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12. Optometrist

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Median pay: $105,000
Top pay: $149,000
10-year job growth: 33.1%
Total jobs*: 34,200
What they do all day? It's not just about the eye charts. Optometrists do everything from helping patients get the right prescription for glasses, to treating red eye, to diagnosing serious eye diseases. They typically work in a medical office but might also work in a hospital or retail outlet (think LensCrafters).

How to get the job? Much like M.D.s, optometrists need a four-year post-graduate degree, as well as a license. Some students also do a one-year residency to develop a specialty or boost their experience.

What makes it great? Good pay, without the frequent long hours and middle-of-the-night emergency calls doctors expect. Patients typically aren't in pain or afraid, so visits tend to be low-key, and many stay with the same optometrist for years.

What's the catch? That four-year degree? It's not easy or cheap. And depending on the setting, working evening and weekend hours may be part of the job. --K.A.

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction Low stress Benefit to society Flexibility
Published: October 29, 2012
Notes: All pay data from PayScale.com. Median pay is for an experienced worker (at least five or seven years in the field). Top pay represents the 90th percentile. Job growth is estimated for 2010-20, and based on people working in broader 'job family' from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
*Total jobs is estimated number of people working in broader BLS 'job family.'

Sources: PayScale.com, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and CNNMoney research
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