By Christine Laue, PayScale.com
You may not earn six figures right away, but according to online salary database PayScale.com, certain careers provide a good chance you’ll earn a salary of around $50,000 in your first two years. That’s well above the $35,000 that new graduates typically earn.
It’s also promising news in a labor market that over the last few years has created an epidemic of college graduates who are either unemployed or taking lower-wage jobs, says Katie Bardaro, PayScale’s lead analyst.
“Just because you have a bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean you’re in a job that requires one,” she says.
However, the following list of jobs shows that students who choose their majors strategically can land well-paying entry-level positions and avoid being broke baristas with bachelor’s degrees. The list shows top-earning jobs for college graduates with two years of experience or less in their chosen field.
Median Annual Salary: $77,400
If you like drilling down into numbers, consider this job that combines technology and economics. A drilling engineer designs and implements procedures to drill oil and gas wells as economically as possible and manages both the people and technology involved in a complex drilling operation.
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, preferably in petroleum engineering. Look for cooperative engineering programs in which students earn academic credit on the job.
Median Annual Salary: $66,900
Until he joined Wells Fargo in 2006 as a business banker, Kendall Scheer of Omaha thought bankers were stuck in offices crunching numbers. Now specializing in loans to businesses, he explains the different loan types, obtains applicants’ information and analyzes their finances.
“I am not stuck behind a desk, and it is not all about numbers,” he says. “It’s about helping people realize their dreams.”
A bachelor’s degree in finance, business, economics or a related field is generally required. On-the-job training is a typical path to gain experience.
Financial Services Wholesaler
Median Annual Salary: $63,800
Rather than selling directly to consumers, this wholesaler sells financial services to large corporations, midsize companies and small businesses. These high-value transactions occur between banks, insurers, stockbrokers and fund managers. A wholesaler often offers the services at discounts to attract business.
Because of the complex nature of financial products, a bachelor’s in business, economics or finance may be required. Sales experience is important, too.
Median Annual Salary: $52,700
A cytotechnologist prepares slides of cells and examines the cells under a microscope for abnormalities that may signal the beginning of disease, such as cancer.
Cytotechnologist Courtney Robinson of Kansas City, Kansas, recommends the job to anyone interested in science or healthcare, but warns that her daily task of diagnosing cancer can be difficult emotionally. Still, it’s a stimulating career that pays well, she says.
“It keeps your brain active, and you never get bored,” she says.
A bachelor’s degree is typically required. Some states require laboratory personnel to be licensed, registered or certified.
Regional Sales Representative
Median Annual Salary: $50,800
These sales representatives work a specific territory in which they contact existing or potential customers to explain product features, answer questions and negotiate prices.
College degrees aren’t always required, unless the product — such as pharmaceuticals — requires scientific or technical knowledge.
Sales Operations Analyst
Median Annual Salary: $48,900
These workers review a company’s sales, marketing and accounts receivable processes. They put the sales information into historical context and make recommendations to upper management about ways improve sales.
An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in business, economics, finance or accounting is typically required.
Median Annual Salary: $48,800
Manufacturing associates operate processing equipment on a production line in facilities such as pharmaceutical or biotechnology plants. If the product is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, these workers often must document the process in accordance with government regulations.
At some plants, a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, life sciences or biology is often required.
Associate Video Game Producer
Median Annual Salary: $48,600
If Angry Birds consumed more of your attention than algebra in college, this job could be for you — but don’t think you won’t need those math skills.
An associate producer helps the producer, who oversees the day-to-day work of creating a video game. The associate role is largely a project-management job, involving budgeting, scheduling and time management.
You will likely need a bachelor’s degree in computer programming, multimedia design, art or project management. While getting a job at a large studio can be difficult, the popularity of gaming on social-media sites and mobile devices has made breaking into the industry easier.
Source: Salary data provided by online salary database PayScale.com. Salaries listed are median annual salaries and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing for full-time workers with two years of experience or less. The median annual salary for all workers with bachelor’s degrees (but no further education) and two years of experience or less is $34,400. Job descriptions are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.