The demand—and pay scale—for science jobs is great. Even better? You don’t need a PhD to snag many fun and exciting science-related gigs.
Thinking about a future in science? You should. A science career puts you at the cutting edge of innovations that can change the world as we know it. Plus, they come with some pretty sweet work perks.
As one of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, the demand for science professionals is blowing up. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce forecasts STEM careers will expand by at least 17 percent, compared with just 10 percent growth for other jobs. Your chances of earning a bigger paycheck are also high—while the average U.S. salary is around $43,000, the average STEM income is closer to $78,000.
However, even if you loved bio class, getting an advanced degree in nuclear chemistry or spending years on a computational physics PhD may not be the best choice. So do high-paying science jobs exist for people with a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree or even a certificate?
We went to find out and discovered this wide range of science-related gems:
1. Environmental Scientist
Environmental scientists are problem solvers for Mother Nature. Depending on your specialty (protection, chemistry or health), you might gather field data to help restore polluted wetlands, create recommendations to slow ozone depletion or develop plans to ensure air is safe to breath. To prepare for this eco-friendly career, get your bachelor’s degree in a natural science field like biology or chemistry.
Not interested in a four-year degree? Earn your associate’s in a science-related field to become an environmental field technician.
Job Outlook: 19 – 24 percent (depending on type and specialty)
Average Salary: $41,000 – $62,000 (depending on type and specialty)
Sonographers are the scuba divers of the human body. While you don’t literally go inside, you do use ultrasound technology to see the organs hidden deep below the skin’s surface. Your high-tech job helps doctors assess and diagnose diseases and injuries.
Like some other medical jobs, you can break into this field in more than one way. A bachelor’s or associate’s degree in sonography, or—if you’re already a trained health pro like a nurse—a one-year certificate program can prepare you for this career.
Job Outlook: 44 percent
Average Salary: $64,000
3. Veterinary Technician
Whether you’re working to keep pets healthy at a vet practice or helping scientists perform research in a lab, your main goal is to make sure animals are treated carefully and humanely. And when it comes to your education, you’ve got options: there are jobs available for people with either a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree in veterinary technology.
Job Outlook: 52 percent
Average Salary: $30,000
As a society, we rely on oil and gas to fuel our cars, heat our houses and run our appliances. And geotechs (short for geological technicians) are on the front line of efforts to explore and extract new pockets of these natural resources. Some employers will hire people with only a high school diploma, but most prefer aspiring geotechs to have at least an associate’s degree in an area like geology or chemistry.
Job Outlook: 15 percent
Average Salary: $54,000
Nurses blend the hard science of medicine with the art of patient care. This job often tops the list of quick-change career ideas because of the variety of education options (including certificates, associate’s and bachelor’s degree paths) and the good benefits. So if you’re the type who thrives on mixing person-to-person interaction with the analytics of health care, this could be a good option for you.
Job Outlook: 22 – 26 percent (depending on type and specialty)
Average Salary: $40,000 – $65,000 (depending on type and specialty)
6. Forensic Science Tech
Forensic science techs are sharp-eyed individuals responsible for collecting or analyzing evidence that can put criminals behind bars. Whether you want to be an on-the-ground CSI or focus on laboratory work, your best bet is to get a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, biology or chemistry.
However, many rural police agencies will hire applicants for CSI work who only have a high school diploma or an associate’s degree. Check with your local agency to learn about specific requirements.
Job Outlook: 19 percent
Average Salary: $52,000
7. Biomedical Engineer
By 2020, demand for biomedical engineers is set to skyrocket 62 percent—making this career the fastest-growing science job in America. To break into this field, you do need a bachelor’s degree in the fairly narrow and tough area of biomedical engineering. However, the payoff can be worth it; average income is $81,000. Not a bad deal for paying attention in bio class, right?
Job Outlook: 62 percent
Average Salary: $81,000
Annie Favreau works for Inside Jobs, a site that helps people discover strong careers and connect with the right education to achieve their goals. Follow her on Twitter at @InsideJobs!