18 Prestigious Jobs With Surprisingly Low Pay

beautiful young female patient...
ShutterstockOptometrists make less than you'd expect for a job that requires a medical degree.
By Max Nisen and Aaron Taube

One of the main reasons people go to college and graduate school is to find a high-paying job when they're done.

But a college education and a prestigious job doesn't necessarily mean you'll be raking in the cash.

Some of these gigs, like being an architect or an optometrist, pay well below what you might expect.

Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on the mean salary of full-time civilian workers, we've picked out some of the most prestigious jobs that have surprisingly low earnings. Click through below to take a look.

18 Prestigious Jobs With Surprisingly Low Pay
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18 Prestigious Jobs With Surprisingly Low Pay

Average annual earnings: $111,640

Job description: They perform eye exams and make just a fraction as much as some medical professionals. For comparison, the average physician earns $191,880 a year, and dentists, who undergo a similar amount of training, earn $168,870. 

Educational requirements: A bachelor's degree is required, followed by a four-year stint in optometry school to earn an O.D. A residency sometimes follows that for those who want to pursue a particular specialty.

> Find a job as an optometrist

Average annual earnings: $93,960

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. 

> Find a job as a biomedical engineer

Average annual earnings: $77,740

Job description: Chemists study the properties, structures, and reactions of substances, and 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.

> Find a job as a chemist

Average annual earnings: $72,560

Job description: Help companies, organizations, or the government organize 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. 

> Find a job as a budget analyst

Average annual earnings: $72,590

Job description: These analysts look at credit data and financial statements of people and companies to determine the risk of extending a loan or credit.

Educational requirements: Becoming a credit analyst generally requires at least a bachelor's degree.

> Find a job as a credit analyst

Average annual earnings: $71,790

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 license 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 license is required.

> Find a job as an architect

Average annual earnings: $74,310

Job description: Psychologists diagnose and evaluate mental and emotional disorders. They also conduct 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.  

> Find a job as a psychologist

Average annual earnings: $72,500

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. 

> Find a job as an accountant

Average annual earnings: $77,550 (area, ethnic, or cultural studies), $74,210 (mathematical science), $68,360 (English language and literature)

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

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

> Find a job as a professor

Average annual earnings: $62,610

Job description: These biologists study the behavior 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. 

> Find a job as a marine biologist

Average annual earnings: $39,320

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.  

> Find a job as a legislator

Average annual earnings: $56,300

Job description: Advise people on healthy eating habits or on achieving a specific health goal. 

Educational requirements: Most people with this job have a bachelor's and some supervised training. Additionally, many states require a license. 

> Find a job as a dietitian

Average annual earnings: $49,610

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

Educational requirements: A bachelor's in graphic design is typically expected. 

Average annual earnings: Varies by type and funder, but at entry, the NIH offers a $42,000 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. 

> Find an opening for a post-doctoral fellow

Average annual earnings: $46,620

Job description: This job covers the whole spectrum, from celebrity chef-owners of restaurants to lead chefs at somebody else's restaurant and the most senior chef at a chain restaurant. But despite the long hours, late nights, and lack of holidays off — and their glamorous portrayal in the media — it's only top tier chefs and chef-owners who make the big bucks. 

Educational requirements: None required, though it's increasingly common for chefs to attend culinary school.

> Find a job as a chef

Average annual earnings: $51,690

Job description: Diagnose and treat mental and emotional health issues to help couples and families have more fulfilling relationships with each other.

Educational requirements: Graduate degree required, either a master's degree or a doctorate.

> Find a job as a marriage therapist

Average annual earnings: $46,620

Job description: Prepare bodies for interment in conformity with legal requirements. The unpleasant task of handling the dead nets less than $50,000 a year.

Educational requirements: Embalmers must be certified by a state licensing board, a process that includes an apprenticeship that takes between one and three years, depending on the state.

> Find a job as an embalmer

Average annual earnings: $44,360

Job description: They gather and report the news in newspapers and magazines, as well as on television and radio.

Educational requirements: None, but the vast majority of job postings request at least a bachelor's degree.

> Find a job as a reporter

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