Jobs That Pay More (And Less) Than You Think



Jobs That Pay More Than You Think

You may think you know how much some jobs pay, but their actual salaries may surprise you and change your career path.

By Molly Marcot
If you're trying to figure out your career path, salary may be a major driving factor behind your decision on what to pursue. But you may be surprised to learn that some jobs pay higher salaries than you were expecting and vice versa.
According to Dr. Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, paychecks for certain jobs reflect how they play into the economic landscape.
"The difference between these occupations and their salaries is largely about the value they provide to the economy," Carnevale says.
He adds, "We hold outdated information in our minds of what we think jobs pay, based on the people we know and talk to.
To dispel the myths you may have about certain jobs and their pay, take a look at the list of jobs below - some of their salaries may surprise you. And, even better, they could give you a clearer picture of what your next career move should be.

High-Pay Job #1: Systems Software Developer

Median Salary*
$99,000
Top 10%*
$148,850
Bottom 10%*
$62,800
Creative types who enjoy problem-solving may find a career as a software developer to be a good fit and well-paid.
What They Do: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, software developer duties boil down to developing software systems for improved computer operations. Many developers work for computer system design companies or electronic product manufacturers.
Why It Pays: "[Software developers] invent new technical capabilities that harness the power of computers - the most productive technology of our era," Carnevale says. Because the demand for computer software is increasing, the Department of Labor projects 30 percent growth in software developer jobs from 2010 to 2020.
How to Prepare: Software developers usually have computer programming skills alongside a bachelor's degree in computer science.

Low-Pay Job #1: Surgical Technologist

Median Salary*
$41,790
Top 10%*
$60,240
Bottom 10%*
$29,710
For assisting in surgical operations, these important members of the health care team don't get paid as much as you would expect.
What They Do: The U.S. Department of Labor states that surgical technologists are responsible for preparing operating rooms, arranging equipment, and assisting doctors and nurses during surgery.
Why It's Low-Paid: Compared to other positions in the field such as nurse practitioner or physician's assistant, "[surgical technologists] require a lower medical skill set," Stoeckmann says. "Also there is a lot of pressure for hospitals to keep their costs down."

High-Pay Job #2: Dental Hygienist

Median Salary*
$70,210
Top 10%*
$96,280
Bottom 10%*
$46,540
If you're interested in improving people's smiles, then a career as a dental hygienist might work well for you - professionally and financially. Now say "Aaaahhh!"
What They Do: Providing preventative dental care such as fluoride treatments and examining patients for oral diseases like gingivitis are typical responsibilities of dental hygienists, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Why It Pays: "Since dental hygienists oftentimes work in dental clinics that are privately owned instead of hospitals, companies are more likely to pay top dollar for a really qualified hygienist," says Jim Stoeckmann, senior practice leader at WorldAtWork, a nonprofit that offers insight on all aspects of human resources including compensation. "Private companies can afford to pay more than hospitals for the most part."
How to Prepare: The Department of Labor states that in order to pursue a career as a dental hygienist, you typically need an associate's degree in dental hygiene. All states require licenses to practice, but their requirements vary.

Low-Pay Job #2: Model

Median Salary*
$18,750
Top 10%*
$43,480
Bottom 10%*
$16,250
Gracing the glossy pages of fashion magazines may seem glamorous and lucrative, but that may not be the case for most models.
What They Do: The U.S. Department of Labor states that models help advertise clothing or other products by posing for photos and participating in runway shows. Models often work with fashion designers, photographers, and advertisers.
Why It's Low-Paid: "Models are paid for performance, so their pay varies widely," Carnevale says. Plus, since they often do not work a typical 9-to-5 five-day workweek schedule, they are likely to experience some instability in income, the Department of Labor says.

High-Pay Job #3: Technical Writer

Median Salary*
$65,500
Top 10%*
$101,660
Bottom 10%*
$38,700
A wordsmith who can find ways to translate a complicated concept, such as how to operate factory machinery, into an accessible instruction manual may be well-suited for a lucrative career as a technical writer.
What They Do: Technical writing jobs require the ability to communicate technical information into an easy-to-understand format for the average person, the U.S. Department of Labor says. Technical writers work primarily within the technology, engineering, and scientific research industries, developing and distributing technical information to customers, designers, and manufacturers.
Why It Pays: Carnevale reiterates that "[Technical writers] work at a key junction between the people who make new technology and the people who need to use it or understand it. They explain or translate complex and technical concepts into common language; this critical function makes their position valuable."
How to Prepare: Technical writer positions usually require a college degree, in addition to some type of knowledge in a specialty area such as web design or computer science, according to the Department of Labor. Employers typically prefer to hire writers with a degree in communications, English, or journalism.

Low-Pay Job #3: Announcer

Median Salary*
$28,020
Top 10%*
$78,630
Bottom 10%*
$17,270
Announcers reach a wide audience through television or radio, so it may surprise you that these somewhat well-known personas aren't as well-compensated as you would guess.
What They Do: Announcers offer commentary on and present news, music, or sports and usually interview guests about their niche topics, the U.S. Department of Labor says. Their work environments are usually television and radio studios, and while most announcers work tight schedules on a full-time basis, many work part-time.
Why It's Low-Paid: "There aren't any significant prerequisites to this job," Stoeckmann says. "So you get a lot of candidates to choose from, and then media companies operate on fairly thin margins so they can't afford to pay that much."

High-Pay Job #4: Market Research Analyst

Median Salary*
$60,300
Top 10%*
$113,500
Bottom 10%*
$33,280
Shopping is an everyday occurrence - but if you're curious about why people buy things, then pursuing a career as a market research analyst may be the right career move for you.
What They Do: Market research analysts work with companies to gather information about the potential sales of products or services in relation to a targeted area, such as a specified group of local communities or multiple state regions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Their work is generally computer-oriented with frequent analysis of market data and reports, but some analysts work with the public to gather information needed for assignments.
Why It Pays: "The job does not altogether require a number of sophisticated skills, however market research analysts are a good example of the economic trend that's steering away from industrial jobs and instead focusing on service jobs," Stoeckmann says. "Business services continue to be a growing field." The Department of Labor also predicts a rapid 41 percent growth in the field from 2010 to 2020.
How to Prepare: Market research analysts require a bachelor's degree in market research or a related field, such as statistics, math, or computer science, notes the Department. Others have studied business administration, communications, or one of the social sciences.

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