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Big Bucks Without Big Debt

Earn $100K Salaries Without Advance Degree

By Grace Chen

Don't be afraid to fantasize about earning six figures. Doctors and lawyers aren't the only professionals in the $100K club. In fact, there are quite a few well-compensated professions that are open to bachelor's degree holders. Even if you don't quite reach those elusive six-digits, the following careers can offer a hefty paycheck without the decades of student loan payback that can come with a master's or doctoral program. Best of all, if you're open to relocating, each of the five professions below holds the possibility of hitting that magic number--if you're willing to choose your zip code with care.

Police Supervisor

The Job: As a supervising police officer you'd be in charge of overseeing subordinate officers, keeping records of your force's activities, and assigning duties to station personnel. The ability to exercise good judgment in intense and high-pressure situations is crucial for this job. You'll also have to be willing to work overtime as well as weekends and holidays to ensure the round-the-clock police coverage your community needs.

The Debt: The minimum requirement for police supervisors in many states is simply a high school diploma. Since you're new to the field, get a jump on competition by earning an associate or bachelor degree in criminal justice or law enforcement.
The Zip Code: Check out 12123, Nassau, New York, where first-line supervisors of police officers made an average salary of $113, 810 in 2007, close to $40,000 more than the national average.

Registered Nurse (RN)

The Job: All RNs, regardless of their focus, are responsible for providing medical care and education to patients and their families. If you're an adrenaline junkie, you could thrive as an emergency room nurse. Can't get enough of newborns? Consider a career in neonatology nursing.

The Debt: Take your pick from an associate degree in nursing (AND) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or even a diploma program in nursing.

The Zip Code: While median earnings of RNs nationwide are nothing to sneeze at (close to $60,000 in 2007), nurses in San Jose, California (95101), banked an average of $95,580.

Computer Software Engineer

The Job: Software engineers focus on designing and developing computer software to meet the needs of the rapidly growing population of computer users worldwide. In addition to being one of the fastest-growing careers in the nation, this profession lends itself to telecommuting, an added perk if you don't want to leave home to find a higher-paying position.

The Debt: In 2006, eighty percent of all software engineers had at least a bachelor's degree. If you're an aspiring computer software engineer, check out degree programs in computer science or software engineering

The Zip Code: Average wages for professionals in this field in Haverhill, Massachusetts (01830), were $106,270 in 2007, while nationally the average was $85,660.

Dental Hygienist

The Job: It may not seem glamorous, but keeping people's mouths clean is a practical career choice offering job security, high wages, and even some flexibility in scheduling. Strong interpersonal skills are a must for these professionals, who spend their days up close with their patients.

The Debt: At the bare minimum you'll need an associate's degree or certificate in dental hygiene to practice in a private dental office or clinic. Earning a bachelor's degree could help you compete for higher-paying jobs.

The Zip Code: Most hygienists earn a comfortable living regardless of their location -- the national average was just over $64,000 in 2007. Zip code 98221 (Anacortes, Washington) tops the list of high-paying cities, however, where hygienist salaries average $97,600.

Interior Designer

The Job: Although reality TV shows have created a generation of amateur in-home designers, professionals in this field work in spaces ranging from airports to schools. In addition to combining paint colors, fabrics, window treatments and light fixtures, interior designers must also be able to read blueprints, understand fire codes, and collaborate with architects and contractors.

The Debt: You'll need at least an associate's degree to land an entry-level position as an interior designer. In 23 states designers must be licensed.

The Zip Code: Average earnings for interior designers were just over $50,000 in 2007. Head for Grand Rapids, Michigan (49501), however, and you could make double that.

You don't have to spend the next 10 years in school to make a comfortagble salary. Choose your field of study and your future home with care and you could soon find yourself working your way to a six-figure paycheck.

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