The Most Rewarding Careers That Pay Well: A List for College-Bound Teens

According to a study by Cabrini University in Radnor, Pennsylvania, the number one quality recent graduates look for in a new job is job security. 82% of polled students rated job security as the most desirable trait, followed by the opportunity to learn something new (also 82%) and a career where they can apply their education and current skills (79%).

A recent “Trends in Higher Education” report from the College Board suggests that college graduates can reasonably expect these things — and more. The report reveals that college-educated workers receive higher pay, enjoy more job security, are more involved in their local communities, and exhibit healthier behaviors. Namely, college graduates are less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise than their peers who did not attend college.

Of course, having some plans as to what they would like to do after college can be a tremendous boon to teens beginning their collegiate careers. If your teenager is currently undecided, talk to them about the most rewarding careers that pay well. Refer to the list below for careers that are lucrative and meaningful.

1. Lawyer

As of 2020, there are 1.3 million practicing lawyers in the United States, and the average lawyer will bring home an impressive salary of $144,230 per year. In addition to there being a great deal of opportunity for prospective lawyers as well as a cushy paycheck, your child can also expect:

  • The flexibility to live where they would like. Although it may depend on your teen’s chosen field, many disciplines of law will give them the freedom to live wherever they would like. For example, people from all over the U.S. regularly rely on divorce attorneys, criminal law attorneys, personal injury lawyers, and auto accident attorneys. There are some areas of law that may require settling down in a particular spot, but those should be fairly obvious from the start. For example, if your teenager wants to ultimately represent sports figures or celebrities, he or she will have to relocate for their profession.
  • The ability to choose their specialization or area of expertise. Law gives your college-bound teen the opportunity to choose. Law is among the most rewarding careers that pay well, and it affords your college student a lot of options, too. There are dozens and dozens of legal specializations to choose from. Your student can choose to help clients navigate the bail bonding process, patent new items, or even work with organizations to help them abide by environmental regulations and lower their carbon footprint.
  • The satisfaction of helping people and making a difference in their lives. Lawyers put in a lot of work, but they also genuinely help people. For example, an adoption attorney will be responsible for a great deal of paperwork, deadlines, and legal red tape, but — at the end of the day — they are literally helping people grow their families. A personal injury lawyer will help their clients as they navigate some of the most difficult challenges of their lives. When they work with a lawyer, they ensure they have the means to live comfortably, pay their medical bills, and re-enter the workforce or find meaning elsewhere when the time comes.

2. Financial Advisor

Next on our list of the most rewarding careers that pay well is working as a financial advisor. U.S. News reports that financial advisors make an average yearly salary of $87,850 and ranks it the fourth-best business job in the nation. The job market for financial advisors is extraordinarily promising and the potential for climbing up the ranks is much higher than in other careers. Here are some other perks of working as a financial advisor:

  • Work for whom you want. Is working for a women-owned business or a business with a Women’s Business Enterprise or WBE Certification important to your soon-to-be college student? In other career paths, she may have little choice in the matter. That is not the case when it comes to pursuing a career as a financial advisor! There are thousands of firms looking for financial advisors, and it is more than feasible to start your own firm after several years of experience.
  • Your job description? Giving people meaningful advice that will impact their savings, investments, and finances — and their lives. People turn to financial advisors for help making some pretty big decisions. Clients may eventually turn to your child for advice about jumbo loans, unconventional mortgages, or their life savings. By counseling others, he or she will have the potential to help them live better quality lives — beyond paycheck-to-paycheck — and even set them up for a comfortable and meaningful retirement.
  • Unlimited earning potential. In certain careers, there is a cap on earnings potential. As long as financial advisors continue to grow their business and their brand, they can continue to grow their paycheck as well. While $87,850 is the average salary, up to 25% average $154,480 per year, and the top earners make even more than that.

If you want to help your child chase after the most rewarding careers that pay well, ask them if they have any interest in becoming a financial advisor.

3. Construction Manager

When it comes to the most rewarding careers that pay well, another option is for your college-bound teen to pursue a career as a construction manager. U.S. News ranks is the number one construction job, and your teen will bring home up to $95,260 per year. Learn more about the benefits of becoming a construction manager.

