Seven Big Money Jobs, No Advanced Degree Required

High-Pay Jobs Without Grad School

No advanced degree - no problem. Snagging a lucrative job without going to grad school isn't just a dream.

By Danielle Blundell
Worried that without a graduate degree in your hands, your career is going nowhere fast? Think again. Spending years in school isn't the only ticket to a high-paying job.
"Yes, you absolutely can work your way up in a job or company without an advanced degree," says Daniel Newell, job development and marketing specialist at the San Jose State University career center. "Having a master's may help in certain fields, but the job market hasn't gotten to the point where a master's is the only route to a high-paying job. "
Wondering which jobs pay relatively well and require just a plain old bachelor's degree? Keep reading for more.

Career #1: Accountant

Median Annual Salary: $63,550*
Top 10 Percent of Earners: $111,510
Bottom 10 Percent of Earners: $39,930
If numbers are your forte, and you'd rather enter the working world without tacking on a couple of extra years for grad school, then pursuing a career as an accountant could be a great professional move.
Life on the Job: As an accountant, you could be responsible for organizing financial records and analyzing the profits and losses of a company to suggest ways for improvement, says the U.S. Department of Labor. You might also handle a company's tax-paying activities.
Why It Pays: According to Newell, accounting jobs pay well from the get-go because of the highly covetable, complex skill set graduates come out of school with - namely, that they've got good math sense and the ability to communicate findings to higher-ups. "Accounting is the foundation of any business," says Newell. "Companies really need proficient people in this role so they don't go bankrupt or lose lots of money."
For Stuart Mease, director of undergraduate career services at the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, high pay is directly related to the fact that accountants' services are always in need. Accountants have "skills that are directly billable for tax and audit work needed done by firms for its clients," he says. And from Mease's experience, every year there's a steady stream of new graduates with bachelor's degrees that get hired at firms around the country.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.
Education Requirements: While an advanced degree isn't required for most accountant positions, the Department of Labor says a bachelor's in accounting or a related field is. The Department does note that some employers might prefer those with a master's degree in accounting, or in business administration with a specialization in accounting.

Career #2: Registered Nurse

Median Annual Salary: $65,470*
Top 10 Percent of Earners: $45,040
Bottom 10 Percent of Earners: $94,720.
Want the opportunity to help people and be compensated handsomely for your services, all without going to grad school? If that sounds like music to your ears, consider pursuing a career as a registered nurse.
Life on the Job: Think of an RN as a doctor's right hand. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, responsibilities could include administering medications, helping perform diagnostic tests, and taking the vitals of patients.
Why It Pays: "RNs are paid well because there's a lot of training involved and a baseline of medical terminology and biology that you must master to provide care, even when you're not getting a Ph.D. in nursing" says Newell. "Also, it's a very critical profession - you see people at their worst, and one mistake could mean life or death for a patient."
Newell also thinks that the current shortage of nurses, in combination with the increasing aging population, also contributes to the competitive salaries.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.
Education Requirements: Turns out there are three potential approaches to this job: an associate's degree in nursing, a diploma from an approved nursing program, or a bachelor's of science in nursing, according to the Department of Labor. Either way - no need for years in grad school. But the Department says you will have to pass a state licensing exam to qualify for providing care to the ill and injured in any state.

Career #3: Computer Hardware Engineer

Median Annual Salary: $100,920*
Top 10 Percent of Earners: $150,130
Bottom 10 Percent of Earners: $63,970
We're all plugged in these days - iPads, smartphones, laptops - so somebody's got to make the gadgets and programs that we can't live without. That's precisely what computer hardware engineers do, and it doesn't take an advanced degree to prepare to pursue the job. Even better, the starting salaries can be very competitive right off the bat.
Life on the Job: As a computer hardware engineer, you might design new computer hardware and equipment, oversee its creation, and then test it for user experience, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Why It Pays: When asked what field he thinks is the next money-maker of the future without a graduate degree, Mease answered computer engineering. "Computer engineering is the new manufacturing of our lifetime," says Mease. "The U.S. is not producing enough domestic students to fill the demand," which in turn can drive salaries up. High demand, high pay, and low on required education - pretty much a dream if you're down on grad school.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Engineering Program.
Education Requirements: Earning a bachelor's degree from an accredited school is the best way to pursue a career as a computer hardware engineer, says the Department of Labor. Most of these professionals study computer engineering, although a degree in electrical engineering is usually accepted too. And while a grad degree isn't required for most computer hardware engineering positions, according to the Department, some specialized positions or large firms require it.

