What It'll Cost You to Get the Highest Paying Jobs

Some people complain about their student debt and envy the freedom of those who aren't tied to a specific vocation, while others wish they had just committed to a traditional career path rather than studying Medieval & Renaissance Studies in college and then become an internet blogger when there are no jobs. In respect to the former, we examined the excruciating preparation process behind our doc's and shrink's careers.

They require a lot of early investment (of time and money), but could feasibly earn you six figures when all is said and done. There are a lot of stats involved here, as well as some insight from career counseling pro Judith Gerberg, who gave some tips and caveats about committing to these positions.



Requirements: College degree, medical degree, residency, fellowship, licensing
Time Investment: 11-18 years
Cost Investment: $200,000+

Even if you're frugal and go to a school in a state where you reside, becoming a doctor will cost you upwards of $19k per year, or $76k by the time you graduate. But if you're serious about this career path, that's just the beginning.

A public medical school (in, again, a state where you're a resident) charges an average $28,365 a year, which means your MD will wind up costing at least $113,460. Then you need to complete a residency for 3-7 years -- where you're definitely not earning a doctor's salary -- and possibly a specialty fellowship after that.

Going for your license can easily drain another $500-$1,000, but then, well into your 30s, you're done! Here's Gerberg's advice on cutting some costs: "Sometimes, if there’s a place without a lot of doctors, they might sponsor you. Like New Mexico. They’re dealing with a shortage right now."



Requirements: College degree, PhD or Psy.D, licensing
Time investment: 8-11 years
Cost investment: $100,000+

A quick note: a psychologist is not the same thing as a psychiatrist. The latter can prescribe medication, and thus needs an MD. A psychologist doesn't have to go through the same medical training, but their path is rigorous all the same.

After finishing undergraduate, prospective psychologists choose to pursue a PhD (which takes about 5-7 years to complete) or Psy.D (which takes 4-6 years). Either way, it's a lot of money -- the American Psychological Association put in-state tuition at an annual $7,104, and that was a few years ago, so it's only increased. Then, they need to get licensed by their state board, which is not an easy thing to do.



Requirements: College degree, Juris Doctor, Bar exam
Time investment: 7 years
Cost investment: $150,000+

When talking jobs that are way more lucrative than your own, doctors and lawyers are inevitably brought up. But you can cross-examine creeps much faster than you can pick up a scalpel without supervision.

First up? That four-year bachelor's degree, where you'll spend all of senior year studying for the LSAT while your buddies do keg stands. Next is law school (the in-state route is $23,214 a year), if you even get in. Then, a meager three years later, you'll take the bar exam. Each state has its own system, but rest assured you'll be charged a few hundred, so be sure you really want this. "Law is the single field with the highest job dissatisfaction," says Gerberg. "A lot of really smart people get into it, and it’s just not what they thought it was going to be."


Financial manager

Requirements: College degree, usually master's, possible certification
Time investment: 6 years
Cost investment: $125,000+

Technically only a college degree is required, but this is one of those deals where the "optional" Finance or Business Administration masters degree is "mandatory" if you actually want to get anywhere.

MBA costs continue to climb, and the big names like Wharton manage to milk over $120,000 out of two years of classes (though, to be fair, plenty of well-regarded state schools offer residents a more reasonable ~$30,000 a year tuition).

Eventually, you might decide to get Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certified, which will require three exams, plus lovely registration fees. This may set you back financially for a spell, but will definitely make you stand out against office rival Greg. Hate that guy. 


College Professor

Requirements: College degree, PhD, possible work, or research experience
Time investment: 9-11 years
Cost investment: $200,000+

To teach in a college, you basically never leave it. If you're serious about that tenure, which is kind of the goal, you must pursue a PhD in your subject immediately upon college graduation.

Serving as a TA will likely offset some costs, but you're still in for 5-7 more years of studying, which will easily rack up $100k. And if you think it's over once you've added "Dr" to your name, guess again. Many colleges expect a lengthy list of papers, research projects, and/or other relevant work experience to accompany any staffer's bio, so better work on getting published in The Journal of Dead Languages ASAP. And also make it out to a mixer once in a while. "A lot of times people who have been highly academic don’t have some of the social skills or aren’t active in organizations, like volunteering," Gerberg says. "They aren’t out meeting people who could be good for their career."



Requirements: Five-year college degree, internship, Architect Registration Examination
Time investment: 10 years
Cost investment: $100,000+

Architects are on the lower end of the pay scale here, but they definitely put in a same amount of effort. For starters, they must complete an extra year of undergrad, since programs with the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) seal of approval are five years long. (DesignIntelligence puts annual tuition at those schools, if you're going in-state, at around $19,454.) After they've passed that hurdle, they're at the mercy of the Internship Development Program (IDP). Basically, architects are expected to log time as apprentices at firms before they can go for their own licenses. The program takes several years to complete, but the good news is the average time has gone down to 4.9 years.

Next up is the Architect Registration Examination, so you can earn your license. As one final, elegant fuck you, it costs $1,470. But spending all that cash will be worth it: "If you want to be an architect, there’s obviously more than money involved," Gerberg says. "A cousin of mine worked with I.M. Pei on the National Holocaust Museum. That meant a great deal to him."

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Requirements: College degree, PhD, possible research apprenticeship
Time Investment: 9-14 years
Cost Investment: $200,000+

Want to rock planet ties daily? Time to buckle down and study. After you completing your undergrad degree, you'll need a PhD in either astronomy or physics, so add another 5-7 years of reading to your tab (along with that PhD price tag). There's no explicit requirements after securing the degree, per se, although you may log another 2-3 years in temp postdoctoral research position, where you work under more established scientists to further hone your expertise. Once you're done with all that, you could get hired by the federal government, so keep your behavior in check, because it will come up in your background check. (Damn that sophomore year "Anarchy Bros, Cop Killer Hos" party!)

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Kristin Hunt is a staff writer for Thrillist. She only had to get a bachelor's degree, but it's technically "of science," so she's basically an astronomer. Follow her to baffling designations at @kristin_hunt.