17 jobs with high pay that don't require graduate school
Most top-earning jobs require grad school, but maybe you don't have the stomach for more schooling — or debt.
After taking on an average of $37,000 in student loans (potentially more if you are black) to complete an undergrad degree, you may not have the resources or appetite for more school.
But if you know where to look and have studied in-demand fields (such as the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics), there are high-earning, fast-growing jobs that do not require advanced education.
These are the 17 highest-paying, strongest-growing jobs that do not require a graduate education, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
All of these jobs pay an annual median income of more than $75,000 with the top three bringing in more than $100,000. What's more, all of these jobs have a projected growth rate of 10% or more; some positions, such as personal financial advisor or operation research analyst, have growth rates of 30%.
Compared to America's average median income of $36,200 and average growth of 7%, these positions are very attractive.
This is not to diss the master's degree — but for these jobs, grad school is merely optional. People with master's graduate degrees earn an average of $17,000 more than those with just an undergraduate degree. Many of these positions may pay even more if you're have a master's, which may be encouraged or even subsidized by your employer.
While health care jobs dominated our highest-paying jobs and our fastest-growing jobs lists, and made a strong showing in our highest-paying jobs for women list, they are not as prevalent here.
Many positions require a blend of technical experience and real-world applications.
While some of these positions do require additional certifications, none require an advanced degree.
17. Financial examiner
Median annual pay: $78,010
Working primarily for financial institutions, the insurance industry or for state or federal governments, financial examiners are compliance hunters who evaluate risk, assess management and review balance sheets to be sure the laws governing financial institutions and transactions are being followed.
Examiners will have a bachelor's degree with coursework in accounting, finance and economics. Demand for examiners has gone up, giving the role a projected 10% growth rate between 2014 and 2024.
The rise is a result of increased financial regulations, including the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. President-elect Donald Trump would like to gut that agency and reduce government regulations across the board. This may drive down demand for examiners in the near term.
The lowest-paid 10% of financial examiners earned less than $45,540 while the highest 10% earned more than $149,390 a year.
16. Operations research analyst
Median annual pay: $78,630
Operations research analysts use advanced mathematical and analytical strategies to help companies and organizations delve into complex issues, solve problems and help decision-makers move forward with informed choices. While no advanced degree is inherently required to become an operations research analyst, some employers may prefer candidates that have one. Most candidates will have extensive mathematics coursework covering subjects such as statistics, calculus and linear algebra, since the job is centered around quantitative analysis.
People in this position may also have backgrounds in technical fields like technical engineering, computer science, analytics or mathematics, but less-technical backgrounds like economics or political science are also useful in this multi-disciplinary field. The demand for analysts continues to grow, with the field expected to expand by 30% between 2014 and 2024.
The growth is driven by the ease and accessibility of technology to provide more evidence-based data to organizations and companies in order to drive their decisions. The lowest-paid 10% earned less than $44,000 and the highest-paid 10% of analysts earned more than $133,000.
15. Financial analyst
Median annual pay: $80,310
Providing advice to corporate and individual investors, financial analysts look at the performance of stocks, bonds and other investments to gauge which moves will be positive for the client. While a master's degree is not required for this position, it's often helpful if the analyst wants to eventually become a portfolio manager or a fund manager.
Job growth in this field is determined by the regulator landscape. The currently projected growth of 12% between 2014 and 2024 is tied to increasing regulations. Growth could increase under less regulation. Still, it is a competitive field with far more people trying to get jobs than there are jobs available — thus certifications and education will help candidates stand out. The lowest-paid 10% of financial analysts earned less than $49,450, while the highest-paid 10% earned more than $160,760.
14. Management analyst
Median annual pay: $81,320
Projected growth rate: (2014 to 2024): 14%
As efficiency experts, management analysts (often called management consultants) guide decision-makers toward improving the speed and or quality of organization's work. These professionals are constantly on the lookout for higher profits through reduced costs and increased revenues.
The projected growth of 14% between 2014 and 2024 is driven by increasing competition among corporations for more efficient strategies. Industry-specific consultants will be in demand, particularly in health care and technology. The lowest-paid 10% of management analysts earned $45,970 and under. The highest-paid 10% earned more than $150,220 in median annual income.
13. Database administrator
Median annual pay: $81,710
Additional licenses, certifications or registrations: Certification is not required but legitimizes an administrator's experience; some employers may require that a hire is certified in a certain product. Certification is usually given directly from software vendors or third-party certification providers.
Storing data — and keeping it safe — are the primary duties of database administrators. Using software to store and organize data — like financial information or customer records — database administrators ensure that users can access data while keeping intruders out.
The job growth projection of 11% between 2014 and 2024 is because of the insatiable data demands of companies of all sizes. Increasing numbers of databases, including medical records, housed in the cloud will increase the demand for database administrators.
The lowest-paid 10% of database administrators earned less than $45,460, while the most highly paid 10% earned more than $127,080.
12. Environmental engineer
Median annual pay: $84,560
By using tools like engineering, soil science, biology and chemistry, environmental engineers develop solutions to environmental problems. Their designs aim to improve recycling, waste disposal, public health systems and water and air pollution control, among other challenges.
Much of the growth in this field — which is projected to expand by 12% between 2014 and 2024 — is driven by the need for more efficient use of our natural resources, such as water. Because of regulations put in place to protect them, environmental engineers are needed to ensure municipalities are operating within the rules.
The lowest-earning 10% of environmental engineers earned less than $50,230, and the highest-earning 10% earned more than $128,440.
11. Computer systems analyst
Median annual pay: $85,800
Computer systems analysts help evaluate the computer system needs of an organization or company. With a deep understanding of both the technological and the business realities involved, analysts can guide an organization in a more efficient and effective direction.
