Higher education is one of the most effective ways job seekers can invest in their careers and have a positive effect on their job searches. According to a CareerBuilder survey, nearly one in five employers (18 percent) reported that their educational requirements for jobs in their organizations increased over the last five years. Not only does education increase the amount of opportunities available, it also significantly boosts earning potential.
A degree can lead to a number of opportunities, including some of the best-paying jobs in the country. Using Economic Modeling Specialists’ extensive labor market database, which pulled from more than 90 national and state employment resources and includes detailed information on employees and self-employed workers, CareerBuilder and EMSI have released a list of the top-paying jobs requiring an associate or bachelor’s degree.
While many industries are represented, a considerable number of these jobs are in the science, technology, engineering and math industries, as the economy continues to support the growth of STEM careers. This focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics is not surprising when you look at what employers are planning for their organizations this year. In a recent survey, CareerBuilder also found that positions in information technology and engineering will see the most hiring in 2013. As the economy continues its recovery, employers will rely on innovation and technological advancements to improve business and stay competitive.
The list also has several positions in health care, a field that relies heavily on workers with two- and four-year degrees. With technological and medical advancements constantly changing the health-care landscape, as well as an aging American population, workers with the right education and skills have promising careers.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income was $50,054 in 2011, the most recent year that data is available for. This figure includes the median income of all wage earners living in one household. In the following lists of jobs requiring associate and bachelor’s degrees, the median annual salary is higher than the average household income, signaling the positive impact of education on income.
Best-paying jobs requiring an associate degree
While job requirements and pay will vary by organization, top-paying jobs based on median annual pay in the U.S. include:
1. Air traffic controller*
Median annual pay: $113,547
2. Radiation therapist
Median annual pay: $76,627
3. Dental hygienist
Median annual pay: $70,408
4. Nuclear medicine technologist
Median annual pay: $69,638
5. Nuclear technician
Median annual pay: $68,037
Median annual pay: $65,853
7. Diagnostic medical sonographer
Median annual pay: $65,499
8. Fashion Designer
Median annual pay: $63,170
9. Aerospace engineering and operations technician
Median annual pay: $61,547
10. Engineering technician (except drafters)
Median annual pay: $58,698
Best-paying jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree
1. Petroleum engineer
Median annual pay: $122,242
3. Aerospace engineer
Median annual pay: $102,409
4. Nuclear engineer
Median annual pay: $99,715
5. Computer hardware engineer
Median annual pay: $98,134
6. Software developer, systems software
Median annual pay: $96,034
7. Chemical engineer
Median annual pay: $92,934
8. Electronics engineer (excluding computer)
Median annual pay: $91,478
Median annual pay: $91,062
10. Atmospheric and space scientist
Median annual pay: $89,794
*Occupation descriptions are based on information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Brent Rasmussen is the president of CareerBuilder North America.