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20 Highest-Paying Degrees: Get The Most Out Of College

03.22.2022 • 9 min read

Nick Griffin

Subject Matter Expert

This article provides a list of the highest-paying college degrees and explains the job opportunities for each of them.

In This Article

  1. What Degrees Make the Most Money?

  2. 20 Highest-Paying Bachelor Degrees

  3. How Do I Get Started?

People with any college degree report higher income, better life satisfaction, and maintain a greater sense of purpose.

Trying to figure out what to major in is probably the most important and most difficult choice a prospective college student needs to make.

That’s a lot of stress to put on one decision.

There are countless things to think about when it comes to choosing a major. Consider the following whether you are going to college after getting your high school diploma or going back to school at 40 to pursue a new career:

  • What am I interested in?

  • How long can I afford to be in school?

  • Will I need to figure out how to work full-time and go to school full-time?

  • Will there be jobs available when I graduate or do I need an internship?

  • How much work experience do I need to land a good job?

  • Can I make enough money to pay off my loans and live well after graduating?

Putting all of this pressure on yourself can lead to running around in circles and feeling completely overwhelmed.

So, how do you figure out what to do for the rest of your life?

Look through our list of the highest-paying jobs after college. Think about careers that sound interesting to you—some may jump off the page when you read about them.

Write those possible careers to study down on a list as you learn a bit more about them. Talk to a few people who do that job. Since this is the career you’ll be dedicating your life to, make sure it’s a good fit.

There will be drawbacks in any career, figure out what those are by talking to others who do the job. In any career, you choose it is important that your values align with what you will be doing.

Finally, make a choice and move forward with an open mind. It’s how you show up in college, and your job, that is the most important thing in our job market today.

What Degrees Make the Most Money?

When considering which degree to pursue a good-paying career in, there are several factors that need to be considered. The biggest one is the cost of your education.

While many of the highest-paying careers and most lucrative majors are in the healthcare industry, these majors will take years to complete beyond a bachelor’s degree.

Becoming an anesthesiologist or a surgeon, for example, pays out big-time with average annual salaries above $250,000. That’s great money, without a doubt, in a career that is rated as extremely rewarding.

Consider, however, the time and cost of the education necessary to become an anesthesiologist or a surgeon.

Typically, someone in these professions will go through four years of medical school after their undergraduate degree; then they’ll have 4 to 5 years of residency. Meaning it could take over 12 years to make a substantial income and a huge mass of debt to pay off.

For this reason, this list of the highest-paying jobs per degree will be those that require a bachelor’s degree, typically four years of college—ranked by the US Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS). This way you can easily compare what the best-paid jobs in the US are on a level playing field with no master’s degree and years of experience.

The 20 highest-paying jobs after college listed with each major are ranked by entry-level salary.

This way you know the best college majors to study for making a higher salary. To know your earning potential, each salary listed is the median average salary currently in that profession.

20 Highest-Paying Bachelor Degrees

1. Electrical Engineering

Becoming an electrical engineer means designing and developing electrical equipment. From private sector development to working with the federal government, you would be creating solutions to run effectively complex electrical equipment.

Electrical Engineer jobs are on the rise, expecting 7% job growth by 2030 with a median annual salary of $103,390.

2. Computer Science

There are many jobs in computer science or information technology. The best paying job is software development, which involves a lot of problem-solving with applications and programs. You would be working for software publishers in manufacturing or quality assurance.

Software developers earn a median annual salary of $110,140 with a strong 22% job growth expected in this decade.

3. Petroleum Engineering

Moving between the office and fieldwork, petroleum engineers design and develop new ways of extracting oil and natural gas. Often, the petroleum engineer serves a vital middle role between the client and the drilling company.

As of now, the field of petroleum engineering is on the rise by 8% with a high salary of $137,330 by mid-career.

That said, students considering entering this field currently should consider a caveat, that this career comes with an expiration date: how quickly nations around the world are transitioning toward alternative energy sources.

4. Industrial Engineering

Industrial engineers think about an industry on a whole system level. They look at all parts of the industry, from workers, materials, and energy output. Industrial engineers work for most companies where they collect data and help solve large issues.

By 2030, there will be 14% more industrial engineers who are currently earning an annual median salary of $88,950.

5. Nuclear Engineering

Both solving complex problems and developing new nuclear technology are key roles of a nuclear engineer. These individuals work with nuclear energy power plants and can be government employees or private contractors.

Job growth is currently declining slowly by 8%, but the average salary of a mid-level nuclear engineer right now is $116,140.

6. Computer Programing

Writing and testing code is the number one function of a computer programmer. Often working on system design, these jobs are available within most industries.

The computer programming profession is declining 10% by 2030. Having a bachelor’s degree gives you a competitive edge over those with an associate's degree though. A mid-level computer programmer can expect to make $89,190 annually.

