Don’t want to be eating ramen noodles and living in an apartment with 10 roommates after college? We hear you. Luckily, you don’t have to. Take a look at our list of the top ten highest paying post-grad careers, organized from lowest to highest paying, choose your favorite, and start living the luxurious life in your 20s.
10. Registered Nurse
Average first-year salary: $47,000
What you’ll be doing: The tasks of a registered nurse (RN) are endless, and can depend on specialty or work location. Generally, though, you’ll create or help create a plan of care for your patients, and then you’ll be in charge of administering it. This means giving your patients medication and other forms of treatment, watching their diet and nutrition, keeping track of their medical stats, and acting as a link between your patients and their physicians. That means making sure your patients understand their medical conditions and treatments. And of course, you’ll also be on-hand for any emotional support your patients or their families might need.
How to get there: RNs must get four-year degrees from an accredited nursing program, so if you want to go into nursing, you should make sure your school has a program—otherwise you’ll have to go back for another bachelor’s degree! There are also two-year associate’s degree programs that offer nursing, but these degrees are to become a licensed professional nurse (LPN), not an RN. LPNs don’t get to do as much or make as much money as RNs.
9. Web Designer
Average first-year salary: $58,00
What you’ll be doing: Web designers, wait for it…design websites. Ok, so what exactly does that mean? You could either be working at a company and handling all their web design needs (like Annie does at HC!), or you could be working for a web designing firm, handling the requests of many clients. Either way, you’ll need to work with company representatives to determine what content and features their site needs, and how this should be laid out so that it’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Once you’ve got a design in mind, it’s up to you to actually write the code that will show up as an awesome web page when someone clicks on the site.
8. Pharmaceutical Representative
Average first-year salary: $59,000
What you’ll be doing: Selling drugs. But legally of course! As a pharmaceutical representative, you’ll be trying to convince doctors to prescribe a pharmaceutical company’s new medicines. This includes talking one-on-one to doctors, giving presentations at doctors’ meetings and conventions, and making sure doctors never go pen-less by handing out as many free pens with your drug’s name on it as possible. But, hey, next time they write a prescription, whose drug will they be thinking about? That’s right, yours.
How to get there: While your company will give you basic pharmacology training, you should major in a science so you’ll be able to understand how the drugs you’re selling work and can answer any questions that a doctor might have about your products. You’ll also need sales experience, so get a part-time job doing retail or a summer internship in sales.
7. Financial Analyst
Average first-year salary: $66,000
What you’ll be doing: There are many types of financial analysts, but they all help businesses and individuals decide how to best invest their money. This means carefully examining your client’s assets, as well as understanding the nuances of different investment vehicles, which can get VERY math-y. During the day, you’ll mostly be meeting with clients, so your nights will be filled with doing your actual research and analysis.
How to get there: Major in economics, math, or finance, and get a summer internship in finance. Follow the stock market and business news (try The Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg), so you know what’s going on in the financial world. Need some more suggestions on how to keep up with investing? Read this. And if your school has a club for those interested in finance, join it as a way to keep up with the industry and make connections.
6. Internet Marketer
Average first-year salary: $67,000
What you’ll be doing: Calling all Twitter and Facebook addicts! Internet marketers use the web to get information out about products. This includes getting your products mentioned on major blogs, buying ad space online, writing e-newsletters, working with your company’s web designers to make sure your website is appealing and clear to customers, using search engine optimization techniques to improve your product’s placement on search engines, and, of course, social media.
How to get there: Major in marketing, communications, media studies, or computer science. Look for summer internships in Internet marketing; if you’re having trouble finding one, try for a general marketing one that also includes internet marketing (most companies’ marketing efforts now include the Internet). At school, volunteer to do the publicity for an event; if you can show a company that you got high attendance on Facebook or that your event popped up first on Google, that’ll look great. Also, have active accounts with as many social media sites as possible. This will give you practice for your job and will show employers who look you up that you really know how to cover your bases when it comes to the internet—and that you’ll be able to do the same for their product.
5. Network Systems Administrator
Average first-year salary: $69,000
What you’ll be doing: Network systems administrators are in charge of setting up computer networks and making sure they work properly. They’re the people who make sure you have an account set up on your school’s computer system, and are the people who can help you when a file seems to have disappeared into a black hole.
How to get there: Networks systems administrators usually have a bachelor’s degree in computer or information science. They also need strong analytical and communication skills. Get experience in the field by working at your school’s computer help desk, or by getting an internship in information technology.
Average first-year salary: $72,000
What you’ll be doing: There are so many types of engineers, so their specific duties can vary greatly. In general, though, engineers develop new products. For example, a chemical engineer could apply the principles of chemistry to create a new fabric, while a mechanical engineer would use principles of mechanics to create a better engine. But the products engineers create don’t necessarily need to be tangible. Industrial engineers, for example, create new methods of manufacturing, such as the assembly line.
How to get there: Engineers need a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering. Not every college offers an engineering degree, so you’ll need to check if your school does. And many engineering programs have a separate application process from the rest of their school, so if you’re not in an engineering program from the start, it can be difficult to switch into it. Engineering programs have a ton of requirements, but the payoff once you graduate can be worth it.
Average first-year salary: $79,000
What you’ll be doing: Ever wanted to calculate how long someone’s going to live? Or curious about how likely it is you’ll get into a car accident? That’s what actuaries do. Actuaries determine how much an insurance company should charge individual consumers by using statistics to figure out their risk of having a car accident or developing a health condition. There’s a reason why your auto insurance prices rise if you buy a red car instead of a blue one, and actuaries are responsible for that.
How to get there: Actuaries must have strong mathematical skills, especially in statistics. Actuarial science or math majors are preferred, but it’s possible to get a job if you studied another quantitative field, like economics. To become fully licensed, actuaries must pass a series of exams sponsored by the Society of American Actuaries and the Casualty Actuarial Society. Most of these exams are taken as you gain professional experience in the field, but some employers will want you to have passed the first exam before you’re hired. It covers calculus, statistics, and probability, so if you’re interested in this field, review your math notes and sign up for the test.
2. Software Developer
Average first-year salary: $84,000
What you’ll be doing: That’s right, the people responsible for your nerdy little brother’s addiction to World of Warcraft make a ton of money. But for every addictive time-waster they create, they also create programs that make our lives so much easier. Can you imagine having to write a final paper without spell-check? Seriously, we owe a lot to software developers.
How to get there: Study computer science, math, engineering, or the physical sciences in college. Through coursework or by teaching yourself, become familiar with as many computer systems and software languages as possible. Internships are key in the world of software development, so look for either a summer or academic-year internship at a software company. And once you’re out working for a few years, many software developers find they want a master’s degree to advance in their career. But no need to worry about that yet.
1. Investment Banker
Average first-year salary: $112,000
What you’ll be doing: Despite the financial crisis, the number one way to make money directly after graduation is to head to Wall Street. But what will you actually be doing once you’re there? Besides working infamously long hours, investment bankers’ main responsibility is to raise capital for firms, working as an intermediary between the firm and its investors. They also help firms with mergers and acquisitions.
How to get there: Investment banking requires intense number crunching, so economics or math majors are preferred—but there’s no required major, so if you’re an English student who knows her calculus, you’re in luck. But what you will need to get into the field is an internship because most investment banks hire straight from their intern pools. Luckily, you won’t have to hunt to find internship opportunities. Most banks recruit, meaning they come to your school and will have a formal application process set-up through your school’s career office. Chat with a career counselor at your school if you’d like information on your school’s recruitment process.