The Best Jobs

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: June 1, 2012

From CNN Money and the compensation experts at Salary.com

6. Market research analyst

Why it's great
If you want to know what the next big thing is, this is your field. Before launching a product or service, companies turn to market research analysts who collect and evaluate data about consumer wants, needs and buying habits. You get to work on a huge variety of projects: In a single day you might run a taste test on a new vodka flavor, evaluate a re-branding campaign for a hot dog and analyze political polling data.

What's cool
Testing products before they hit the market. You talk to lots of people and get to ask them personal questions you wouldn't dare pose at a party.

What's not
Being mistaken for a telemarketer; deadlines; number crunching.

Top-paying job
A senior exec or partner in a consulting firm can earn more than $200,000.

Education
B.A.; M.A. in statistics helps.


7. Computer IT analyst

Why it's great
Seems like the entire world is at the mercy of information technology folks, thanks to the rapid spread of computers and swell of the Internet. And all of these jobs pay well, from desktop support technician to Webmaster to database wonk. Entry-level analysts make $60,000 and above. Senior database specialists and IT managers command six-figure salaries and decent bonuses. A bachelor's degree is enough to get started.

What's cool
Telecommuting and freelance gigs abound. Plus: e-mail snooping!

What's not
Carpal tunnel syndrome; outsourcing will mean fewer entry-level and non-specialized jobs.

Top-paying job
Network operations directors, who are responsible for a company's intranet, earn $250,000-plus.

Education
From a B.S. to a Ph.D.

8. Real Estate Appraiser

Why it's great
The housing boom has meant beaucoup bucks for appraisers in recent years, but the field hasn't gotten as crowded as real estate brokerage. And because valuations are needed whenever any property is sold, mortgaged, insured, taxed or developed, there's going to be work even when the market slows. A quarter of appraisers have steady nine-to-five government gigs assessing property for tax purposes.

What's cool
Abundant self-employment opportunities. Research isn't the pain that it used to be, thanks to the Internet.

What's not
There's still a lot of legwork; advancement is limited.

Top-paying job
Collateral appraisers, who work with lenders, earn $130,000-plus.

Education
Bachelor's degree; licensing and certification requirements vary by state.

9. Pharmacist

Why it's great
Demand for pharmacists is exploding as the population ages and new medications are developed. By 2010 the number of prescriptions filled is expected to rise 27% to 4.1 billion. Pharmacists also give advice on over-the-counter meds and help patients manage chronic conditions like diabetes. About 60% work in retail settings, the rest in hospitals and nursing homes and in research or sales for drug companies.

What's cool
Pharmacists are in such demand that graduates today can expect multiple job offers, signing bonuses and $90K-plus salaries.

What's not
Dealing with insurers and angry patients; limited advancement.

Top-paying job
Pharmacists at major retail chains can earn six figures.

Education
A doctor of pharmacy degree program is six years long.

10. Psychologist

Why it's great
Feel stressed or anxious? So do a lot of people. That and the decreasing stigma attached to seeking help have fueled demand for psychological services. The pay is good, the hours are flexible, and it's pretty hard to top the psychological benefit that comes with bringing relief to a troubled mind. Greater awareness of how mental health and behavior issues affect learning makes school psychology a particularly fast-growing specialty.

What's cool
Shrinks are four times as likely to be self-employed as other professionals.

What's not
Years of training; stiff competition for slots in graduate programs; insurers.

Top-paying job
Clinical and counseling psychologists can earn $95,000-plus.

Education
Ph.D. and one-year internship; to be a school psychologist, three years of graduate study and a one-year internship.

Best Jobs Methodology

To find the best jobs in America, MONEY Magazine and Salary.com began by assembling a list of positions that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will grow at an above-average rate over 10 years and that require at least a bachelor's degree. Using Salary.com compensation data, we eliminated jobs with average pay below $50,000; total employment of less than 15,000; dangerous work environments; or fewer than 800 annual job openings, including both new and replacement positions. Next we rated positions by stress levels, flexibility in hours and working environment, creativity, and how easy it is to enter and advance in the field. We then ranked the jobs, giving double weight to compensation and percentage growth. Any job that fell in the bottom third of two job-satisfaction categories, or in the pay or growth category, was removed from consideration for the top 10.

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