As more companies become reliant on data and information technology, the demand for analysts to build these systems will increase. The field is expected to increase by 21% between 2014 and 2024. The lowest-paid 10% of computer systems analysts earned less than $51,910. The highest-paid 10% earned more than $135,450.
10. Biomedical engineer
Median annual pay: $86,220
Combining engineering with medicine, biomedical engineers design and create devices, computer systems and software used in the health care industry.
An increasing demand from an aging population for more technological services and items — including those accessed via a smartphone or built with a 3-D printer — are driving the projected 23% growth between 2014 and 2024 in this industry.
The lowest-paid 10% of biomedical engineers earned less than $51,480, while the highest-paid 10% made more than $139,520 in median annual income.
9. Personal financial advisor
Median annual pay: $89,160
Personal financial advisors might run their own show or work as part of a larger office of financial planners. Either way, the entry-level education needed to get started is a bachelor's degree.
Two things buoy this job's strong projected growth of 30% between 2014 and 2024. First, the aging population, including baby boomers, will continue to need financial planning assistance with retirement, estates and investments. Additionally, employers are continually moving away from in-house pensions to personal retirement accounts, which financial planners can assist with in a way they did not need to with the disappearing pension plans. There is a heavy lift with additional licenses, certifications and registrations — some are optional, many are not.
Like many other jobs on this list earning a master's degree — in this case in business administration or finance — could prove useful in improving an advisor's chances of moving into management or even just attracting new clients. The lowest-paid 10% of financial advisors earn $39,000 and the highest-paid 10% make $187,000.
Median annual pay: $89,700
Geoscientists, who study the Earth to discover its history, what is happening to it currently and its projected future, often split their time between working in laboratories or offices and working in the field outside.
The 10% projected job growth between 2014 and 2024 is spurred by our need to find renewable energy sources and to sustainably manage the resources we have. The lowest-paid 10% of geoscientists earned less than $47,250. The highest-paid 10% made more than $187,200 in annual median income.
7. Information security analyst
Median annual pay: $90,120
An organization's primary line of defense against hackers and malicious cyberattacks are information security analysts. These professionals design and implement security protections for an organization's computer. As cyberattacks increase, so does the demand for security analysts. With several industries relying on their expertise — including the federal government — security analysts are projected to see an 18% increase in their field between 2014 and 2024.
The increasing use of cloud services by small and medium sized companies that don't have an house information technology team will also increase the demand for outside security analysts to protect the data. The lowest 10% of information security analysts earned less than $51,280. The highest 10% made more than $143,770.
6. Medical health services manager
Median annual pay: $94,500
Medical and health services managers — who also go by the title health care executive or health care administrator — are the leaders who plan, coordinate and strategize medical services for an institution.
In some cases they are the head of a facility, in others they lead a particular sub-speciality. In either case they are in charge of keeping on top of health care laws and change in regulations as well as advances in medical technology.
As the baby boomers age and make greater use of the health care system, all health care professions will see an increased demand for their work. Health service managers can expect to see a 17% growth in their field between 2014 and 2024. The lowest-earning 10% of health service managers earned less than $56,230. The highest 10% earned more than $165,380.
Median annual pay: $97,070
Vital to the insurance industry, actuaries use statistics and financial theory to calculate risks and costs. The work of actuaries can aid companies in identifying and avoiding risks across their span of operations and help businesses and other clients develop policies to minimize the costs of risks.
The field of actuaries is small but is expected to grow by 18% between 2014 and 2024. The driver of this growth is the continued need for their services by insurance companies, but also because they can help businesses assess their own risks: enterprise risk management.
The lowest-paid 10% of actuaries earned less than $58,290, while the highest-paid 10% earned more than $180,500 in median annual income.
4. Software developer (applications)
Median annual pay: $98,260
Software developers who create applications are the creative minds designing and building the programs you use to do things on your device or computer. There is a huge demand for computer software as individuals and businesses are constantly looking to expand on what they can do with their computers and handheld devices.
Growth for developers making applications is projected to be 19% between 2014 and 2024. The lowest-paid 10% of software developers making applications earn less than $57,340. The highest-paid 10% earned more than $153,710 in median annual income.
3. Software developer (systems)
Median annual pay: $105,570
Building the systems underlying the applications is the work of the systems software developer. This professional designs the operating system that makes a consumer device or computer work, for example, or creates a platform for a company or organization to use in-house.
Systems software developers will continue to see expanding job growth because of the increasing number of items that require computer systems to operate. There is a projected 13% increase in job growth between 2014 and 2024 for systems software developers. The lowest-paid 10% of systems developers earned less than $57,340. The highest-paid 10% earned more than $153,710.
2. Petroleum engineer
Median annual pay: $129,990
Petroleum engineers design and build systems for extracting oil and gas from beneath the Earth's surface.
As with most jobs in the petroleum industry, the demand for these positions is affected by the cost and demand for oil and gas. When prices are high, engineers are in demand, as companies want to push into more challenging areas. The field is projected to grow by 10% between 2014 and 2024. The lowest-earning 10% made less than $74,880 annually, while the highest-earning 10% made more than $187,200.
1. Computer and information systems manager
Median annual pay: $131,600
Computer and information systems managers are often called information technology — aka IT — managers; this one is a position that blends technical knowledge with business acumen.
These professionals help determine the information technology aims for an organization, as well as the strategy to keep its computer systems working and protected.
There is a strong demand for this work, because of the demands placed on our computer networks by cyberattacks as well as an increasing shift by businesses toward operating digitally. The projected growth between 2014 and 2024 is 15%. The lowest-paid 10% of IT managers earned less than $80,160. The highest-paid 10% made more than $187,200 in median annual income.
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