You don't have to sell yourself short when entering - or re-entering - the job market. Though not all careers will point you on the road to instant success, there are still plenty that offer great compensation, benefits and educational experiences. So, if you're looking for a high-paying job that's off the beaten path, one of these may be perfect for you.
Physical Therapist - Mean Hourly Wage: $35.77Physical therapists are responsible for the assessment, planning and organization of rehabilitative programs for patients suffering from injury or disease.
Education: To become a physical therapist, you will need a bachelor's degree at the least. All states require physical therapists to obtain a license before they can practice, and the licensure exam can only be taken after graduating from an accredited physical therapist educational program.
Job Outlook: Through 2014, the field is expected to grow at a much faster pace than the average growth for all occupations. Long-term demand for physical therapy services is expected to rise for many reasons, including the growing needs of the nation's elderly and baby boomers. (Find out which investments are most likely to help you achieve your post-work income goals, in Top 10 Investments For Baby Boomers.)
- Nuclear Power Reactor Operators - Mean Hourly Wage: $35.34Operators may handle hazardous materials, perform safety inspections and control high voltage equipment. Utility companies typically hire within, so on-the-job training and lower level work experience are necessary to reach the level of operator.
Education: Many employers hire high school graduates for entry-level operator positions. While a college degree is not required, math and science skills are preferred. Operators must earn a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). An annual practical exam and biennial exams given by the employer are required to maintain the license.
Job Outlook: The number of jobs in this field is expected to decline between now and 2014. Even though everyone needs electricity, the process behind generating electricity is becoming increasingly automated. In addition to new technology, the construction of new power plants is moving at a slow pace.
- Agents or Business Managers (Entertainment / Sports) - Mean Hourly Wage: $39.21Agents are responsible for representing artists, athletes or performers in personal and business dealings. They may handle issues ranging from legal, public relations and financial matters to trainers and travel affairs.
Education: Many agents have college degrees, but a degree is not required by all employers. A degree in public relations, business or communication would improve a candidate's marketability.
Job Outlook: Jobs in the industry are expected to grow at an above average pace, but the market for entry-level positions is highly competitive.
- Actuaries - Mean Hourly Wage: $46.14Actuaries analyze data on items such as mortality, accident and sickness to develop risk forecasts for insurers. They also estimate liability for payment of benefits, and may determine rates or cash reserves needed in order to ensure the benefits can be paid.
Education: Employers require a bachelor's degree at a minimum. Many actuarial positions require graduate course work. Actuaries must also pass a rigorous qualifying examination.
Job Outlook: Actuarial employment opportunities are expected to grow faster than average for all occupations over the next five years. Employment opportunities appear decent for those who can pass the test.
- Gaming Managers - Mean Hourly Wage: $35.33If you want to work in gaming management, you should be a jack of all trades. Gaming managers plan, organize, direct and control casino gaming operations, and they need to know the rules of the games, how to identify cheaters and how to deal with them.
Education: Gaming management positions typically require a high school diploma or GED, some may require a bachelor's degree. On the job experience is extremely important.
Job Outlook: There are fewer than 4,000 gaming manager positions in the United States. Job availability is expected to increase, since jobs are becoming less limited to Nevada and New Jersey. (People often compare stocks to gambling, but how close are they really? Find out in Going All-In: Comparing Investing And Gambling.)
- Air Traffic Controller - Mean Hourly Wage: $51.97Air traffic controllers monitor and direct air traffic to ensure the safety of all parties involved in private and commercial flights. Their direction keeps planes from colliding, helps flight efficiency and timing, and can also be used for defense purposes. One mistake in this line of work could lead to enormous catastrophe, causing financial losses and loss of human life.
Education: In lieu of a college degree, prospective air traffic controllers can complete the Federal Aviation Authority's Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) program. AT-CTI schools offer two- or four- year programs.
Job Outlook: Growth in air traffic controller jobs is expected to remain in-line with the average for other occupations.
For some jobs, the high pay will come after passing stringent exams or satisfying lofty educational requirements. For other jobs, lengthy hours and stressful conditions may accompany the paycheck. At the least, each of these high paying jobs will require a substantial investment of time and hard work. (If you want to switch careers, you may not have to go back to school to do it. Find out more in Sell Your Skills, Not Your Degree.)