MONEY hiring

These Cities Have the Best Job Prospects

John Coletti—Getty Images

Zillow, Wallethub and Ziprecuriter pick the best places to find employment across the country.

The employment picture in the U.S. has been brightening, but the improvement has not been evenly dispersed across the nation. Whether you have just graduated from college and are now looking for your first full-time job or you are looking for a job/career change, you’re interested in finding areas with the greatest job opportunities.

Both Ziprecruiter and WalletHub ranked the 2015 job market in various U.S. cities earlier in the year taking slightly different approaches. Ziprecruiter looked purely at employment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, including applicant-to-employer and applications-to-job posting ratios. Their top choices are:

  • Lincoln, NE – The capital of Nebraska boasts solid job growth including the national lead in construction job growth, low overall unemployment, and strong manufacturing and healthcare bases.
  • Fargo, ND – Fargo has shown steadier growth than the boom and bust cycle of the North Dakota oil fields, with education and healthcare as main job drivers.
  • Rochester, MN – The home of the Mayo Clinic offers major opportunities in healthcare and construction.
  • Sioux Falls, SD – Sioux Falls has shown continuous strong job growth and has opportunities in fields ranging from manufacturing to financial services.

Other Ziprecruiter top cities include Provo and Salt Lake City, UT; Omaha, NE; Fort Collins and Boulder, CO; Columbus, OH; and Minneapolis, MN.

WalletHub chose to include a “socioeconomic environment” ranking in their analysis. Congratulations to Sioux Falls, Omaha, and Salt Lake City — all three cities stayed near the top of both the Ziprecruiter and WalletHub lists.

WalletHub rated Seattle, WA, as the top city with Des Moines, IA, as the second choice (top overall for job market only). Their results include an odd Arizona bias, listing four Phoenix suburbs (Gilbert, Chandler, Scottsdale, and Peoria) in their top fifteen markets.

A third analysis comes from the real-estate site Zillow. This analysis ranks the best combinations of job opportunities and income growth with affordable housing — as you might expect from a real estate site. Cities are slotted into quadrants, with the most desirable cities falling into the quadrant of both high growth and affordable housing.

Smaller communities in the “sweet spot” include Dalton, GA, Elkhart, IN, and Battle Creek, MI; larger communities include Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Louisville. Zillow suggests avoiding the “sour spots” of lesser employment opportunities and expensive housing such as Atlantic City, NJ, Santa Fe, NM, and Great Falls, MT.

Several sites have incorporated Zillow’s interactive infographic, including the Wall Street Journal. Move your cursor over each bubble to see the values for a particular area and see how your preferred choices stack up.

The wide variance in the analyses suggests that there are many ways to assess local job markets and that some of them are contradictory. For example, Columbia, MO, comes in fifth best at Ziprecruiter for small job markets, but fares poorly in the Zillow survey on the employment front (not the housing front).

Consider the above information and websites as starting points for your search. Employment conditions can change rapidly in any city, and the local employment opportunities may not match your qualifications or skills. It is best to network within your field and find out where the major employers and opportunities in your field are located, and use these guides as supplementary documents to help you review employment options.

As you evaluate your options, don’t forget to check out the cost-of-living, lifestyle, and housing opportunities before you commit to a new city. Is a great job in a city you don’t like really that great of a job?

Poll: If You Could Make Enough Money to Live, Would You Go Freelance?

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There’s a Dire Shortage of Workers In This Growing Industry

Monthly Report Shows Construction Of New Homes Continues To Rise
Joe Raedle—Getty Images A construction worker climbs on the roof of a home.

Many workers left the field when the housing market collapsed

The United States housing market is showing signs of growth: housing starts have increased 11.3% so far in 2015, while commercial construction spending is up 9.7% in the first half of this year.

If only there were enough workers to keep up with the growth.

According to a report in USA Today, a survey by the National Association of Home Builders in June pointed to a construction worker shortage. Seventy percent of home builders, for instance, said they were experiencing a shortage of carpenters, compared to 63% a year ago. A survey by the Associated General Contractors in July showed that 86% of commercial builders said they were finding it difficult to fill hourly or salaried positions versus 83% last year.

