We all have to work our way up the corporate ladder, and that typically means paying dues in a low-paying, entry-level gig. But if you cringe at the idea of working for peanuts, don't panic -- you don't need an M.D., J.D., or Ph.D. after your name to command a sizeable salary on day one. In these lucrative fields, even the rookies collect a healthy paycheck. Web Designer
What it is: Can't stop surfing your favorite social networking site or online store? Thank the company's Web designer. Designers are responsible for mapping, coding, and maintaining sites for their clients. The position requires exhaustive technological know-how earned oftentimes from a Web design degree program and a creative eye -- and if you have both, the payout is rewarding.
What it pays: According to Salary.com, the average base salary for an entry-level designer is $50,555.
What it is: Physician assistants (PAs) are trained to offer diagnostic and preventative care under the supervision of doctors. Admission into a PA program requires two years of college and takes two years to complete; it's a smart alternative for those who want to pursue medicine but can't stomach the time commitment or hefty tuition needed to complete medical school.
What it pays: According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the median income for first-year physician assistants is $69,517; that's nearly half the starting salary for a fully licensed internal medicine specialist.
Computer Software Engineer
What it is: Software engineers use their fluency in programming languages like C++ and Java to build new applications for consumers and clients. They may be hired to design a company's accounting software or a new virtual game. A bachelor's degree in a computing field is needed to qualify for the most lucrative job opportunities.
What it pays: Grads with a bachelor's degree in computer engineering can expect to start at $56,201, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Computer science majors command a slightly lower salary but still break the $50K mark.
What it is: Petroleum engineers search for oil and gas reservoirs, determine the best method for extraction, and design the equipment needed for drilling and production. Most jobs are based in petroleum-rich areas like Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Alaska, and California.
What it pays: Petroleum engineers enjoy a high starting salary -- $60,718 for new grads -- in an already lucrative field. If drilling for black gold isn't your thing, those with chemical, nuclear, mechanical, and industrial engineering degrees all earn in the high $50K range.
What it is: Actuaries are paid to tell others when to worry -- in other words, they use their mathematical wizardry to assess risks and minimize potential losses. Most actuaries work for insurance companies, where they estimate the potential cost of claims and calculate a profitable premium. Others work in the finance industry, where they might design pension plans or manage government programs like Social Security.
What it pays: Salary is one thing actuaries don't have to worry about -- those with a bachelor's degree can expect to start at $53,754, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
What it is: Think you can predict the financial future? Your foresight could lead to a fat paycheck, because economics majors can land profitable positions in the business field. Economists scour data and analyze statistics in order to identify consumer trends -- and forecast the best way to cash in on them. Microeconomists may help individual companies maximize their profits; macroeconomists study the broader picture, including trends in unemployment, inflation, and investment.
What it pays: According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, economists employed in business and managerial positions bring in an average starting salary of $53,449.
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