If you want to collect a six-figure salary, a medical degree certainly won't hurt. Collectively, physician jobs dominate the list of the nation's highest-paying positions, holding nine of the top 10 most lucrative jobs. But there's good news for the rest of us: Although statistically more education means better pay, you can land a very high-paying job with just a bachelor's degree and considerable work experience.
The old adage "do what you love and the money will follow" still holds true in many cases. But if you want to boost your odds, check out one of these nine jobs with average salaries that top $100,000, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
1. Chief Executive -- $140,000* Chief executives oversee all aspects of their companies while delegating responsibilities to their subordinates. Although specific duties depend on the organization, chief executives are often held accountable for the company's success or failure.
How to get the job: Depends on the employer. Still, a well-rounded background, excellent interpersonal skills and solid work ethic will get you far.
2. Airline Pilot -- $135,000 Airline pilots fly planes to transport people and cargo all over the world. Since flying is a risky job that requires constant alertness, the FAA allows pilots who fly large planes to fly just 1,000 hours per year.
How to get the job: All airline pilots must have an airline transport's flying license. Applicants must be at least 23 years old, have 1,500 hours of flying experience and pass a written and practical exam. Most new airline pilots also have a college degree.
3. Dentist -- $134,000 Dentists prevent, diagnose and treat problems with their patients' teeth and gums, including filling cavities and performing corrective surgeries. Most dentists own their own practices, and many continue to practice at least part-time well into retirement age.
How to get the job: All 50 states and the District of Columbia require dentists to be licensed. Candidates must graduate from an accredited dental school -- most of which last four years and require a bachelor's degree for admission -- and pass written and practical exams.
4. Lawyer -- $111,000 Lawyers counsel clients on legal matters and represent them in civil and criminal trials. Attorneys specialize in certain aspects of the law (taxes, for example), and some appear in the courtroom more often than others do.
How to get the job: All lawyers must be licensed and admitted to the bar in the states in which they practice. To qualify for the bar, candidates first earn a college degree and graduate from an accredited law school.
5. Air Traffic Controller -- $106,000 Air traffic controllers work in airports to make sure planes stay a safe distance apart to keep everyone safe and minimize delays. Most controllers direct more than one plane at a time, so alertness and quick decision-making are crucial.
How to get the job: Candidates -- who need either a four-year degree, three years of full-time experience, or a combination of the two -- first enroll in an FAA-approved education program and pass a pre-employment test. After graduating from the program, controllers need to pass a medical exam, drug test and security clearance. They then undergo 12 weeks of formal training and train on-the-job for two to four years afterward.
6. Engineering Manager -- $105,000 Engineering managers supervise quality assurance testing and the design of products and machinery. Although they spend most of their time in offices, some managers are out on the field, where they can be exposed to the elements and other unpleasant conditions.
How to get the job: After getting a bachelor's degree in a science field, most engineering managers start their careers as engineers and work their way up the management ranks.
7. Computer and Information Systems Manager -- $102,000 Computer and information systems managers keep your hardware and software up-to-date and functional by planning the company's technology goals and overseeing support staff.
How to get the job: To advance up the technology ranks, managers usually need a bachelor's degree, and many employers also require an MBA.
8. Marketing Manager -- $102,000 Marketing managers help a company figure out how to sell its products or services by estimating demand, identifying markets and developing pricing strategies. They may work closely alongside the advertising and public relations departments to promote the firm's goods.
How to get the job: Depends on the employer. Some employers prefer a bachelor's or master's degree in business administration and/or marketing, and quantitative courses like economics or accounting are helpful.
9. Astronomer -- $101,000 Astronomers use math and physics to research the universe and solve problems including space flight and satellite communications. Some work to develop theories on the formation and structure of our universe; others analyze data, and some operate telescopes for observation.
How to get the job: Most jobs are in basic research and development, so the majority of employers consider a Ph.D. to be a minimum requirement.
*Mean annual salaries, May 2005 Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Laura Morsch is a writer for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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