While we usually talk about ROI in business, return on investment applies to your career, too. If you spend years studying to prepare for a profession, you want to get paid accordingly. If you put in the time to train, you want to be compensated in your paycheck. But what if you're not interested in earning a master's degree or Ph.D? What if you'd prefer to keep your studying and training to a minimum, and still bring home the bacon?
Lucky for you, not all high-paying jobs require years of preparation. On our list of 50 Best Careers, 10 jobs stand out as offering excellent return on investment—higher-than-average paychecks in return for relatively little education and training.
For on-the-job expectations, as well as advice on how to get hired, click on the career that interests you:
Actuary: After earning a bachelor's degree, likely with a finance or math concentration, actuaries bring in a median annual salary of $87,000. They're also required to earn a certificate by passing a series of exams.
Biomedical engineer: These workers earn a median annual salary of nearly $79,000 but need only a bachelor's degree, usually in mechanical or electronics engineering. Biomedical engineer ranks highest of all professions on the Labor Department's growth projections, with an expected 72 percent increase in the number of jobs available between 2008 and 2018.
Computer software engineer: With a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field, computer software engineers bring in a median salary of $87,000 a year. For more complex jobs, a master's degree may be required, but the real gold standard is in-depth knowledge of programming languages. Employment is expected to swell by a whopping 295,200 jobs, or more than 32 percent, between 2008 and 2018.
Court reporter: After completing a two-year training program and earning a state certification, court reporters make a median salary of $48,000 annually. With a specialized certification, such as registered diplomate reporter, certified legal video specialist, or certified broadcast captioner, income can be even higher.
Dental hygienist: With an associate's degree and license, dental hygienists earn a median annual salary of $67,000. About 300 accredited dental hygiene programs throughout the country offer the necessary degree.
Financial analyst: Seek out a bachelor's degree in finance, business administration, accounting, statistics, or economics, and this profession will offer you a median annual paycheck of $74,000. That includes bonuses, which can make up a large chunk of total earnings. Financial analysts sometimes need a license, but that process is often sponsored by their employer.
Gaming manager: These supervisors attend a vocational or dealer school, then are on their way to earning a median annual salary of $67,000. They're also required to earn a license from the state. There were only about 6,200 gaming manager positions throughout the country in 2008, but there are far more gaming supervisor positions—about 40,900—which tend to pay less and offer less responsibility.
Meteorologist: For job seekers interested in weather patterns, a bachelor's degree can pave the way to the title of meteorologist and a median paycheck of nearly $85,000 annually. Those who work for the National Weather Service tend to make less.
Physician assistant: These healthcare workers bring in a median of $84,000 annually. Some educational programs are two years, but most offer bachelor's or master's degrees. Physician assistants must also obtain a license. The number of physician assistant jobs is expected to grow by 29,200, or 39 percent, by 2018, among the fastest occupational growth rates projected by the Labor Department.
Sales manager: This occupation has the highest median annual salary, nearly $97,000, of all the jobs on our list. Sales managers need a bachelor's degree, though some also seek a master's degree in business administration. Hiring managers tend to value experience over education.