10 Highest-Paying Jobs in Today’s Most Popular Career Fields

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You worked hard and graduated from college, and now you want to make the big bucks so you can pay back your student loans, right?

Well, according to Korn Ferry, the average salary for 2016 graduates is $49,785. Compare that number to the $37,172 in student loan debt the average 2016 graduate has. To put it in perspective, nearly 10 percent of a typical grad’s monthly salary would go to student loan payments on the Standard Repayment Plan, assuming a Direct Subsidized Loan at 4.25%.

Niche, a ranking and review website, recently released its list of the most popular college majors. To help young professionals find careers with the most value, we identified the highest-paying jobs in 10 popular fields of study, ranging from the arts to the sciences. Aside from executive titles such as CEO or CFO, here are the results.

Business

Job: Financial manager

highest-paying jobs

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Financial managers are in charge of analyzing and maintaining the finances of a company or organization. Their tasks could include managing the company’s investments, creating financial goals and strategies to achieve them, and putting together fiscal reports.

“A job as a financial manager is best suited for analytical types, those who like working with numbers and those who can think strategically,” says Douglas A. Boneparth, financial expert and president of Bone Fide Wealth. “For this position, you may want to consider pursuing an MBA, and obtaining your CFA designation would also be ideal.”

  • Average earnings: $121,750 per year
  • Education and experience: To become a financial manager, you generally need a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of experience in a business or financial career. Your prior occupation could be an accountant, financial analyst, securities sales agent, or auditor, for example.
  • Rate of growth: Experts expect employment opportunities for financial managers to grow at a rapid pace — as much as 19 percent from 2016 to 2026. Key duties of the job, such as risk management and cash management, are anticipated to be in demand over the next 10 years.
  • Locations with the highest demand: San Antonio; Pittsburgh; Sunnyvale, California; Waller, Texas; Alpharetta, Georgia; Stanford, California; New York City; and Bridgehampton, New York

Accounting

Job: Tax director

highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's degree

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Tax directors typically work with businesses to create, plan, and implement tax strategies. They also prepare quarterly tax reports, which might be published if the company is public, and ensure the company is compliant and its tax filings are accurate. If tax fraud is detected, a company can get in serious trouble.

  • Average earnings: $148,364 per year
  • Education and experience: Tax directors typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in tax accounting. Some employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree, but experience matters too. Most tax directors have worked their way up from an entry-level position.
  • Rate of growth: It’s difficult to determine the rate of growth for tax directors, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts career prospects for accountants, who could use their expertise to be tax preparers, will increase 13 percent from 2012 to 2022.
  • Locations with the highest demand: Top cities for accounting jobs are Boston; Chicago; Denver; Houston; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; New York City; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Raleigh, North Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; San Francisco; San Mateo, California; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

Nursing

Job: Certified registered nurse anesthetist

highest-paying jobs

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Like an anesthesiologist, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) prepares and administers anesthesia to patients. For that reason, CRNAs require more education and training than registered nurses do.

  • Average earnings: $133,000 per year
  • Education and experience: Along with a bachelor’s degree, CRNAs must have at least a master’s degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia educational program. You’ll also need to pass the National Certification Examination. The average student will complete 2,500 clinical hours and administer 850 anesthetics before becoming certified.
  • Rate of growth: Anesthesiologists are hard to find in rural areas, so the demand for CRNAs is increasing. The expected growth for CRNAs is 31 percent from 2012 to 2022.
  • Locations with the highest demand: This career is in high demand across the country. For this reason, many CRNAs can increase their salary by working as per diem and travel nurses. That means they also can get financial assistance from employers for housing and relocation costs.

Psychology

Job: Psychiatrist

highest-paying careers

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Both psychologists and psychiatrists deal with mental health, but a major difference is the fact that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor. Psychiatrists specialize in mental health issues and can prescribe medications to help treat disorders.

“A person who is interested in becoming a psychiatrist should be a good learner, educator, and someone who genuinely wants to help people get better,” says child psychiatrist Rajinder S. Dhillon. “You have to go through a rigorous curriculum with high achievement, but psychiatry is one medical specialty in particular where physicians also get to be in tune with social, cultural, and other demographic factors that could also be affecting their patients.”

  • Average earnings: $228,852 per year
  • Education and experience: A psychiatrist must earn a bachelor’s degree, graduate from medical school, and complete a residency.
  • Rate of growthAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2014, there were approximately 28,200 psychiatrists in the U.S. In general, careers in the medical field are predicted to increase 15 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is a higher rate of growth than most jobs.
  • Locations with the highest demand: Wyoming, Texas, Iowa, Mississippi, Indiana, Nevada, and Idaho

Communications

Job: Social media director

highest-paying jobs

Image credit: Pexels

Although this career is relatively new, it’s important. As companies seek to increase their presence online, a social media director is in charge of figuring out that strategy on social media and other online platforms. This role requires you to be analytical and creative to determine how to reach an audience. You’ll also use data to track user trends and think outside the box to figure out how to implement the data findings.

