High-earning jobs to help pay off student loans faster

High-Pay Careers To Help With Loans

If you're worried about the cost of college and being able to pay back your student loans, you might want to think about preparing for one of these high-earning jobs.

By Andrea Duchon

Are you thinking about going back to school but are concerned with the amount of debt you could rack up while earning your degree? Well, you might have reason to worry.

Roughly two-thirds of college seniors who graduated in 2011 had student loan debt, according to the study "Student Debt and the Class of 2011" by the Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit organization working to make higher education more accessible and affordable.

How much did they owe? A whopping $26,600 was the average loan amount, the study says. That means that if you're considering heading to school anytime soon, you may do well to starting envisioning a career path that could pay well - so you could pay your student loans back faster.

Below we break down six high-paying careers that pay a median annual wage that's more than the national average, which in August 2013 was $43,145 for employees on private payrolls, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Some of these careers even report earnings of double that amount. Talk about real loan-paying power!

Career #1: Public Relations Specialist

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Median Annual Income:
$54,170*
Highest 10 Percent of Earners:
$101,030*
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners:
$30,760*

Maybe your friends have told you that you're a pro at communicating, or you enjoy making sure everyone's point of view is represented. A career as a public relations specialist could put your solid communication skills to use for you in the form of an equally solid paycheck.

The U.S. Department of Labor says that PR specialists create and maintain their client's public image by writing press releases, responding to requests for information, and generally helping their clients communicate effectively to the public.

Loan-Paying Power: "Every organization cares about their public image, and it's critical to maintain that throughout the years," says Scott Willyerd, president at Dick Jones Communications, a PR company that represents higher education establishments.

"A good PR specialist will know how to talk to the media, make sure their client is portrayed in the best light, and be able to deal with crisis if and when it happens," Willyerd says. "That's why employers are willing to pay for someone who knows what they're doing and has the experience of a solid degree behind them."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Communications Program.

Education Options: Typically, these professionals need a bachelor's degree. Employers usually want applicants who have studied English, public relations, journalism, communications, or business, according to the Department of Labor.

Career #2: Personal Financial Advisor

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Median Annual Income:
$67,520
Highest 10 Percent of Earners:
$187,199+
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners:
$32,280

You're a pro at numbers and your friends may look to you when they need to balance their checkbook or find out what's going on in the stock market. Pursuing a career as a personal financial advisor could put you in the driver's seat to a high-paying career that could also get your own loan finances in tip-top shape.

In the most basic sense, personal financial advisors give financial advice to people. The U.S. Department of Labor says they do that by meeting with clients to discuss their financial goals, recommending investments, monitoring client accounts, and researching investment opportunities.

Loan-Paying Power: A career as a personal financial advisor can be very lucrative once you have the right pieces in place, says Rick Scott, assistant professor of finance at Saint Leo University. And that first piece is honing your sales skills, since all good personal financial advisors must start as salespeople first in order to identify clients and start making the big bucks.

Maclyn Clouse, professor of finance at the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business, elaborates further and says the real loan-paying power comes in when you've spent time and creative effort building your book of business.

"That's when this person will lose the salary and be paid solely on commission, thus the phrase "you eat what you kill," she adds. "The level of the income - and thus how quickly you can pay back your loans - will depend on the success of building the book of clients."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.

Education Options: According to the Department of Labor, you'll typically need a bachelor's degree to pursue this career, with majors like finance, economics, accounting, business, math, or law being good preparation. The Department notes that certification in the field could also improve your chances for advancement.

Career #3: Graphic Designer

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Median Annual Income:
$44,150
Highest 10 Percent of Earners:
$77,490
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners:
$26,250

Are you constantly poking around the web, critiquing web layouts, and getting inspired by good design? You may want to take a look at graphic design, a career that could allow you to flex your creative side while simultaneously expanding your bank account balance.

Graphic designers work with visuals, creating images and concepts that inspire, inform, and captivate consumers, notes the U.S. Department of Labor. To do that, they're responsible for determining strategies to reach a particular demographic, creating images and designs, and presenting their designs to clients and art directors.