  • Working in construction management is a reprieve from your average desk job. Nearly all career paths involve the typical 9 to 5 workday — or something close to it — and entail hours and hours of sitting at the same desk day-after-day. When your college student seeks out a job in construction management, he or she breaks out of that mold. Whether your student chooses to work on office and commercial buildings or with a home builder, they may spend some hours at the office or in a temporary, modular field office. More often than not, they will be on the construction site, directly leading operations.
  • Construction managers have ample opportunities to meet their full potential. Working in construction management requires a lot of skill. To excel in the field, your child will need to master their leadership skills, time management skills, and creativity and problem-solving skills. Their job will require being confident in their decisions and taking responsibility for their decisions. Because construction management requires near-constant problem-solving, doing it well easily lands it among the most rewarding careers that pay well.
  • Construction managers enjoy higher-than-average job security. New construction — residential and commercial — is in high-demand, and people need managers to direct and oversee that construction. This high-demand for new construction ensures that managers have, and will continue to have, plenty of job security.

4. Surgeon

Surgeons bring home an impressive sum of money from year-to-year. The average salary is $208,000, and there is always the potential to make even more. It makes the list of the most rewarding careers that pay well, and, in fact, it comes in as the second best-paying job overall, according to U.S. News.

If he or she chooses to work as a surgeon, your college-bound teen will have the opportunity to save lives — or make an incredible difference in the quality of their patient’s lives. Even plastic surgeons may reconstruct facial features after an auto accident or fire, giving an incredible amount of meaning to what they do.

5. Pharmacist

Your run-of-the-mill pharmacist will take home an annual salary of $128,090. Top earners have the potential to make close to $150,000.

For college-bound teens considering a career as a pharmacist, they can expect:

  • Flexible career options. Working as a pharmacist easily makes the list of the most rewarding careers that pay well, and that is — in part — due to the field’s flexibility. Most pharmacists work in a retail chain or in a standalone pharmacy, but those are not the only options available to your soon-to-be college student. Pharmacists may also work for the federal government or in nursing homes, hospitals, medical imaging centers, schools, and higher education.
  • To play a direct role in improving health outcomes. According to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), 50% of Americans living with chronic conditions do not take prescriptions as directed, and that can lead to problems. As a pharmacist, your student will play a role in medication compliance and may ultimately improve patient outcomes.
  • The chance to work with cutting-edge technology. Pharmacists use some of the latest technology in automation, robotics, and digitization. If your teen is a technology buff, working as a pharmacist will give them the opportunity to explore this passion and regularly work with new technology.

6. Dentist

For another opportunity to earn a lot of money and to find meaning in their work, ask your college-bound teen to consider a career in dentistry. Dentists earn a median yearly salary of $155,600.

As a dentist, your eventual college grad will help patients’ gain confidence, detect serious health conditions in their earliest stages, and help their patients stay healthier overall.

By working in orthodontics or cosmetic dentistry, your child can help patients feel good in their own skin. Over half of U.S. adults do not feel good about their smiles, and 57% hide their teeth when they laugh, The New York Post reveals. Dentists help fit patients with dental bridges, implants, braces, or Invisalign, and ultimately help them overcome these insecurities.

Similarly, a dentist can help detect early symptoms of chronic health conditions during a routine cleaning or exam. By examining your teeth, dentists may be able to pinpoint signs of diabetes, acid reflux, anemia, and certain types of cancers. Regularly visiting the dentist keeps harmful bacteria out of our mouths, out of our blood, and out of our heart and lungs. As such, dentists benefit their regular patients by helping them stave off respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

7. Veterinarian

A list of the most rewarding careers that pay well would be incomplete without veterinarians. U.S. News reports an average annual salary of $95,460 for veterinarians. It lists vets as the sixth-best job in health care and one of the top 10 jobs overall. If your college-bound teen prefers animals to people, working as a vet in an animal hospital may be the perfect solution!

Vets often determine exactly how much diversity they would like in their day-to-day careers. Some vets work strictly with cats and dogs. Others expand their services to birds, reptiles, bunnies and rabbits, rodents, and even exotic animals. Plus, several studies show that pet owners and dog lovers are kinder, more compassionate people. As a vet, your college student will likely work with kind, animal-loving colleagues day-in and day-out.

8. Nurse

Nurses complete the list of the most rewarding careers that pay well — and with good reason. Nurses average $73,300 per year with plenty of potential to earn more, and working as a nurse is an incredibly meaningful vocation.

In fact, nurses often help people when they are at their worst. They take part in geriatric care and hospice care. They care for patients going through cancer treatments and patients suffering from debilitating injuries and chronic health conditions. Often, it can be difficult for patients to remain in good spirits during their treatment. Nurses can be directly responsible for improving health outcomes and improving the mental health of their patients. Plus, nurses are in demand just about everywhere, giving them excellent job security.

What are the most rewarding careers that pay well? Before your teenager goes off to college, arm them with knowledge. If they are still deciding on their career path, introduce them to the list above and introduce them to careers that pay well and help them create lasting purpose and meaning.