16 Jobs That Pay Less Than You Think

Being of great service to the world does not guarantee a big paycheck

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AFP/Getty ImagesZoologists make an average of $52,186 annually.
By Max Nisen

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 realize that computer engineers headed to the Bay Area can earn six figures right out of college, and that surgeons earn an average of $358,000.

Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor 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.

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Head chef

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 the first group who make the big bucks.
Average annual earnings: $38,297
Educational requirements: None required, though it's increasingly common for chefs to attend culinary school.

Post-doctoral fellow

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.
Average annual earnings: Varies by type and funder, but at entry, the NIH offers a $45,000 stipend.
Educational requirements: A Ph.D is required.

Graphic designer

Job description: Design and execute visual material, by hand or using software, for logos, advertising material, and more.
Average annual earnings: $48,345
Educational requirements: Usually a bachelor's in graphic design is expected.

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Dietitian/nutritionist

Job description: Advise people on healthy eating habits or on achieving a specific health goal.
Average annual earnings: $49,032
Educational requirements: Most people with this job have a bachelor's and some supervised training. Additionally, many states require a license.

Legislators

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.
Average annual earnings: $49,510
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.

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Zoologists and marine/wildlife biologists

Job description: These biologists study the behavior and characteristics of wild animals.
Average annual earnings: $52,186
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.

Professor

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.
Average annual earnings: $59,860 (area, ethnic, or cultural studies), $64,955 (mathematical science), $67,953 (English language and literature)
Educational requirements: Generally a Ph.D is required. A master's might be enough for some teachers at community colleges.

Accountants and auditors

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.
Average annual earnings: $60,845
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.

Psychologist

Job description: Psychologists diagnose and evaluate mental and emotional disorders, as well as conducting research on the same.
Average annual earnings: $62,731
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.

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Architect

Job description: Architects plan and design buildings and other types of structures.
Average annual earnings: $64,481
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.

Credit analysts

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.
Average annual earnings: $66,163
Educational requirements: Becoming a credit analyst generally requires at least a bachelor's degree.

Budget analysts


Job description: Help companies, organizations, or the government organize finances and set program budgets.
Average annual earnings: $66,414
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

Job description: Analyze, design, test, and maintain networks including local area networks, Internet, intranet, and more.
Average annual earnings: $67,106
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.

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Chemist

Job description: Chemists study the properties, structures, and reactions of substances, and often use it to develop new products or processes for making them.
Average annual earnings: $68,730
Educational requirements: A bachelor's is the minimum, but research jobs require a master's or Ph.D.

Biomedical engineer

Job description: These are engineers who work on building solutions for problems in biology and medicine.
Average annual earnings: $72,016
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.

Optometrist

Job description: They perform eye exams and make just a fraction as much as some medical professionals. For comparison, the average physician earns $184,979 a year, and dentists, who undergo a similar amount of training, earn $155,671.
Average annual earnings: $94,134
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.

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