Loan-Paying Power: Russ Hovendick, founder of Directional Motivation, a free online resource for career advancement, says graphic designers help in raising the perceived level of professionalism of an organization - whether it be in marketing materials, newsletters, promotions, logos, or online presence. Because all of this concerns an organization's public image, they're ready to shell out the big bucks to make it look good.

Hovendick adds that he's seen graphic designers at his own firm close to double their salary, because their skills can also be used on the side for other clients in the form of freelance work.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Graphic Design Program.

Education Options: The Department of Labor reports that a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related field is usually a requirement. However, they also note that candidates "may pursue technical training" to meet requirements if they hold a bachelor's degree in a different field.

Career #4: Software Developer

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Median Annual Income:
$99,000
Highest 10 Percent of Earners:
$148,850
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners:
$62,800

Have you always been fascinated by how your computer runs, and more importantly, what's running it? A career as a software developer not only helps you to understand everything happening behind the scenes, it allows you the chance to create it - all while earning a great wage that could go toward your student loan debt.

These are the ladies and gents that are the creative brains behind computer programs, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor. Among their many tasks, you might find them analyzing users' needs and developing software, designing applications and systems, and collaborating with other computer specialists to create the best software possible.

Loan-Paying Power: Because graduates in software development don't need to attend graduate school in order to gain access to high-salary positions, they're generally employed earlier and have less debt to begin with, says Ken Yarnall, professor of math and computer science at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, PA.

Additionally, he says there's a simple supply and demand problem that also drives up the salaries for qualified grads. "We aren't graduating enough computer science students to fill current need. For the foreseeable future, the job market will place a tremendous premium on software developing graduates."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

Education Options: Usually, software developers have a bachelor's degree in a field like computer science, software engineering, or a related field, according to the Department of Labor. They also report that a degree in math is acceptable.

Career #5: Market Research Analyst

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Median Annual Income:
$60,300
Highest 10 Percent of Earners:
$113,500
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners:
$33,280

Shop 'til you drop! If that's your personal motto, you may be interested in learning about the ins-and-outs of a career as a market research analyst. And since this career pays well, you could be student debt-free quickly.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, market research analysts examine the potential sales of a product or service. They're the ones monitoring and forecasting marketing and sales trends, gathering data about consumers, and preparing reports for clients and management teams, the Department of Labor says.

Loan-Paying Power: "[M]arketing research is essential to a company's bottom line, which is pretty much all that matters at the end of the day," says David Polk, professor of behavioral science at York College of Pennsylvania. "Hiring someone who's able to crunch numbers and turn them into usable data about the consumer is invaluable and companies recognize that, and in turn, reward the work with a great paycheck."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.

Education Options: You'll need strong math and analytical skills in addition to a bachelor's degree in marketing research or a related field, says the Department. However, many market research analysts have degrees in math, computer science, or statistics, while others have backgrounds in business administration, one of the social sciences, or communications.

Career #6: Accountant

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Median Annual Income:
$63,550
Highest 10 Percent of Earners:
$111,510
Lowest 10 Percent of Earners:
$39,930

If number-crunching your potential student debt has left you skilled with calculations, consider putting that analytical brain to use in this career. A job as an accountant gives you the opportunity to earn a pretty penny by keeping an eye on an organization's cash flow.

Accountants work to ensure that financial records are accurate. The U.S. Department of Labor says that they examine financial statements for organizations and compute taxes, in addition to organizing and maintaining financial records.

Loan-Paying Power: The paying power here comes from the fact that a valued accountant can really take an organization to the next level financially, says Scott Berlin, tax accountant at Forest City Enterprises, Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio.

"Every organization needs an accountant, but it's not enough to just have an interest in numbers," he adds. "Instead, organizations are constantly on the hunt for qualified accounting grads, because those are the people that will be able to spot financial errors and save the company money in the long-run. Good people are worth holding onto and worth paying well."

Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Education Options: You'll need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field to pursue a career as an accountant, according to the Department of Labor. Some employers may prefer those who have master's degrees in either accounting or in business administration with a concentration in accounting.

* All salary information from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Employment and Wages data, May 2012.

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