November 13, 2013 11:11 AM

CNNMoney/PayScale’s top  careers with big growth, great pay and satisfying work.

1. Biomedical Engineer

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Photo: John Jernigan

Median pay: $87,000
Top pay: $134,000
10-year job growth: 61.7%
Total jobs*: 15,700

What they do all day? The MRI, the pacemaker, artificial joints – biomedical engineers have helped make them the wonders they are today. BMEs, as they’re called, work to design, create and improve medical devices such as prosthetics, artificial organs, and bioengineered skin.

How to get the job? BMEs typically have a bachelor’s or master’s in biomedical engineering, and may have an MBA, law degree, or M.D. as well. Employers value team players who can communicate complex ideas well; being research-oriented is another plus.

What’s great? What’s not? For those with a technical aptitude, it’s an opportunity to make the world a better place. Every day, there’s the potential to create something groundbreaking. But nine-to-fivers need not apply — the hours can be long since exciting research doesn’t tend to fit the 40-hour work week. –Kate Ashford

“You can impact so many lives by creating technology that will repair a hip or help repair eyesight or allow somebody to breathe better,” says Christine Schmidt, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida.

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction: A
Benefit to society: A
Flexibility: B
Low stress: A

2. Clinical Nurse Specialist

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Courtesy: Jocelyn Sese

Median pay: $86,500
Top pay: $126,000
10-year job growth: 26%
Total jobs*: 3,449,300

What they do all day? With Obamacare raising the pressure to control health costs, it’s no surprise this is a hot healthcare career. These change agents use their clinical expertise and organizational influence to develop policies designed to improve patient outcomes and deliver health care more efficiently.

How to get the job? The best specialists are a combination of nurse, leader, educator and researcher. A big part of the role involves teaching and motivating others to adopt new practices and innovations. Graduate-level training in a nursing specialty is a must.

What’s great? What’s not? It can be extremely satisfying to mentor other staff members and have a real impact on patient care. But trying to persuade experienced staffers to embrace new procedures can be tough. –Grace Wong

“Change is a constant for me. I love the thrill of discovery,” says Jocelyn Sese (right), a CNS at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Even after all these years of nursing, there are still new things to learn and introduce to the staff.”

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction: A
Benefit to society: A
Flexibility: A
Low stress: C

3. Software Architect

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Courtesy: Tom Thomas

Median pay: $121,000
Top pay: $161,000
10-year job growth: 27.6%
Total jobs*: 520,800

What they do all day? Software architects play a pivotal role as bridge-builders between technical teams and management. More than just great software engineers, they understand how to solve business problems with technology and are responsible for designing a system that fulfills those needs.

How to get the job? Good architects are big-picture thinkers who understand how an organization’s software system works as a whole, so it helps to be familiar with help desk, data center or other IT operations beyond software development.

What’s great? What’s not? Architects make vital decisions that drive a business technologically, so it’s a high-pressure job. On the plus side, since software is an integral part of nearly every industry these days, architects who stay sharp technically have the opportunity to work in practically any sector in the world. –G.W.

“My favorite part is having the ability to work with so many different groups on a regular basis,” says Tom Thomas, a software architect at Costco Wholesale in Seattle. “Each day I have the opportunity to make [a] customer’s life that much easier.”

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction: B
Benefit to society: B
Flexibility: A
Low stress: B

4. General Surgeon

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Courtesy: Tyler Hughes

Median pay: $288,000
Top pay: $396,000
10-year job growth: 24.4%
Total jobs*: 859,300

What they do all day? No two days are alike for these in-demand surgeons who often staff trauma units. They can perform a wide range of procedures, from gallbladder removals to esophageal surgery to skin tumor excision. Often the backbone of community hospitals, they see patients and offer surgical recommendations when they’re not in the operating room.

How to get the job? General surgeons must undergo rigorous training to be able to perform a vast range of surgeries, so interest in a wide range of surgical and medical disciplines is key. Adaptability also is critical, since advanced techniques and tools for minimally invasive surgeries are always changing.

What’s great? What’s not? Handling insurance and Medicaid paperwork can be frustrating, but there’s nothing more gratifying than saving lives and caring for a community on a daily basis. –G.W.

“Being a surgeon is an amazingly fulfilling life,” says Dr. Tyler Hughes, a general surgeon in McPherson, Kan. “It’s not about how many dollars you have in the bank or who thinks you’re important. It’s about taking care of a community and knowing you made a difference.”

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction: A
Benefit to society: A
Flexibility: C
Low stress: C


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