Many construction workers left the field when the housing market collapsed during the recession. They entered sectors that were healthier at the time, such as trucking, and oil and gas production. Despite housing’s rebound, the laborers aren’t returning, in part, because the pipeline of talent has dried up as schools have cut shop classes and two- or four-year colleges attract would-be workers.

The end result is a delay in construction projects and increased labor costs. Construction workers’ average hourly earnings increased 2.6% annually in July. Workers overall have seen wages inch up 2.1%.

TIME Economy

This Surprising Area Is Seeing Significant Job Growth

Job Seekers Attend Job Fair In San Francisco
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 27: A "we are hiring" sign is displayed on a table during the San Francisco Hirevent job fair at the Hotel Whitcomb on March 27, 2012 in San Francisco, California. As the national unemployment rate stands at 8.3 percent, job seekers turned out to meet with recruiters at the San Francisco Hirevent job fair where hundreds of jobs were available. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Good news for college graduates.

A study conducted by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows that, of the 6.6 million jobs that the economy has created since 2010, 2.9 million of them were “good jobs.”

The study defines good jobs as those that pay over $53,000 annually. Most of these tend to be full time with both health insurance and retirement plans. Of these 2.9 million jobs, 2.8 million have gone to college graduates.

There has also been growth in the middle-wage ($32,000 – $53,000) and low-wage (less than $32,000) job sectors with an additional 1.9 million and 1.8 million jobs created, respectively.

Most of the growth in high-wage jobs has come from managerial, STEM, and healthcare professional occupations; middle-wage jobs saw recovery in “occupations that make up the blue-collar cluster; and low-wage jobs were in food and personal services, sales, and office support.

Despite the numbers, only high-wage and low-wage jobs have seen full recovery. The middle-wage tier still needs to see an additional 900,000 jobs before it reaches pre-recession levels.

TIME Innovation

How Driverless Cars Will End Parking Gridlock

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. The search for parking gridlocks cities. Enter the driverless car.

By Peter Wayner in the Atlantic

2. Privilege at the principal’s office: White kids get medicated, black kids get suspended.

By Jack Holmes in the Science of Us

3. Chinese textile manufacturers found a cheap new place for outsourcing: the U.S.

By Jenni Avins in Quartz

4. Here’s what tech firms should do on college campuses to boost diversity.

By Tony Luckett in Re/code

5. Find out how to save poor kids from the summer vacation brain drain.

By Libby Nelson in Vox

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email

MONEY Opinion

10 Ways America Is Winning

Valerio Gualandi / EyeEm—Getty Images

Pessimism outsells optimism in the media, but missing out on what goes right is a bigger risk than people realize.

Jeremy Grantham, a brilliant money manager and perpetual pessimist, recently wrote a note to clients called “Ten Quick Topics to Ruin Your Summer.” It’s a good read. There’s climate change, weak GDP growth, global food shortages, income inequality, and several other points to make you sweat when pondering the future.

Grantham focuses on the downside because, he writes, “good news will usually look after itself.” He’s right.

But pessimism outsells optimism in the media ten to one. And our emotional reaction to pessimism is lopsided by the same. The result is that many of us wander through a world that is constantly improving while getting bogged down by risks that are either phantom or temporary. Over the long run, missing out on what goes right is a bigger risk than people realize.

So, here are ten quick topics to feel great about.

1. America has some of the best demographics in the world.

From now through 2050, America’s population is forecast to rise by 50 million. China’s will fall by 101 million. Russia’s will decline by 10.3 million. Germany, down by 7.7 million. Italy, down 1.1 million. Finland, down 155,000. Greece, 600,000.

Here’s how America ages over the next few decades. Our young working-age generations grow, even as baby boomers retire:


Compare that to China. Its older generations swell, then die, leaving a shrinking population and collapsing workforce.


South Korea is pretty awful, too.


Japan is a retirement community.


