16 Prestigious Jobs With Surprisingly Low Pay

Prestigious work that requires loads of education doesn’t always land you a fat salary.

In fact, some of the most highly respected professions out there — ones that take years of schooling and help create essential medical products, towering skyscrapers, and academic breakthroughs — don’t pay nearly as much as you might imagine.

That’s especially true when you realise that computer engineers headed to the Bay Area can earn six figures right out of college, and that surgeons earn an average of $US358,000.

Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics on the mean salary of full-time civilian workers between 2009 and 2011, we’ve picked out some of the most prestigious jobs that have surprisingly low earnings.

Post-doctoral fellow

Average annual earnings: Varies by type and funder, but at entry, the NIH offers a $US45,000 stipend.

Job description: Works with scientists to conduct research in the area of their expertise in order to develop skills and publish before pursuing a job as a full researcher or professor.

Educational requirements: A Ph.D is required.

Graphic designer

Average annual earnings: $48,345

Job description: Design and execute visual material, by hand or using software, for logos, advertising material, and more.

Educational requirements: Usually a bachelor's in graphic design is expected.


Average annual earnings: $49,510

Job description: These are elected positions, and the salary figure is for full-time staffers, which may not include all state and local elected officials. They debate, draft, and vote on laws at the federal and state levels.

Educational requirements: None explicitly required, but the majority of legislators, particularly on the national level, have at least a bachelor's degree. Many have professional degrees as well, most commonly a J.D.

Zoologists and marine/wildlife biologists

Average annual earnings: $US52,186

Job description: These biologists study the behaviour and characteristics of wild animals.

Educational requirements: Entry-level jobs require at least a bachelor's degree, but a master's is required to move beyond that. Academic and research jobs generally require a Ph.D.


Average annual earnings: $59,860 (area, ethnic, or cultural studies), $64,955 (mathematical science), $US67,953 (English language and literature)

Job description: Pay for professors in areas like physics or economics is higher. Professors teach students beyond the high-school level, in addition to conducting research and writing papers and sometimes books.

Educational requirements: Generally a Ph.D is required. A master's might be enough for some teachers at community colleges.

Accountants and auditors

Average annual earnings: $60,845

Job description: Accountants serve a variety of functions: calculating, reporting, and checking financial information for individuals and companies. Auditors perform systematic evaluations of data, records, statements, or performance for a legal or other purpose.

Educational requirements: Both jobs generally require at least a bachelor's, and those with an accounting degree will often work towards becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Some employers prefer a master's or an MBA with a focus on accounting.


Average annual earnings: $62,731

Job description: Psychologists diagnose and evaluate mental and emotional disorders, as well as conducting research on the same.

Educational requirements: Most states require a doctoral degree, though some states allow people with a master's degree to get licensed and practice in certain cases.


Average annual earnings: $US64,481

Job description: Architects plan and design buildings and other types of structures.

Educational requirements: The majority of accredited architecture programs in the United States that grant the licence needed to practice are five-year programs that combine a bachelor's and master's. Two-year master's programs are available as well, though some skip the master's degree. A licence is required.

Budget analysts

Average annual earnings: $66,414

Job description: Help companies, organisations, or the government organise finances and set program budgets.

Educational requirements: At least a bachelor's degree, and sometimes a master's for more senior roles or certain institutions.

Network systems and data communications analysts

Average annual earnings: $67,106

Job description: Analyse, design, test, and maintain networks including local area networks, Internet, intranet, and more.

Educational requirements: Most positions require a bachelor's degree, though it's possible to get such a job with a two-year degree and related work experience.


Average annual earnings: $68,730

Job description: Chemists study the properties, structures, and reactions of substances, and often use it to develop new products or processes for making them.

Educational requirements: A bachelor's is the minimum, but research jobs require a master's or Ph.D.

Biomedical engineer

Average annual earnings: $72,016

Job description: These are engineers who work on building solutions for problems in biology and medicine.

Educational requirements: There are some undergraduate programs that offer degrees in biomedical or biomechanical engineering, but others get a more general engineering degree and a master's focusing on biomedical applications.

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