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Career success is an “inside-out” process. If you dedicate yourself to a careful self-assessment before you launch your next job search, you will find yourself in an elite group of professionals who know what they want, know what they have to offer, and know where their careers are taking them.

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Best Paid Careers for 2011 and Beyond: Masters or Less

  1. Financial Analyst:  Financial analysts work for banks, investment firms, and insurance companies, earning a median annual salary of $85,240. The majority have a four-year degree in finance, business, or accounting. Many employers also prefer candidates hold a master's in business administration.
  2. Physician Assistant:  Every state seems to have a different requirement for educational requirements. In general, becoming a physician assistant requires some college or experience, such as military training, coupled with a two-year training program offered by a community college or health occupation schools. Physician assistants are supervised by a doctor, but may see patients, order tests, and write prescriptions, depending on state laws. Physician assistants earn a median annual salary of $84,830.
  3. Radiation Therapist:  Radiation therapists operate the machines used to fight cancer. Oncologists (doctors who specialize in cancer) and radiologists develop a treatment plan, which the radiation therapist executes. While a bachelor's degree is preferred by some employers, a two-year degree in radiation therapy is acceptable to others. Some employers will accept a degree in radiography supplemented by a one-year RT certificate program. On average, radiation therapists earn about $77,340 annually, although the top ten percent report earnings in six figures.
  4. Nurses:  Nurses are in high demand in virtually every state. The exact education requirements depend on the ultimate career goals, specialization, and state licensing requirements. As a general rule, expect to spend three to four years in college to prepare for the best paying jobs. Nurses may work in hospitals, doctor's offices, laboratories, or research facilities. They may educate patients on health care, exercise, and diet. Some nurses work in private homes, either as a full-time nurse or a visiting home health care aide. With further training, they may become nurse midwives or nurse practitioners, who are allowed to write prescriptions. Registered nurses earn a median wage of $66,530 annually.

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