2. Layoffs are at a record low.

Initial jobless claims recently hit the lowest level since 1973. That’s great, but it’s even better than it looks. The laborforce is almost twice as large today as it was in 1973. Adjust initial jobless claims to account for the size of the laborforce, and layoffs are at the lowest level in the last half-century. By a lot:


3. Investment fees have been slashed to the ground.

The only force more powerful than compound interest is the tyranny of compounding costs.

The good news is that investment fees have plunged in the last two decades. According to recent report by Morningstar:

  • 63% of mutual funds and ETFs cut the expense ratios in the last five years.
  • Since the early 1990s, average investment fees across all funds have declined by more than a third, from nearly 1% to 0.64%. On a $10,000 investment that earns 6% a year for 25 years, that’s an extra $5,000 that goes to you, rather than advisors.
  • Passive ETF fees now basically round to zero percent.

If the economy found a way to grow by an extra 0.35% a year forever, it would be considered a miracle. But investors have done just that. And given how competitive the industry has become, I doubt this trend is over.

4. Household formation is picking up.

A lot of the reason the economy was slow for the last five years is because household formation plunged. Young adults moved in with their parents. That meant they didn’t need a new home. Since new home construction is a big economic driver, it was hard to get moving.

Now things are changing. Household formation is at the highest level in a decade:


5. Things that used to be really deadly are way less deadly.

Motor vehicle deaths are down 60%:


Heart disease deaths are down by half:


Just these two mean more than a million people a year are alive who would have been dead just a few decades ago.

5. More people are saving for their own retirement.

People are living longer than ever, and public retirement systems are strained. The good is 401(k) participation is rising, and surging for young workers. According to a report by Wells Fargo:

Participation in the 401(k) plan among millennials has reached 55% compared to 45% in 2011. For newly hired eligible employees (meaning those who have reached the one year mark of employment), participation has increased from 36% four years ago to 48% in 2015. In addition, employees in a pay range of $20,000 to $40,000 in salary are participating at a rate of 59% versus 47% four years ago.

6. Falling healthcare inflation will save the government hundreds of billions of dollars.

In 2006, the Congressional Budget Office forecasted that by 2016 the average Medicare recipient would cost more than $15,000. The latest estimate is a little over $11,000. The amount of money this saves over previous estimates – the estimates that led people to think the government was bankrupt and the dollar heading for collapse – is insane. The New York Times wrote last summer:

The difference between the current estimate for Medicare’s 2019 budget and the estimate for the 2019 budget four years ago is about $95 billion. That sum is greater than the government is expected to spend that year on unemployment insurance, welfare and Amtrak — combined.

7. Student loan borrowing is declining.

Thanks to a clamp-down on for-profit schools – where so much student debt came from – students aren’t borrowing as much as they used to:

Federal and private-loan lending totaled $106 billion for the 2013-14 academic year, down 8% from the prior year, according to a report to be released Thursday by the nonprofit College Board. The decline marks a significant reversal in borrowing, which peaked at $122.1 billion in 2010-11 after rising for years.

8. High school graduation rates are at a record high.

This is the knowledge economy, where education, connections, and ideas are more important than any time in history. So this is great news:

More American students are graduating from high school than ever before, according to new data from the Department of Education.

The national graduation rate hit a record high of 81 percent in the 2012-13 school year, the data show.

9. Childhood obesity rates are falling off a cliff.

Something is clearly going right here, and it bodes well for future healthcare costs:

Federal health authorities on Tuesday reported a 43 percent drop in the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year-old children over the past decade, the first broad decline in an epidemic that often leads to lifelong struggles with weight and higher risks for cancer, heart disease and stroke.

The drop emerged from a major federal health survey that experts say is the gold standard for evidence on what Americans weigh. The trend came as a welcome surprise to researchers. New evidence has shown that obesity takes hold young: Children who are overweight or obese at 3 to 5 years old are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults.

10. 2008 was the worst financial crisis in nearly 100 years. Seven years later, unemployment is 5.3%, the stock market is at an all-time high, the dollar is surging, inflation is low, and oil output is the highest in decades.