  • Average earnings: $71,142 per year
  • Education and experience: Social media directors typically have a bachelor’s degree, and experience is important. Companies want you to show that you’ve established or grown a large web following. Seven to 10 years of social media experience is typically required.
  • Rate of growth: Digital marketing jobs, which include social media skills, continue to be in demand. According to McKinley Marketing Partners, 49 percent of companies surveyed reported they’d fill more digital marketing roles in 2015.
  • Locations with the highest demand: Jobs are in demand in California, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.

Marketing

Job: Marketing director

highest-paying jobs

Image credit: Pexels

You can work across industries in this position, but it basically involves using economic indicators, such as changes in supply and demand, to determine customer behavior both now and in the future. A marketing director will take this data, along with data on the competition, to figure out how best market the specific product or brand.

  • Average earnings: $152,800 per year
  • Education and experience: Marketing directors commonly have a bachelor’s degree in marketing or a related field. Employers often prefer an MBA as well as considerable experience.
  • Rate of growthJob prospects in advertising, marketing, and promotional fields are expected to increase by 9 percent between 2016 and 2026.
  • Locations with the highest demand: Demand for marketing directors is based on industry more than location. Marketing directors are paid the most in the following industries: oil and gas extraction, apparel and piece goods, securities and commodities, advertising, promotions, sales, education, social media marketing, and online marketing.

Education

Job: Postsecondary academic dean

highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's degree

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Although the average starting salary for a teacher is $38,727, according to PayScale, postsecondary academic deans can make much more. In their role, they provide leadership, manage day-to-day operations, and direct educational programs.

  • Average earnings: $95,143 per year
  • Education and experienceRequirements vary, but postsecondary academic deans often have an advanced degree, and many have worked their way up from other positions.
  • Rate of growthIn general, administrators in colleges and universities will see their career opportunities grow by 10 percent between 2016 and 2026. Academic deans fall into this category and therefore have a positive career outlook.
  • Locations with the highest demand: There are nearly 1,000 jobs listed on Indeed in places that include Arkansas, Virginia, Kansas, Texas, and more.

English

Job: Technical writer

highest-paying careers

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As a senior technical writer, you could write articles in a specialized field or produce operating manuals and certification tests. At the senior level, you’ll likely handle most of the high-level technical writing and give other assignments to junior-level writers. These jobs are usually in computer hardware, software, engineering, or other industrial or professional fields. Fluency in the terminology of a particular field is required.

  • Average earnings: $62,637 per year
  • Education and experienceMost technical writers have a bachelor’s degree. On-the-job experience is required to move up to a senior-level position, and many senior technical writers have a dual degree or a master’s degree. Some companies might request a degree or certification in the particular field as well.
  • Rate of growthSince many companies now have an online component to their business, virtual product support is on the rise. That should drive the demand from technical writers up 11 percent between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Locations with the highest demand: There are over 2,200 technical writer jobs listed on Indeed in locations that include New York, Florida, Maryland, and Ohio, among others.

Computer science

Job: Software engineering manager

highest-paying jobs

Image credit: Pexels

A software engineering manager oversees the design and development of software applications for companies in a variety of fields that range from entertainment to banking. This position can require a lot of creativity since you’re helping a company innovate its business practices and develop new products.

“A software engineering manager should know what computer programming is all about, what difficulties software engineers face, and how projects are made,” says software engineering manager Gene Mal of Static Jobs, a job search site for computer professionals. “It’s best suited for former software engineers with managerial qualities.”

  • Average earnings: $139,776 per year
  • Education and experience: Software engineering manager jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field and about five years of experience in a related area, such as software development. Sometimes, previous managerial experience is required.
  • Rate of growthExperts expect the demand for software developers will increase 24 percent between 2016 and 2026 because there is an ever-growing demand for computer software across industries.
  • Locations with the highest demand: Seattle; San Jose, California; San Francisco; Madison, Wisconsin; Raleigh, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; Boston; Sacramento, California; and Portland, Oregon

Criminal justice

Job: Attorney

 highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's degree

Image credit: Shutterstock

Attorneys, also called lawyers, represent clients in litigation and other legal proceedings.

“Being an attorney is best suited for intense people who are passionate about what they do,” says Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney Ambrosio E. Rodriguez. “It’s a job that starts early and ends late. Most days involve driving to court, meeting with new and existing clients, and reviewing cases with my staff. Other times, I’m in trial.”

Rodriguez loves how versatile a law degree is. “You can be an attorney, or you can instead become an entrepreneur,” he says.

With that said, a law degree is costly, and law school is hard. “Make sure you’re ready for such a big commitment before enrolling and taking on the debt,” he adds.

  • Average earnings: $94,695
  • Education and experience: You must earn a bachelor’s degree and then attend law school for three years to obtain a law degree. After you graduate from law school, you must pass a state’s bar examination.
  • Rate of growth: Employment of lawyers is expected to increase at about the same rate as other occupations (9 percent from 2016 to 2026). Currently, there are more students graduating from law school than jobs available, so competition will continue to intensify.
  • Locations with the highest demand: Major cities are filled with lawyers, but states such as Georgia, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska are struggling. South Dakota even created a “Rural Attorney Recruitment Program,” which offers attorneys $120,000 per year for five years if they work in a county with 10,000 people or fewer.

So, no matter what field you’re interested in, there are plenty of high-paying jobs to pursue. Use this information as a starting point to determine which one is best for you.

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.