Career #4: Financial Analyst

Median Annual Salary: $76,950*
Top 10 Percent of Earners: $148,430
Bottom 10 Percent of Earners: $47,130
Guilty of giving your friends financial advice even when they don't ask for it? Don't apologize - just put your money savvy to work by pursuing a career as a personal financial advisor. You could make big bucks without ever stepping foot in grad school.
Life on the Job: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, financial analysts give advice to clients and companies on investment opportunities, ranging from stocks to bonds and other types of investments. You might also study business trends and evaluate current and historical data.
Why It Pays: According to Newell, financial analysts rake in the dough because the field requires them to be detail-oriented and able to make critical recommendations to either clients or supervisors. "These are the people who are telling companies where their dollars are coming from and how to spend them," says Newell. He adds that such traits that are often innate and subsequently honed with no more than a bachelor's degree.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.
Education Requirements: Many financial analyst positions require a bachelor's degree in a discipline such as accounting, business administration, economics, finance, or statistics, according to the Department of Labor. Some advanced positions, however, do require a master's degree. The Department says employers often require such a degree in business administration or finance.

Career #5: Applications Software Developer

Median Annual Salary: $90,060*
Top 10 Percent of Earners: $138,880
Bottom 10 Percent of Earners: $55,190
Love living the solitary life, sitting at your computer and plugging away all day? Then pursuing the path of a software developer could be the right fit for you. Even better, you won't need a graduate degree, just fluency in a computer language or two.
Life on the Job: As an applications software developer, you'll be the creative brains behind the latest apps for computers and mobile devices. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, you might also test these apps and ensure that they function normally.
Why It Pays: Again, Newell says in this industry pay can be high for candidates without advanced degrees because the need for software developers outweighs the supply. "Technology has taken off, and there are new ventures every day," he says. "[Computer] languages become obsolete so fast that companies really are willing to pay for the best idea and the most talented individuals, which drives salaries up."
Next step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.
Education Requirements: Per the U.S. Department of Labor, developers typically hold a bachelor's in computer science or another related field, like software engineering. A degree in math might also be accepted.

Career #6: Market Research Analyst

Median Annual Salary: $60,300*
Top 10 Percent of Earners: $113,500
Bottom 10 Percent of Earners: $33,280
Is the research gene in your DNA, but you just can't fathom another two years or more of graduate school? Then pursuing a job as a market research analyst could be right up your alley.
Life on the Job: Market research analysts really get involved in monitoring and forecasting trends in sales at the grassroots level. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, they devise questionnaires, surveys, and even polls to assess consumer behavior, and they provide insight to companies about the market and their competitors.
Why It Pays: According to Mease, big data companies like Nielsen, Capital One, and Red Ventures have a strong need for students skilled in marketing analytics. "It's more important and popular now because of enabling technologies to better understand customers," he says.
"If a student is well-versed in interpreting sets of data to drive decisions and as a by-product saving or generating revenue for the company, then the salary of the person easily pays for itself." And this is why pay could be high right off the bat - even without a master's.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Marketing Program.
Education Requirements: Strong math and statistical skills are needed in this field, says the Department of Labor. Typically, market research analysts need a bachelor's degree in market research or a related field. Many of these professionals have degrees in other fields like statistics, math, or computer science, says the Department. Others may have studied business administration, communications, or one of the social sciences.

Career #7: Medical and Health Services Manager

Median Annual Salary: $88,580*
Top 10 Percent of Earners: $150,560
Bottom 10 Percent of Earners: $53,940
You want to work in health care, and have a mind for small details and managing people. The only thing is, you don't really want to go back to school to get a master's or graduate degree. You might want to prep for a high-paying career in medical and health services management.
Life on the Job: As a medical and health services manager, the U.S. Department of Labor says you'll likely be planning and coordinating care by potentially managing a hospital, a department, or a group of physicians at a doctor's office. Improving the delivery of health care services will be your goal, and you'll schedule staff and stay abreast of medical laws and your facility's finances in order to meet that goal, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Why It Pays: For Newell, medical and health services manager salaries tend to be higher because there are always new policies and programs and the demand for professionals with a business and medical background is very high. "This career pays well because there's so much unknown in health care, and we need individuals who know how to roll out new programs and assist in seamless caregiving," says Newell.
Next step: Click Here to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.
Educational Requirements: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor's degree in health administration." However, don't be surprised to find candidates with an advanced degree, as the Department says master's degrees are also common.

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