won't turn your hair gray prematurely.

Low-Stress, High-Pay Job #1: Computer and Information Systems Manager

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Median
Annual Salary*
$120,950
Top 10 Percent of Earners
$187,199
Bottom 10 Percent of Earners
$74,940

For computer geeks, the chance to do what you love while earning a lucrative salary makes this a promising career option.

The Low-Stress, High-Pay Factor: "Computer and information systems managers have the freedom to analyze problems and consider the best way to solve them," says Debbie Benami-Rahm, an entertainment and media career expert at DBR Career Services in Los Angeles, California. She explains that the flexibility and independence of this job lends itself to a low-stress work environment.

Regarding pay, "technology changes quickly, and companies need someone at the top of their game," says Benami-Rahm. And while there may be many people with technology skills, "Fewer people have experience managing projects or people, and as a result, computer and information system managers can command good salaries," she explains.

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Computer and information systems managers analyze their organization's computer needs, oversee installations and upgrades, and direct the work of other information technology employees, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. They work for computer systems design and related services firms, and telecommuting is becoming more common.

Education Options: Computer and information systems managers typically need a bachelor's degree in computer or information science with relevant work experience, reports the Department of Labor. Many professionals in this occupation also have a graduate degree.

Low-Stress, High-Pay Job #2: Technical Writers

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Median
Annual Salary*
$65,500
Top 10 Percent of Earners
$101,660
Bottom 10 Percent of Earners
$38,700

Technical writers can utilize their way with words to earn a hefty salary in a laid-back work environment.

The Low-Stress, High-Pay Factor: "Technical writers have the freedom to be creative and to determine how their work will be performed. In addition, they usually don't have tight deadlines, and some may telecommute," says Benami-Rahm. All of these characteristics make this a low-stress career option.

The job pays well because technical writing is a specialized skill that many writers don't possess. "There is a desperate need for more technical writers in every industry to provide knowledge to company workers, customers, consultants, etc." says Benami-Rahm. She adds, "This is a hot profession and technical writers have room to negotiate their salaries."

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Technical writers compose how-to-manuals, assembly instructions, and "frequently asked questions," according to the U.S. Department of Labor. While most are employed directly by companies, some technical writers work on a freelance basis and are self-employed or work for technical design or consulting firms. According to the Department of Labor, most technical writers work in offices, although some may telecommute.

Education Options: Employers usually prefer a bachelor's degree in English, journalism, or communications, states the Department. However, many technical writing jobs also require knowledge in such specialized fields as engineering, computer science, or medicine.

Low-Stress, High-Pay Job #3: Biomedical Engineers

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Median
Annual Salary*
$86,960
Top 10 Percent of Earners
$139,450
Bottom 10 Percent of Earners
$52,600

With a whopping 62 percent job growth rate, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, searching for a job in the high-paying field of biomedical engineering may be considerably less stressful than pursuing some of the more slowly growing careers out there.

The Low-Stress, High-Pay Factor: "Biomedical engineers have autonomy," says Benami-Rahm. And this autonomy is just one of the reasons why the career is low-stress. "Most people love to do things on their own, and this job allows for that."

"Also, in the U.S., there's such a demand for all engineers," according to Benami-Rahm, who says that many corporations are hiring outside of the U.S., but there is a limit to how many visas they can get. As a result, she says, "Engineers can name their price. If one company can't match it, another company can."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Engineering Program.

Biomedical engineers conduct research and design such products as artificial organs and limbs, in addition to sometimes building the materials for these products, according to the Department of Labor. They also design software and electrical circuits for medical equipment and new drug therapies.

Education Options: Biomedical engineers typically need a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering, reports the Department. Applicants with a degree in another area could either pursue a graduate degree in biomedical engineering or get "on-the-job training in biomedical engineering."

Low-Stress, High-Pay Job #4: Art Directors

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Median
Annual Salary*
$80,880
Top 10 Percent of Earners
$162,800
Bottom 10 Percent of Earners
$43,870

Getting paid very well to unleash your creative energy makes art director another good low-stress career choice.

The Low-Stress, High-Pay Factor: "Although it may appear to be a challenging position, at the same time, it calls for using an inborn talent, so creative people would find it more exciting than stressful," says Gail Liebhaber, a career consultant and the owner of Your Career Direction, a career coaching company.

Liebhaber, who is also the former director of career services for the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, adds, "Art directors who are highly skilled in online and digital media are in high demand, which accounts for the high salary."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Graphic Design Program.

Art directors are responsible for the overall visual design and style of magazines, newspapers, television and movie productions, and product packaging, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. They typically determine the project's concept, supervise a staff of designers, and approve artwork, photography and graphics.

Education Options: Art directors need a bachelor's degree in art or design, in addition to relevant work experience, usually as a graphic designer, photographer, illustrator, copyeditor or another design occupation, reports the Department of Labor.

Low-Stress, High-Pay Job #5: Dental Hygienists

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Median
Annual Salary*
$70,210
Top 10 Percent of Earners
$96,280
Bottom 10 Percent of Earners
$46,540

Dental hygienists may not be running the show like dentists, but they still could earn a lucrative salary. Plus, they don't have to perform stressful, invasive procedures such as root canals.

The Low-Stress, High-Pay Factor: To begin with, this job starts off as low-stress since it doesn't require a bachelor's degree, according to Liebhaber. The job also has the perks of "pleasant working conditions, seeing the results of your efforts, and flexible hours for those with childcare responsibilities," she explains.

And Siphon adds, "Dental hygienists are in high demand and can command high salaries, because everyone needs to have their teeth checked at least annually."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Dental Hygiene Program.

Dental hygienists take dental X-rays, and remove plaque, tartar, and stains from patients' teeth, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. They also apply sealants and fluorides and teach patients how to properly brush and floss.

Education Options: Dental hygienists typically need an associate's degree in dental hygiene, reports the Department of Labor. They must also have a license to practice but requirements vary by state.

Low-Stress, High-Pay Job #6: Actuaries

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Median
Annual Salary*
$93,680
Top 10 Percent of Earners
$175,330
Bottom 10 Percent of Earners
$55,780

If you've got a head for numbers, a career as an actuary could be the right combination of high pay and low stress for you.

The Low-Stress, High-Pay Factor: According to Liebhaber, actuary is consistently ranked as a top job for prestige, salary, and working conditions. She also says this career offers a lot of flexibility, which reduces the stress level for those who need a less rigid work schedule and environment.

And Sichon adds, "Actuaries have a very unique skill set that is both formulaic and measurable. As a result, they're in high demand, and they're well paid."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Program.

Actuaries analyze data using mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to determine the probability and economic cost of an event, such as sickness, an accident, or a natural disaster, says the U.S. Department of Labor. They also help clients and businesses develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk.

Education Options: Actuaries typically have a bachelor's degree in business, actuarial science, statistics, or mathematics, reports the Department of Labor. Employers increasingly expect applicants to have professional certification, which actuaries earn by passing an actuary exam.

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

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