If you love brain teasers and solving puzzles, you're probably a natural problem-solver. While the traditional fit for a career could be engineering or science, we came up with a list of jobs that you might not expect. And all of them require only an associate degree or less at an entry level.

10 Jobs for Natural Problem-Solvers

If you love brain teasers, solving puzzles, or anything that requires an analytical mind, you're probably a natural problem-solver. While the traditional fit for a career could be engineering, mathematics, or science, we came up with a list of jobs that you might not expect would be great for natural problem-solvers. And all of them require only an associate degree or less at an entry level.

To generate our list, we started with 314 occupations that require a two-year degree or less, and used the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) database to filter for jobs where "Making Decisions & Solving Problems" was rated "very important" with a "high level of competence." Our final list of jobs includes occupations who had an average score of at least 4 out of 5 on the "importance" scale and at least 5 out of 7 on the "level-of-competence" scale, according to O*NET.

Respiratory Therapy Technicians

Respiratory Therapy Technicians

  • Average Salary (2015): $57,590
  • Education Required: Associate degree

Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals, but some work in nursing care facilities or in doctor's offices. They help patients of all ages with respiratory challenges, including connecting ventilators, inserting tubes down patients' trachea, diagnosing breathing problems, treating patients of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), performing respiratory tests, etc. Respiratory therapists use their analytical skills and test results to determine the best course of treatment for each patient. They also may need to use quick decision-making skills during emergency situations related to breathing, such as heart attacks.

Police Detectives

Police Detectives

  • Average Salary (2015): $60,270
  • Education Required: High school degree to bachelor's degree

Police detectives are the ultimate problem-solvers, and it's no surprise that as a society, we are fascinated by their work, as evidenced in myriad TV shows, movies, and hundreds of thousands of detective novels from every corner of the world. Oftentimes called special agents or agents, police detectives gather facts and evidence about probable and actual crimes. They need to be able to think creatively, find clues, and use evidence to help get inside the mind of a criminal and solve crimes. If you are a problem-solver who doesn't mind working under high pressure, media scrutiny, oftentimes limited resources and incomplete information, then becoming a police detective may be a perfect fit for you.

Surgical Assistants

Surgical Assistants

  • Average Salary (2015): $44,330
  • Education Required: Post-secondary non-degree award

Surgical assistants work in high-pressure environments in hospitals and assist surgeons during surgical procedures. They often help prepare operating rooms with the right tools for the procedure, and may also have to set up complicated equipment. And during the surgery, the assistants may be required to handle tissue or organs. This requires solid analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to think quickly under pressure, as conditions can change unexpectedly during surgery. Surgical assistants must also have the physical stamina to stand on their feet for long hours while maintaining concentration. And even though surgeons are ultimately responsible for a patient's life during surgery, surgical assistants are an essential part of the medical team, as they also ensure that all medical equipment is functioning properly. Surgeries can involve complications, and all medical personnel must work together to adapt to changing situations.

Air Traffic Controllers

Air Traffic Controllers

  • Average Salary (2015): $122,950
  • Education Required: Associate degree

Air traffic controllers are one of the highest paying jobs that require less than a bachelor's degree to enter the field. The stakes are high, the pressure is on, and it's their job to keep planes taking off, landing, and flying safely at both busy airports and in remote areas. This job can be exhilarating on many levels, but it's not for the faint of heart. It requires quick decision-making and the ability to stay calm under pressure. Some air traffic controllers may direct planes from inside the control tower, while many others will be on the runway directing traffic from the ground. 

Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and Paramedics

EMT and Paramedics

  • Average Salary (2015): $31,980
  • Education Required: Post-secondary non-degree award

Making decisions and solving problems that oftentimes result in saving someone's life are the ultimate test for problem-solvers. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics solve medical problems under high pressure in emergency situations all day long. They've been trained to make good decisions in less-than-ideal situations. This is a profession for those who like to work under pressure and can respond and adapt to a changing situation. EMT and paramedics can be incredibly rewarding jobs for those who thrive in these high-pressure situations, can follow medical protocol, and want to be part of the medical industry without having to attend medical school.

Computer Systems Analysts

Computer Systems Analyst

  • Average Salary (2015): $85,800
  • Education Required: Bachelor's degree

In today's computer-dominated world, it's no surprise that the occupational outlook for computer system analysts is very healthy, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This profession is definitely a good fit for problem solvers, analytical minds, and those who want to make things better and more efficient. Business skills are also needed, as this is a profession that combines technical and business abilities. A bachelor's degree is usually required for professionals who study organizations' current IT set up and make and implement recommendations. However, some companies may prefer experience over credentials, and in the IT world it's common to earn certification or take a 6-12 month course designed for quick entry into the workforce. 



  • Average Salary (2015): $46,870
  • Education Required: Post-secondary non-degree award

Many little kids dream of becoming a firefighter, and may be excited about the idea of rushing into danger to save people's lives. But to to this for a living, you must go through rigorous physical training, as well as mental training. Firefighters must be able to make quick decisions with far-reaching consequences during emergencies every day, and they need to be accountable to both the public and their team. During non-emergency situations, firefighters must be able to correctly assess a situation and decide on a particular course of action. While problem-solving skills are very important for firefighters, this is not job for analytical couch potatoes, as the physical requirements for this profession are very demanding.

Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers

Electrical Power Line Installer

  • Average Salary (2015): $61,430
  • Education Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Also known as line workers, these brave professionals spend a lot of time outdoors -- rain or shine -- making sure that the power lines that light our houses, power our computers and keep our refrigerators running are in good shape. This work deals with high-voltage electricity, and it can be dangerous -- especially because it is oftentimes performed at significant heights on electricity poles. They identify defective devices and fix them using their problem-solving skills, whether it's in the middle of a blizzard or in 100-degree heat.

Power Plant Operators, Distributors and Dispatchers

Power Plant Operators

  • Average Salary (2015): $75,660
  • Education Required: High school diploma or equivalent

Electric power makes the world go round, but it all seems so automated these days that it can be easy to forget that it's dedicated people who make it all work, including power plant operators, distributors and dispatchers. Since electricity needs to be monitored around-the-clock, these positions oftentimes include shift work, which can be physically demanding. These professionals control the systems that generate and distribute electric power, making it possible for all of us to flip a switch at any time of night and day and have the power we rely on. They need to make decisions about starting or stopping generators and find and solve operating problems.

Industrial Production Managers

Industrial Production Manager

  • Average Salary (2015): $93,940
  • Education Required: Bachelor's degree

Most consumer products are made in a factory large or small, and while automation rules supreme, industrial production manager are ultimately responsible for the proper functioning of their plant. Whether the plan produces cars, muffin molds or toothpicks, industrial production managers analyze production data, allocate and optimize resources, streamline production processes and much more, all while using their analytical skills. A main question to answer is trying to figure out how to produce the most widgets at the lowest cost while keeping workers safe, margins high and stakeholders happy.


  • O*NET OnLine, http://www.onetonline.org/
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
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