These 10 Great Jobs All Pay at Least $40,000

You’re young, you’re free and you’re full of potential—and you don’t want to struggle financially. Jobs that pay 40k a year or more provide a path to financial independence and can make things like homeownership a reality. But what are these careers, and what does it take to get into them? 

If you’re on the hunt for a job that pays well, we’ve got ten of the most lucrative careers for young people. We’ll also list the qualifications you’ll need to attain to land your perfect position—so you can know what to expect. 

What Makes a Great Career Choice?

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s 2018 Program for International Student Assessment survey, young people’s aspirations haven’t really changed since the turn of the century. Back in 2000, 6.8% of 15-year-old boys wanted to be business managers when they grew up, for instance. Fast forward to 2018, and 6.7% of the boys in the same age group still wanted to be business managers when they grew up.

Girls shifted a little more—but not much. In 2000, 11.1% of 15-year-old girls wanted to be teachers and 11% of girls wanted to be doctors when they grew up. In 2018, 9.4% of girls wanted to be teachers and 15.6% of girls wanted to be doctors when they grew up.

Why do young people want to be doctors and teachers and business managers in the first place, though? According to research by one UK-based law firm, the answer often revolves around TV. A staggering 39% of millennial respondents said that their career choices had been influenced by their favorite television shows—especially cop or medical shows.

So, do available vacancies match job preferences? According to the International Labor Organization, the answer is no. Automation and robotics aside, there simply aren’t enough jobs in certain sectors to meet demand.

10 Great Jobs That Pay 40k a Year—or More

Sure, there might not be enough jobs to go around in your chosen field. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other great options out there! Here are ten of the best high-paying jobs for young people in America today, complete with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported median wages.

1. Graphic Designer

Do you appreciate engaging visual ads, eye-catching book covers and interesting websites? Are you artistic and digitally savvy? If so, a career in graphic design could be ideal for you. Graphic designers in the US earn about $53,380 a year—and more than half of the design professionals who took part in a 2020 99Designs survey were under the age of 30.

Some design pros are self taught, but most attend college and obtain bachelor’s degrees in graphic design. Professional associations like AIGA provide educational resources and offer good advice to people considering graphic design careers.

2. Truck Driver

Let’s switch gears. If you’re not digitally inclined but you love driving—and 18 wheels don’t intimidate you—you might make a great truck driver. Trucking is a vital part of the economic distribution network in America and it’s expected to grow about 2% between 2019 and 2029, so you could land a job for life. Long-haul truckers earn about $47,130 a year, according to the BLS. 

To get a tractor-trailer trucking job, you’ll need to attend a professional trucking school and you’ll also need to get a commercial driver’s license, or CDL. Additional endorsements are required if you plan to transport volatile or dangerous materials.

3. PR Specialist

Public relations specialists smooth out PR snafus, develop public opinion-bending strategies and do behind-the-scenes damage control. If you’re a problem solver with a head for high-intensity situations, you’ll probably do well in PR. You’ll collaborate with journalists, social media managers and executives on a daily basis.

Public relations specialists in America make about $62,810 a year, and most of them have a bachelor’s degree in PR, journalism, English, business or another related subject. The PR specialist field is projected to grow about 7% between 2019 and 2029—in other words, well-paying positions abound.

4. Surgical Technologist

Healthcare in general is an expanding industry—in fact, it’s the biggest employer industry in the US. The demand for surgical technologists is expected to grow about 7% between 2019 and 2029. Surgical technologists—aka scrub techs—work in operating rooms under the guidance of surgeons. They help medical procedures flow smoothly and ensure a high level of patient care. 

You don’t need a bachelor’s degree to be a surgical technologist. Instead, you can go for an associates degree or complete a certificate program at an accredited school. Qualifications in place, you can expect to earn about $49,710 a year.

5. Biological Technician

If you love science, you might make a great biological technician. Biological technicians are a vital part of research teams—in the field and in the laboratory. In 2020, biological techs all over the world assisted with vital COVID-19 research and helped develop life-saving coronavirus vaccines. 

To become a biological technician, you need a bachelor’s degree in biology or a similar subject. After you graduate, you’ll earn about $46,340 a year. Some biological technicians later complete master’s degrees and go on to become research scientists. 

6. Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapist assistants work with physical therapists, and together, they help patients recover from injuries and operations. To become a physical therapist assistant, you’ll need to complete an accredited associate’s degree—and you’ll also need to get licensed in your state.

Physical therapist assistants can expect to earn about $49,970 a year. The number of physical therapist jobs is projected to grow 29% between 2019 and 2029, so you’ll almost certainly land on your feet after you qualify.

7. Forensic Scientist

Here’s a job straight out of the CSI archives—only not quite as dramatic. As a forensic scientist, you’ll be responsible for gathering evidence and drawing conclusions based on DNA, fingerprints, data and other clues. If you have an analytical mind and a good memory, you might make a great forensic scientist.

To get a forensic scientist job, you need a bachelor’s degree in chemistry or biology with a specialty in forensic science. According to the BLS, forensic science technicians usually get paid about $60,590 a year.

8. Licensed Practical Nurse 

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) perform basic nursing duties under the supervision of doctors and registered nurses. They work in hospitals, residential care facilities and home settings, where they take care of sick, injured, elderly and disabled people. About 8.9% of LPN respondents in the National Nursing Workforce Survey 2017 were under the age of 30.

You don’t have to be a registered nurse to bring home a good wage—LPNs in the United States earn about $48,820 a year. Demand for LPNs is expected to grow roughly 9% between 2019 and 2029. 

9. Insurance Salesperson

Insurance is a booming industry—especially in the United States. Health, home, life, car, pet, occupational and many other types of insurance are in high demand across all 50 states. If you’re personable and enjoy working in an office environment, you might enjoy being an insurance salesperson. 

While some insurance sales reps have bachelor’s degrees, many enter the field with high school diplomas and progress via on-the-job training. In May 2019, insurance sales agents brought home a median annual wage of $52,180.

10. Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists (OTs) help people deal with, adapt to and overcome all kinds of disabilities. The goal of an OT is to help patients complete everyday tasks and live as independently as possible or return to work or other daily activities. OTs work in hospitals, residential care facilities, schools and home settings.

Occupational therapists are the highest earners on this list. On average, OTs earn $86,280 a year—and the number of OT jobs is expected to expand about 16% between 2019 and 2029. To become an OT, you need a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in occupational therapy, and you also need to obtain a state license.

How to Get a $40,000+ Job

You’ve gone over your options and picked a great career—now it’s time for an action plan. Here’s what to do next:

  1. Make a list of the qualifications you have to obtain to get a job in your chosen profession.
  2. View accredited colleges, available online degrees, certificates and courses with Coursera.
  3. Research student loans, government grants, scholarships and other forms of funding to come up with a payment strategy for your schooling.
  4. Study hard, get your qualifications and graduate.
  5. When you’re ready, use ZipRecruiter or Monster to hone your resume and find available jobs in your area.

It might feel like a lot to tackle—especially studying and graduating—but a great job is worth pursuing. Feeling inspired about your future? Great, you should be! When you do what you love, how much money you make isn’t as important—but earning a decent wage definitely doesn’t hurt.

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