If you're deciding how you'd like to break into the job market, or if you're looking to embark on your second (or third, or fourth) career, there are a lot of factors to consider. While your ideal career should primarily be something that interests you, you would do well to check out the pay, type of education required, number of jobs available and years of experience required for the position. With the help of online salary database and career site PayScale.com, we have compiled a list of 10 high-paying jobs that scored the best when considering all of these factors together. (Do you dream of ditching your long commute to work in the comfort of your home? These jobs could be for you! See Top 4 At-Home Financial Jobs.)
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- Civil Engineer - $80,000
If designing functional, necessary components such as roads, bridges, buildings or airports interests you, civil engineering might be right up your alley. You can specialize in a particular type of civil engineering, but almost all of them will require a bachelor's degree in engineering, and a license from the state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), to be licensed, you will have to complete at least four years of relevant work experience and pass an exam.
This career scored the highest for ease of employment – that is, how common the available jobs are, and how easy it is to get them once you have the required skills, education and experience. Experience is key for this profession; the salary of $80,000 is based on at least six years of relevant work in the field.
- Nurse Anesthetist - $156,000
These registered nurses specialize in administering anesthesia and monitoring patients who are recovering from anesthesia. They are independent practitioners, but may be supervised by anesthesiologists, surgeons or dentists, and, according to the BLS, they require a specialized graduate education above and beyond their registered nursing degrees.
Although it will take a few extra years to get the advanced degree this career requires, the salary given is based on only two years of experience, making this career quick to pay off.
- Physician Assistant - $92,000
Physician's assistants, or PAs, practice medicine under the supervision of a doctor or surgeon. They work as part of a healthcare team and, unlike medical assistants, are able to examine and treat patients, and make diagnoses.
Physician's assistants must complete a college degree, and often have some health-related work experience before entering a post-graduate program that takes about two years to complete, versus the standard four year medical degree. They must also pass a national exam to be licensed practitioners. The salary quoted is based on four years of experience.
- Construction Estimator - $68,000
If you are building something, it is crucial to know what it's going to cost you. Construction estimators do just what their title suggests - they create cost estimates for construction companies based on materials, labor, location and projected timelines. A bachelor's degree (in a related field such as construction management) and work experience will be required to step into this career. The salary estimated is based on five years of experience. (Find out how professional resume writers can help you land a coveted career. Check out Resume Scribes Seal The Deal.)
- Actuary - $133,000
Do you love statistics? Actuaries do. They evaluate and quantify the likelihood of events, and apply that knowledge to help minimize losses to companies. For example, insurance companies employ actuaries to determine how likely it is that you will crash your car, and then assign a premium to you that reflects that likelihood. According to a study done by CareerCast.com in 2010, actuary was the number one job. The same study for 2011 puts this number-crunching career at number three on the list. The salary listed based on four years' experience.
- Project Manager, Construction - $90,000
While construction estimator may not have been exactly what you were looking for, if construction is still where your heart lies, consider being a project manager. According to the BLS, 61% of these hard-working individuals are self-employed.
Since it requires the most years of experience on this list at ten years, make sure working in this industry is what you want to do!
- Management Consultant - $117,000
Companies will hire a management consultant to improve their systems, efficiency and overall profits. To work as a management consultant, you will need a bachelor's degree or higher in a business or management program, and likely several years on the job. The salary here is based on five years of experience.
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- Account Manager, Sales - $83,000
Basically, a sales account manager is in charge of a company's sales team. They manage accounts and oversee their team's goals. They usually require a bachelor's degree, although a proven sales record is arguably more important. The salary above is based on only a year's experience.
Overall employment for sales managers is expected to increase by 13% through 2018, according to the BLS.
- Structural Engineer - $83,000
If being a civil engineer didn't sound quite right, consider taking that engineering degree a slightly different way. Structural engineering is often considered a specialized form of civil engineering, but there are programs that deal specifically with structural engineering. As with civil engineering, you will need to be licensed by your state to work. The salary quoted is based on four years of experience.
- Physical Therapist - $75,000
If you have suffered an injury or are dealing with any number of medical conditions, you may have been referred to a physical therapist (PT). These individuals work to promote the health of those with injuries, arthritis, or diseases such as cerebral palsy in order to help manage symptoms and pain and improve the quality of life. You will need a master's degree to work in this profession, but the salary estimated is based on four years of experience – not too long of a wait.
The Bottom Line
Careers fall in and out of favor, but the number one concern you should have when picking one is that you will enjoy the work. There's little sense in devoting the time and energy to learning a craft if you will hate it once you graduate! (The CFA Institute provides members with a variety of ongoing career and networking benefits. To learn more, read Ongoing Career Benefits For CFAs.)