That’s a good indication of how adaptive and resilient the U.S. economy is. It’s like we got stage-four brain cancer and ran a marathon a few years later. If we can go through 2008 and bounce back as fast as we did, run-of-the-mill recessions shouldn’t worry you at all. Keep this in mind when forecasting doom.

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TIME People

Uber Wants Your Parents to Be Drivers If They Can Use a Smartphone

senior woman hands on steering wheel
Getty Images

The new economy is welcoming older Americans with open arms

“Companies don’t hire 50-year-olds. They just don’t.”

So says 50-year-old Sherry Singer. After decades of being a professional matchmaker, Singer wanted to change gears and start a non-profit, but still needed to pay the rent in L.A. Feeling she had few places to turn in the traditional job market, she looked to a more disruptive space: the booming on-demand economy led by Uber. Singer, who has now worked several of these freelancing jobs that didn’t exist a few years ago, found she could land a gig within a week.

Agism might be rampant in Silicon Valley, but some of the Bay Area’s leading companies are now actively trying to engage the senior crowd, recognizing the huge potential of experienced workers and responsible adults.

On Thursday, Uber announced a partnership with Life Reimagined, an organization under the AARP umbrella that exists to help older people figure out “what’s next?” after life transitions. The same day, Airbnb released data aimed at “celebrating” older hosts and guests, amid their executives attending summits on aging around the country.

“To overlook them participating in new activities would be really short-sighted,” says Airbnb’s Anita Roth, who attended a recent conference on aging hosted by the White House.

When these companies were startups that didn’t know how long they might survive, being short-sighted may have made sense. New tech companies have been started by young people who hire their young friends to help create solutions to problems they’re encountering in their own young lives. Their first customers are often their young, early-adopting friends who live in the Bay Area. But with valuations north of $25 billion, these “startups” are focusing on expansions into a more untapped demographic, which also happens to be huge and growing.

By 2032, Americans over the age of 65 will outnumber those under the age of 15. While bands of young companies are starting to pay more respect to the buying power of this demographic, Uber’s new effort is about recognizing their potential as workers. Life Reimagined bills itself as a helping hand for any adult in need of some direction—whether that person is a 42-year-old divorcee, 55-year-old empty nester or 66-year-old retiree bored nearly to death. Their mission isn’t just about helping people find new jobs or careers, but that’s often involved for participants who range from their late 30s to early 70s.

“The reality is there are far more adults looking for work than venues that are seeking to hire them,” says Emilio Pardo, Life Reimagined’s president. Their effort with Uber is explicitly targeting the “40-plus” crowd. The rideshare company said they don’t have a particular goal for how many drivers they hope to recruit.

Uber already has hundreds of thousands drivers coming onto their platform worldwide every month and expects perhaps another hundred thousand join their ranks in the U.S. over the next few years. Still, says Uber executive David Richter, they need to actively recruit. “We have the high-class problem of ever-increasing demand,” he says.

Uber previously engaged in targeted demographic outreach by trying to sell veterans on becoming drivers. The theory was that many veterans are task-oriented, disciplined and also looking for a healthy outlet “to bring those traits to bear,” says Richter. Those drivers turned out to get higher-than-average ratings; Uber hopes to repeat those results by capitalizing on older drivers who might provide a “more cautious, reliable ride.” According to a white paper released in January, Uber drivers are more likely to be young, female and highly educated than taxi drivers or chauffeurs. Still, about half of them are already over the age of 39.

What about the stereotype that grandma is a haphazard driver who goes everywhere with her blinker on and can operate a smartphone about as well as nuclear submarine? Ken Smith and Martha Deevy, experts from Stanford’s Center on Longevity, generally have a positive attitude about older people driving for Uber, saying that the flexibility those jobs provide will likely be attractive to retirees who need income but want flexible schedules. They also point out that if age 40 is the starting point, that means “there are 30 unambiguously safe years there.” If you look at fatal crash statistics, they point out, you could argue that getting into a car with a 65-year-old is safer than doing so with a driver who is less than 30.

