How To Get America's "Best" Careers

America's Best Careers

If you want to land one of the country's best careers, check out the education and preparation that could help get you there.

By Tony Moton

If you're in the market for a new career - and willing to do a little preparation to get there - you might want to look to Money and PayScale's 2010 "Best Jobs in America" list.

The annual list features 100 top careers that score high in areas such as earning potential, employment outlook, and flexibility.

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But what does it take to actually qualify for one of these careers?

We took a look at the top 100 and spotlighted seven careers that almost anyone could work toward. To help you figure out which - if any - of these "Best Jobs" is right for you, check out the list below...

SALES DIRECTOR
Best Jobs Rank: No. 8
Average Salary: $142,000*

Sales Directors scored their careers high for flexibility and personal satisfaction in the "Best Jobs" survey. While Sales Directors are at the top of the heap, starting out in sales could be a great way to work toward this top career.

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The Career: Good sales skills can be used in almost any industry - from tech to manufacturing to biomedical to consumer products. Many sales careers work off of commission.

Education: A bachelor's degree in business administration could be a great way to get a firm grounding in business principles. Studying marketing can also help give you the tools you need to understand customers and how to talk to them.

Related Degrees:
Associate's degree in business
Master's degree in business administration (MBA)

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CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT (CPA)
Best Jobs Rank: No. 9
Average Salary: $73,000*

Flexibility and job growth scored big with CPAs who responded to questions about the quality-of-life aspects of their career for the "Best Jobs in America" list. [Find Accounting schools now]

The Career: CPAs could work for accounting firms or branch out on their own and work independently. An interesting career in this field is forensic accounting, which involves uncovering and tracking white-collar crimes in today's high-tech world. A very cool career if you're into number crunching.

Education: Earning your bachelor's degree in accounting is a great start. From there, you will need to pass a national exam and meet the standards of the state where you practice in order to qualify as a full-fledged CPA. Others with two-year degrees and proven experience could have opportunities to land junior accounting positions.

Related Degrees:
Associate's degree in accounting
Bachelor's degree in finance

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HOSPITAL ADMINISTRATOR
Best Jobs Rank: No. 36
Average Salary: $98,000*

This career ranked high due to a combination of high earning potential, future job growth, and personal satisfaction. [Search for Health Care Administration schools]

The Career: Hospital administrators play a big role in directing health care and medical services. They can work in hospitals, nursing care facilities, managed care facilities, or other related organizations.

Education: Running a health care facility often requires you to have expertise in both the medical and business fields. A bachelor's degree in health administration could help prepare you for an entry-level or assistant administrator role. On-the-job experience and a master's degree in health administration could help you move up the ranks.

Related Degrees:
Bachelor's degree in business administration
Master's degree in business administration (MBA)

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HUMAN RESOURCES CONSULTANT
Best Jobs Rank: No. 43
Average Salary: $92,000*

Personal satisfaction topped the quality-of-life ratings among human resources (HR) consultants surveyed for the "Best Jobs in America."

The Career: HR consultants could do everything from assisting employees to managing labor relations, making them extremely important to the financial success and well-being of their clients.

Education: Plenty of educational options can help prepare you for consulting work in this field, including a bachelor's degree in business. In this case, you could take courses covering human resources or get a concentration to help augment your degree work.

Related Degrees:
Bachelor's degree in human resources
Master's in business administration (MBA)

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INTENSIVE CARE UNIT NURSE
Best Jobs Rank: No. 59
Average Salary: $77,000*

Nurses polled for the "Best Jobs in America" list rated personal satisfaction as one of the more appealing aspects of this career.

The Career: Registered nurses (RNs) who work in the area of critical care generally provide crucial services for patients afflicted with serious or acute injuries. These services can include the close monitoring of patients who require extensive medication and therapy.

Education: An associate's degree in nursing often takes two to three years to complete, and it could set you up for a career with many options. Most RNs start out as staff nurses before choosing to work in specialized areas such as intensive care.

Related Degrees:
Diploma in nursing
Bachelor's degree in nursing

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WEB DEVELOPER
Best Jobs Rank: No. 67
Average Salary: $76,000*

Our reliance on the Internet means web developers are likely to be in demand for the long haul. In fact, web developers rated job growth as one of the most attractive quality-of-life aspects of this career in the "Best Jobs" survey.

The Career: Skilled web developers fuse information and technology as they supply the code for Web sites. It's a demanding but rewarding career that also got good marks for personal satisfaction and career flexibility.

Education: An associate's degree in computer science is a great way to prepare for entry level work as a web developer. Combined with practical experience, a degree can help further elevate your chances of landing career opportunities.

Related Degrees:
Associate's degree in IT & information systems
Associate's degree in graphic design
Bachelor's degree in computer programming

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PUBLIC RELATIONS DIRECTOR
Best Jobs Rank: No. 84
Average Salary: $85,000*

Are you a good communicator and leader with a creative side? Well, listen up. A supervisory career in public relations (PR) could give you a chance to put your persona to work every day. That's the reason PR directors gave their career excellent marks for personal satisfaction in the "Best Jobs" survey.

The Career: PR directors - who are responsible for everything from press releases to full-blown campaigns - could ultimately determine what kind of impression their employers project to the world.

Education: Earning a bachelor's degree in communications could put you right in line for openings in this high-energy field.

Related Degrees:
Bachelor's degree in marketing
Bachelor's degree in business
Bachelor's degree in finance

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*Average salary represents median pay for experienced worker with at least two to seven years in the field. All salary data is from PayScale.com.

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