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14. IT Network Engineer

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IT Network Engineer
Median pay: $73,400
Top pay: $104,000
10-year job growth: 27.8%
Total jobs*: 347,200
What they do all day? They are the plumbers of the computer world. Network engineers design and install the high-tech pipes that keep information flowing and then stick around to fix leaks and clogs. A network can be as small as a company's intranet or as big as the World Wide Web.

How to get the job? A college degree is a good start, but this is the kind of job where knowledge is gained hands-on through experience. It requires the foresight of a chess player to see how one change in a system will affect operations 10 steps down the chain.

What makes it great? Like the other tech jobs on our list, network engineers are riding high on the data boom. Positions are out there for qualified professionals along with the opportunity for rapid advancement.

What's the catch? Since most networks get their heaviest use during business hours, maintenance and upgrades often have to be done during odd times. Be prepared to clock in after everyone else has gone home. --T.Z.

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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