Smartphones are required to do the job of being an Uber driver—as well as most new jobs in the on-demand economy—because it involves accepting and completing requests for rides through the Uber app. Just over half of 50- to 64-year-olds own smartphones, according to Pew, but those numbers are going up. In 2012, only 34% of them did. And, Richter says, new drivers can always lease a smartphone from Uber if needed.

The Center on Longevity is a leading organization dedicated to trying to figure out how Americans can all lead better, longer lives, a crucial mission given that our life expectancies have jumped 20 years since 1925. Airbnb worked with the group to develop a survey to learn more about their older users. Turns out, about one million of Airbnb’s guests and hosts are over 60. Considering 25 million people used Airbnb to find accommodations in the past year, that leaves a lot of room for growth, especially among a demographic that is more likely to own their own home. Like Uber’s veteran drivers, Airbnb’s older hosts also tend to get better reviews than the general population, Airbnb says. The majority of those hosts are either retirees or empty-nesters who start renting out rooms for the extra money; according to Airbnb’s survey, 49% of them are on a fixed income. But, Roth says, many people who come to the platform for the money end up staying for the social engagement and “renewed sense of purpose.” Isolation among older Americans, Life Reimagined’s Pardo says, “is fatal.”

Of course, the sharing and on-demand economies are not without their uncertainties and pitfalls. Lawsuits are alleging that companies like Uber are exploiting their workers, and cities like San Francisco are hotly debating how much home-sharing to allow. Though 50-year-old Singer continues to work for an on-demand ride company, she’s also a lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Postmates, an on-demand delivery service for which she used to be a courier. The business models of these companies may have to change, but the fact that companies can benefit from giving older Americans more opportunities and attention will remain. “People are in a moment in America where either they can’t retire, don’t want to retire or they’re retired but they’re not done yet,” says Pardo. “It’s all about using the latest technology to actually open up a new opportunity, to give you options.”

MONEY Workplace

How to Quit Your Job Gracefully

There's a right way and a wrong way to head out the door.

So you’ve got a new job, and you’ve got to leave your current one. There are a few things you need to do before up-and-quitting:

Make sure you tell your boss first. Your direct supervisor should be the first to know. It may be tempting to talk to your close friends and colleagues, but hold off because word spreads quickly.

Give at least two weeks’ notice. The old adage of giving two weeks’ notice may actually be required by your company. If you’re in a higher-up position—you’re senior management or you supervise a lot of people—it’ll be harder to replace you, so give three or four weeks’ notice.

Thank your colleagues. When you thank them for being a fun bunch to work with, use the opportunity to leave your contact information. Your colleagues are your network, and you never know when you may need them for a reference or a job in the future.

Document exactly how you do your job. Your successor will thank you for it. Within reason, offer to keep in touch to help acclimate him or her to the job.

Don’t slack off. No matter how tempting it is to come in late or leave early in your last few weeks at a job, work as hard as ever. You don’t want your last few days to leave a bad impression on your coworkers; that may come back to haunt you later.

TIME pay

Why Rebellious Kids Make More Money Later In Life

JGI/Jamie Grill—Getty Images/Blend Images Boys displaying their messy hands.

Not listening to your parents may be profitable, research shows

Who knew not listening to your parents as a kid could pay off?

New research published in the journal Developmental Psychology found that children who didn’t listen to their parents growing up ended up with a higher income, according to Quartz.

“We might assume that students who scored high on this scale might earn a higher income because they are more willing to be more demanding during critical junctures such as when negotiating salaries or raises,” the researchers wrote in the published study.

Additionally, they noted that those who were more likely to push back against their superiors as children “also have higher levels of willingness to stand up for their own interests and aims, a characteristic that leads to more favorable individual outcomes—in our case, income.”

“We also cannot rule out that individuals who are likely or willing to break rules get higher pay for unethical reasons,” the researchers added.

