5 Top-Paying Careers in 2017

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The average starting salary for new college graduates is $49,785. While that number is a healthy salary, financial demands can make it difficult to make ends meet. Graduates are leaving school with an average student loan balance of $37,172, which can eat up a significant part of their income.

If you are a recent graduate or a current college student looking to improve your finances, a high-paying career can be the ticket to becoming debt-free. Below are five of the highest paying occupations that can enable you to live the lifestyle you want:

1. Doctors and Surgeons

Unsurprisingly, becoming a doctor or surgeon means commanding a very high salary. As of 2016, the median salary was over $208,000 per year.

As a medical professional, you will provide life-saving care to patients. You might prescribe medications, diagnose illnesses, or perform major surgeries to improve patients’ quality of life. It’s a demanding career, but it can be extremely rewarding.

The industry is expected to grow by 14 percent, outpacing the national average for all positions. That means you’ll have more job security than your peers in other careers.

However, make sure you understand the cost and time commitment of medical school before you sign up. It can cost over $200,000 to attend, and you will typically complete four years of undergraduate work, four years of medical school and an addition three to seven years in an internship or residency.

2. Dentists

Dentists command very high salaries, with a median pay of $159,770 a year.

Dentists diagnose and treat issues with patients’ teeth and gums. They manage dental problems like cavities and fix problems with fillings, root canals and extractions. Many dentists own their own business, or you can join an established practice.

The demand for dentists is very high; the job outlook for dentists is 18 percent, which means finding a job will be relatively easy.

But like doctors, the cost of becoming a dentist is high. You will need to attend dental school after you graduate from a four-year school and be licensed to practice within your state.

3. IT professionals

Information technology (IT) professionals and computer experts have some of the highest salaries outside of the medical profession. The median salary is a whopping $135,800 and, unlike doctors or dentists, IT professionals only need a bachelor’s degree to begin their careers.

As an IT professional, you may be responsible for your organization’s computer network. You’ll ensure everything is working appropriately so the company employees can do their jobs. IT professionals are often also responsible for network security, meaning you prevent anyone from stealing data or other cyber-attacks.

As companies become more and more reliant on computers and technology, the demand for IT professionals will grow. By 2024, the industry is expected to grow by 15 percent, more than double the nationwide average for all occupations.

4. Engineers

As an engineer, you’ll design structures or devices, identify problems and come up with solutions. It’s a flexible line of work that allows you to work in different fields and apply your knowledge and expertise.

Engineers are paid well for their work; the median salary is $134,730 a year. Many engineers can launch their careers with just a bachelor’s degree, though a master’s can be helpful as you climb the corporate ladder.

However, while working as an engineer can be lucrative, it’s a very competitive field. The industry is expected to grow by just two percent, far slower than the national average. That can mean it will take you longer to find a job after graduation, and, if you’re laid off, you might be out of work for months while you search for a new employer.

5. Marketing Managers

From coming up with advertising campaigns to launching new social media initiatives, marketing managers are focused on promoting their companies and their products. And they’re paid well for their work; the median salary is $127,560.

Most marketing roles do not require a master’s degree; a bachelor’s degree is all you’ll need to break into the field. The industry is growing quickly; it’s expected to grow nine percent by 2024, which means you might have an easier job search than your friends.

Choosing a career

If you’re looking for a high-paying career, these jobs might be the right fit for you. However, keep in mind what it costs to break into these fields; in some cases, you might have to spend hundreds of thousands to get the necessary degree. Make sure you understand the cost and the occupation’s potential return on investment before pursuing your career.