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Study: Best Paying Jobs For Two And Four Year Degrees

Over the next couple of months I am doing a number of presentations with high school seniors and college students who have not yet declared a major.

I am giving them a recruiter perspective on what the job market looks like today, a few years down the road and how they can best prepare themselves.

Two of the most frequently asked questions from the high school kids are, “What jobs pay the most?” and “Do I need to go to college… do I need a four year degree?”

I tell them (in my opinion) money is not everything and that they should be life long learners… those both tend to get “eyes rolling”.

I get where they are coming from… I was the same way at their age.

I do talk about finding something they can be passionate about and how the STEM fields are in high demand.

Do I think they need to further their education? Absolutely and always.

In doing some research I came across this 2013 study from CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl (EMSI):

Best-Paying Jobs For Two-Year and Four-Year Degrees

From the press release:

Nearly one in five employers (18 percent) reported that their educational requirements for jobs in their organizations have increased over the last five years," said Brent Rasmussen , President of CareerBuilder North America.  "A college education is one of the best investments you can make.  Not only does it increase the amount of opportunities available to you, it also significantly boosts your earning potential.

The salaries below will depend on years of experience and location.

Best-Paying Jobs Requiring an Associate's Degree:

1) Air Traffic Controller – $113,547 – manages air traffic to ensure safe flying

2) Radiation Therapist – $76,627 – treats cancer and other diseases with radiation

3) Dental Hygienist - $70,408 – examines patients, cleans teeth and provides other dental care

4) Nuclear Medicine Technologist - $69,638 – prepares and administers radioactive drugs and uses this when scanning patients for abnormalities

5) Nuclear Technician - $68,037 – assists in nuclear research and production

6) Nurse - $65,853 – provides patient care and educates patients about various health conditions

7) Diagnostic Medical Sonographer - $65,499 – diagnoses medical conditions using special imaging equipment such as an ultrasound, sonogram, etc.

8) Fashion Designer - $63,170 – creates clothing, shoes and accessories

9) Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technician - $61,547 – operates equipment used in developing and testing new aircraft and spacecraft

10) Engineering Technician (except drafters) - $58,698 – help engineers and scientists in research and development, specializing in different areas

Best-Paying Jobs Requiring a Bachelor's Degree:

1) Petroleum Engineer - $122,242 – design methods for extracting oil and gas from the earth's surface

2) Airline Pilot, Copilot and Flight Engineer - $105,518 – flies and navigates aircraft

3) Aerospace Engineer - $102,409 – designs aircraft, spacecraft, satellites and missiles

4) Nuclear Engineer - $99,715 – researches and develops ways to get benefits from nuclear energy and radiation

5) Computer Hardware Engineer - $98,134 – designs, develops and tests computer equipment

6) Software Developer, Systems Software - $96,034 – develops computer applications and underlying systems

7) Chemical Engineer - $92,934 – applies chemistry, biology and physics to solve problems, typically involving the production of food, fuel, drugs, chemicals, etc

8) Electronics Engineer (excluding computer) - $91,478 – designs and develops electronic components for use in fields such as telecommunications, aerospace, acoustics, etc

9) Actuary - $91,062 – analyzes the financial cost of risk and uncertainty

10) Atmospheric and Space Scientist - $89,794 – investigates the atmosphere and meteorological data to prepare reports and forecasts; includes weather analysts and forecasters.

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Interesting to see air traffic controller first on that list. Unless you have military experience, by law you have to start your ATC career before age 30, so it's something you have to decide fairly early in your life and stick with because of the long-term training involved. The FAA expects a shortage of controllers in coming years due to its aging work force hitting the mandatory retirement age, so unless they start cutting back on the number of ATCs in the system it stands to reason that it's a field with opportunities. The job is modernizing through changes like Performance-based Navigation (what they're fighting about with the MAC over noise in Edina) and more adoption of GPS and on-board performance monitoring as well. If it weren't for the [darn] maximum start age it is something I would be considering. :(

If someone is really interested and wants to hear what an ATC does on a daily basis, they can look up KMSP on liveatc.net and listen to the tower, ground or approach channels. It can be interesting on days like Sunday when there are weather delays or any day with a high amount of air traffic.

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