As Quartz notes, this isn’t the first time a study like this has linked childhood troublemaking to wages in adulthood. In fact, “agreeableness” has been found previously to equate to a lower income.

The research — conducted by the University of Luxembourg, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and The Free University of Berlin — analyzed data from 745 children in Luxembourg from 1968 to 2008.


Why Nebraska Has The Lowest Unemployment Rate in the US

Welcome to Nebraska street sign
Thinkstock—Getty Images

Hint: It was largely spared from the housing market crash in 2007.

During the Great Recession, North Dakota was the nation’s golden child, where the unemployment rate never topped 4.3% even as joblessness across the rest of the country reached double digits. But as the economic recovery has played out, another state has undercut North Dakota’s impressively low rate: Nebraska.

At 2.6%, the state’s unemployment rate is the lowest in the nation. The rate for June is also Nebraska’s second lowest rate recorded in more than a decade and lower than North Dakota’s 3.1% rate, according to monthly local unemployment data released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While North Dakota can attribute its low unemployment rate to the state’s fracking boom, the reasons for Nebraska’s low joblessness are less clear. However, one explanation could be that the state’s job market didn’t suffer as much as the rest of the country during the dark days of the recession.

“In Nebraska, it was just a bad recession rather than a Great Recession,” says Eric Thompson, director of the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. “We were hit hard by the recession, but not nearly as hard as many other states.”

What’s more, Nebraskans have their state’s diverse economy to thank.

“There’s not one segment of the economy that dominates the state, such as automobile manufacturing in Michigan. We don’t have anybody that big,” says John Albin, Nebraska’s commissioner of labor. And it didn’t hurt that agriculture, the industry that contributes the most to the state’s GDP, “was going through a boom time right when the rest of the economy was tanking,” he says. Crop prices were up thanks to a falling dollar and robust overseas demand. Corn, for instance, reached $7.50 per bushel in early 2008. That meant “manufacturers were still making farm equipment and car dealerships were still selling pickups,” Albin says. “In this last recession, that cushioned us a lot.”

The state was largely spared from the housing market crash, too. “Construction activity, including home building, did drop sharply during the Great Recession. However, our home prices had not risen that much and therefore did not fall much during the housing crisis,” Thompson says. The median property value in Nebraska was $122,600 between 2007 to 2009, according to the U.S. Census. Between 2010 to 2012, it increased to $127,800. (By comparison, Florida, among the states hardest hit by the housing market crash, saw median property value drop from $210,800 to $154,900 during the same period.)

Nebraska’s geography was a factor in its dodge of that crisis. The state’s landlocked location in the midwest means it has few natural barriers to population growth. Oceans and rivers limit housing expansion in places like California, New York City, or Massachusetts, which saw rapid increases in home values before the housing market crashed. “In Nebraska, if demand is there you can always just convert more farmland to housing,” Thompson says.

In explaining the state’s current 2.6% jobless rate, Thompson points to what he says is Nebraska’s high quality labor force. At 88.5%, Nebraska ranks second nationwide in high school graduation, according to the most recent data released by the Department of Education. (First place is neighboring Iowa, where the rate is 89.7%.). According to the Census, 28.5% of Nebraskans 25 years of age and older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, just under the nationwide rate of 28.8%.

“In short, Nebraskans have good resumes in terms of education and history—these are the types of workers who generally have lower unemployment rates and also fair well during a recession. Employers try to find ways to keep such employees and when workers with good resumes do lose their jobs, they are usually able to find one quicker,” Thompson says. Indeed, in June, the national unemployment rate among high school graduates was 5.4%, according to the BLS figures. For individuals without a high school diploma, it was 8.2%.

To be sure, not everyone is convinced that the state’s super low unemployment rate is a sign of a healthy economy. A closer look at job growth “portrays an economy that’s not as healthy as when just unemployment is considered,” says Ernie Goss, an economics professor at Creighton University in Omaha. In the past three months, payrolls in the state have dropped from just over 1 million in April to 999,300 in May to 997,000 in June. Goss pegs that dip to the same factors that buoyed Nebraska’s economy during the recession—commodity prices, which have declined with the strengthening U.S. dollar. “You can trace slowing job growth to the farm economy,” Goss says. BLS employment figures don’t capture farm jobs, but they would reflect a slow down in the services that support the agriculture industry.

