High-pay careers that make college worth it


High-paying careers

Research shows that a college degree still pays, despite the cost. Learn about six careers with great rewards that require a college education.

By Lia Sestric
Sure, college debt isn't something that anyone wants to have. But no matter how tough it is to swallow, you shouldn't forfeit a post-secondary education.
"Unless a person is interested in working in, say, a non-managerial position in construction, auto tech, or sales, (he or) she needs a college degree," says Eddie LaMeire, a college admissions consultant and a former college admissions counselor. "With a college degree, you'll just be more employable, which largely explains why the unemployment rate for college grads is about half of the rate for those who stopped their education with a high school diploma."
Those who have more than a diploma to their name also make considerably more in pay, as shown in The College Board's report "Education Pays 2013: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society."
This report reveals that "during a 40-year full-time working life, the median earnings of bachelor's degree recipients without an advanced degree are 65 percent higher than the median earnings of high school graduates." Associate-degree holders make 27 percent more, and those with some college but no degree earn 13 percent more, according to the report.
Of course, there's no promise of higher earnings if you further your education, but this can certainly put the odds in your favor. So to put things in perspective, we've detailed six careers with a median salary of $60K or more that require either an associate's or a bachelor's degree. Keep reading to learn more.

Career #1: Financial Analyst

Median
annual wage*
$76,950
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$47,130
Top 10 percent of earners
$148,430
Needless to say by looking at the dollar figures, a career as a financial analyst may pay off big, but it will require a college education.
What do financial analysts do exactly? They might evaluate and provide guidance to businesses or individuals with making investment decisions, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Why College Is Needed For Preparation: Associate professor J. Douglas Wellington at Husson University says there are a few main reasons: "First, students learn higher-level mathematical concepts such as present value, beta, and duration, which are used in financial analysis," he says, which are things a student might learn in a finance program.
"Second, students are introduced to various financial instruments, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, options, and futures contracts, which are the types of investments that a financial analyst will recommend to clients."
Wellington also says students learn how to read and analyze financial statements and develop strong communication skills, as well as a foundation in ethics.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.
Education Options: The Department of Labor says these professionals typically must have a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as accounting, business administration, finance, economics, or statistics. A master's degree in finance or an MBA is required for advanced positions, the Department notes.

Career #2: Dental Hygienist

Median
annual wage*
$70,210
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$46,540
Top 10 percent of earners
$96,280
The potential earnings for a dental hygienist aren't too shabby - especially if you factor in that it may only take as little as a two-year investment.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a dental hygienist may clean teeth, examine patients for oral disease, and provide preventative dental care. Promoting good oral hygiene is also part of the job.
Why College Is Needed For Preparation: "Dental hygienists need to understand the human body almost instinctively," says LaMeire. "Just because the job is restricted to oral hygiene doesn't necessarily mean that the position demands less education."
In fact, Emily Kissane, a policy analyst at Hobsons, points out that education is very critical to training dental hygienists how to use specialized tools that are part of the job. A dental hygiene program also helps develop a student's diagnostic skills, she adds.
Click to Find the Right Dental Assisting Program.
Education Options: An associate's degree in dental hygiene is typically required to enter the profession, says the Department of Labor. Every state requires a dental hygienist to be licensed.

Career #3: Accountant

Median
annual wage*
$63,550
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$39,930
Top 10 percent of earners
$111,510
If you're good with numbers, you might want to consider pursuing a career as an accountant. But you'll need to head to college first to prepare for this type of career.
Accountants might be responsible for checking financial reports for accuracy, as well as making sure taxes are paid on time and properly, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Why College Is Needed For Preparation: "Accountants track and analyze financial records and must have in-depth knowledge of accounting practices that vary from the private to public to non-profit sectors," says Kissane, who acknowledges that this ability comes through higher education.
Furthermore, she says accountants must learn about the regulatory and business environments in which they operate, which one will gain through courses like business law, for example.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.
Education Options: A bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field is required for most accountant positions, says the Department of Labor. It also notes that some employers prefer to hire a job candidate who has a master's degree in either accounting or business administration with a concentration in accounting.

Career #4: Registered Nurse

Median
annual wage*
$65,470
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$45,040
Top 10 percent of earners
$94,720
A career as a registered nurse could provide more than reasonable pay - whether you take two years or four years to get there.
As a registered nurse, one might assist with the care of patients, as well as provide emotional support to the patient and family members, says the U.S. Department of Labor.
Why College Is Needed For Preparation: "I would say that higher education is more of a necessity today in preparation for work as an RN," says Mary Jude, assistant professor at Husson University's School of Nursing. "The field is highly technical [and] requires considerable critical-thinking [and] problem-solving skills."
LaMeire agrees. "Nurses serve as proxies for doctors in innumerable situations. They need an instinctive understanding of human biology, biochemistry, and drug interactions," he says.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Nursing Program.
Education Options:There are three ways to prepare to pursue a career as a nurse says the Department of Labor. One can pursue a bachelor's degree, an associate's degree, or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Registered nurses must also have a nursing license, the Department notes.

Career #5: Medical and Health Services Manager

Median
annual wage*
$88,580
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$53,940
Top 10 percent of earners
$150,560
If you haven't heard already, health care is booming. And as a result, there's potential for great pay as a health services manager. Best of all, it may take only a few years of study to prepare to pursue this career.
Health services managers essentially run the show, so medical professionals can focus on the care of patients. The U.S. Department of Labor says they coordinate and direct medical and health services.
Why College Is Needed For Preparation: "Health services managers lead complex organizations like rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and nursing homes," says Kissane, who notes proper preparation for the career comes from higher education. "While in college, students learn about topics specific to the health field, health care ethics, law, and economics - and develop administrative skills," she says.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program.
Education Options: "Prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor's degree in health administration," says the Department of Labor. Master's degrees are also common in the fields of health services, public health, pubic administration, long-term care administration, and business administration.

Career #6: Construction Manager

Median
annual wage*
$82,790
Bottom 10 percent of earners
$49,680
Top 10 percent of earners
$144,520
Ever wonder who built the bridge you crossed? The simple answer would be a construction manager. And the first step in preparing for the pursuit of this career would be to enroll in a related college degree program.
Construction managers coordinate and supervise a variety of projects from start to finish, says the U.S. Department of Labor. These projects might include residential, commercial, roads, bridges, or even a school or hospital.
Why College Is Needed For Preparation: "Construction managers need to learn about the technical aspects of construction as well as topics like building codes and safety management," says Kissane. She says valuable knowledge is gained from specialty courses like commercial construction methods.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Construction Management Program.
Education Options:The combination of an associate's degree and work experience may be enough for some positions, says the Department of Labor. While this is true, a bachelor's degree in construction science, construction management, architecture, or engineering is growing in importance as construction projects become more complex.

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