Nebraska’s low jobless rate and decreasing employment is certainly a disconnect—you’d expect unemployment to increase as employment shrank. There are a few theories to explain the rift: For one thing, Nebraskans have a propensity to hold multiple jobs—7.9% do so, compared to 4.9% nationally—which means if a worker with two jobs loses one, she would be considered unemployed. Goss says that workers who lose a job could be leaving the state or returning to work on farms — both scenarios would mean they wouldn’t budge the state’s jobless rate.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.


7 High-Paying Jobs That Don’t Require a Bachelor’s Degree

Monty Rakusen—Getty Images

An associate's degree in web development or nursing can set you up for a career that pays well and is in high demand.

A college degree is a standard ticket to higher-paying jobs, but that degree does not necessarily have to be a four-year bachelor’s degree or higher. There are plenty of associate’s degrees that lead to decent paying jobs and can ultimately give you a good return on your college investment — potentially even better than a bachelor’s degree.

Below are some of the two-year programs that represent excellent job opportunities according to data on average salaries and projected job openings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The title of the degree may vary slightly by institution, so we are listing them with respect to the careers they enable.

Note: The BLS wage data is from 2012; projections are slightly overstated as they also reference a ten-year period from a 2012 study. The job openings include replacement needs as well as projected growth.

  • Registered Nurse – RNs are almost always in demand, and that is likely to increase with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, expansions in medical services, and an aging population. There are over a million projected job openings in the field through 2022 with a median salary of $65,470.
  • Dental Hygienist – Similarly to nurses, dental hygienists are in significant demand. They perform cleanings and other preventative tooth care, as well as assisting dentists with fillings and procedures that are more complex. Median salaries are just over $70,000, and BLS expects 113,500 job openings through 2022.
  • Engineering Technician – This field has multiple specialties with their own degree programs and projections, including aerospace, electrical/electronic, avionics, geological/petroleum, mechanical, electromechanical, and industrial technicians. The tasks vary widely by field but they all involve engineering support functions, anything from design to troubleshooting to repairs to field work. Median salaries are between $45,000 and $62,000, and the collective job projections through 2022 are near 90,000.
  • Respiratory Therapist – Respiratory therapists tend to work with the extremes of the age spectrum, from the elderly with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other respiratory ailments, to premature babies with lungs that have not completely developed. Median salaries are $55,870 according to BLS, and over 40,000 job openings are expected through 2022.
  • Computer Network Support Technician – Somebody’s got to do the dirty work of keeping complex computer networks running. Why shouldn’t it be you? Median salaries in the field are just over $59,000 and there are almost 40,000 job opportunities projected by 2022.
  • Web Developer – Given the massive growth of Internet sites and mobile apps, there is a strong need for good web developers. Projected job openings exceed 50,000 by 2022, and median wages are $62,500.
  • Diagnostic Sonographer – Most of us think of sonography as the ultrasound images taken during pregnancy, but there are other medical uses for the technology that keep the demand high. Median salaries are relatively high at $65,860 and there are 35,300 expected job openings through 2022.
  • Air Traffic Controller – Air traffic controllers draw the highest median salary available for an associate’s degree at $122,530, with 11,400 job openings expected through 2022. It is also a high-stress, high-burnout position — but if you have the correct temperament, it is the most lucrative of the associate’s degree positions.

If you are curious, you can find out all the BLS job projections, typical wages, and necessary degrees, experience, and training on the BLS website. The data is quite comprehensive, covering occupations from accountants to zoologists.

Even if the occupations above do not strike your fancy, you may find a different occupation that a two-year degree would accommodate — perhaps a veterinary technician or a draftsman? The choice is yours.

Read next: The 10 Worst-Paying Jobs that Require a Master’s Degree

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