7. Computer Systems Analysis

By studying a company’s whole computer system, a computer systems analyst will find and implement more efficient systems. Most private companies hire or contract a computer systems analyst to make their work more effective.

With steady 7% job growth, going into the field of computer systems analysis will earn you an average median salary of over $93,000.

8. Aeronautics

A bachelor’s degree in aeronautics or aerospace engineering will prepare you for a career in designing things that fly. From planes to satellites, missiles, and spacecraft, these engineers help with the advancement of flight for both private and public sector entities.

The future of aeronautics looks bright, with 8% job growth and a mid-level salary of $118,610.

9. Applied Mathematics

Having a degree in applied mathematics can take you into several related fields. The highest-paying job right out of college would be to become an actuary. Actuaries work for insurance companies, or as consultants, using mathematics to calculate risk.

At 24%, actuaries are one of the fastest-growing careers out there, and the median annual salary of an actuary is currently $111,030.

10. Software Engineering

Developing whole software applications and programs is the primary job of a software engineer. People in this role can expect to work with a team of developers, analysts, and testers for software publishers.

Software engineers currently make a $110,140 median annual salary, and the job growth is expected to increase by 22% by 2030.

11. Naval Architecture

Naval architects create new designs for anything from sailboats to aircraft carriers, from submarines to oil tankers. These architects design in their offices and take trips out to sea to inspect and maintain their designs.

At a 4% expected growth rate, naval architects make a median salary of $95,440 annually.

12. Quantitative Business Analysis

Becoming a financial manager or analyst means ‌you would work with a company, or consult with several companies, to help them maximize profit. Many financial analysts look at the finances of a whole company and help make critical financial decisions.

With 6% career job growth expected, moving into this career with a bachelor’s degree currently has a median annual salary of $83,660.

13. Dental Hygiene

Chances are you have seen many dental hygienists over the years. Dental hygienists help patients with a plethora of dental issues and play a key role in oral care. Dental hygienists work closely with dentists to discover and treat dental and oral diseases.

The field of dental hygiene is expected to continue growing at a rate of 11% and currently, dental hygienists make an average of $77,090 per year.

14. Energy Management

Overseeing the daily production of energy at a plant is the primary job of an energy manager. Being an energy manager means working with people, understanding systems, and incorporating new information and technology.

The field of energy management is growing steadily at 5% over the next decade with a mean annual salary of $108,790.

15. Industrial Labor Relations

Working in the field of human resource management, these people oversee all the administrative functions of an organization with a variety of job titles. Almost every business and organization has a person in charge of labor relations who works closely with chief executives.

Being in this position means earning a median annual salary of $121,220 with 9% job growth.

16. Astrophysics

Even though there are many career paths that someone can take after earning a bachelor’s in astrophysics, becoming a geoscientist does not require further natural sciences education. Geoscientists work partially in a lab and partially in the field, often going to remote sites to study physical aspects of Earth.

The field of geoscience is seeing steady job growth at 7% through 2030 and an average geoscientist with a bachelor’s degree makes $93,580 per year.

17. Construction Engineering

Also called civil engineering, people in this field design and supervise the building of infrastructure projects. As a civil engineer, your time will be divided between on-site projects and office design work.

Civil engineers are currently making $88,570 as a median annual salary and the field’s job growth is 8%.

18. Finance

There are many different career opportunities right after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in finance. One area of interest is personal finance. Personal financial advisors are self-employed and help individuals, companies, or CEOs manage their finances.

Personal financial advisors are in high demand with 5% growth expected and a mean annual salary of $89,330.

19. Environmental Engineers

These engineers take what we know of the environment and solve problems primarily dealing with human interaction. Working in a variety of settings, environmental engineers typically divide their time between construction job sites and office work.

With the steady growth of 4%, being an environmental engineer currently pays a $92,120 per year median salary.

20. Construction Management

Supervising and coordinating construction projects is the primary function of a construction manager. They spend most of their time on the job site talking to contractors and engineers to make project decisions.

Having a degree in construction management will propel you into a career that pays $97,180 as a median salary and has an 11% expected job growth in the next decade.

How Do I Get Started?

Look through the list you wrote down of the highest paying jobs per degree that you’d be interested in. Follow these steps with each of those jobs:

  1. Look up some programs at schools you are interested in.

  2. Write down the total costs of each program.

  3. Fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and look into scholarship and grant opportunities through those schools.

  4. Talk to people that currently do the job you are thinking of doing.

  5. Consider earning credits before starting college by taking a few courses. You can even get credits through a certificate such as Outlier’s College Foundation certificate, where you can earn up to 12 transferable credits from a top 60 school.

Once you have taken the steps to get started in a career that is interesting to you, opportunities will ‌unfold. Remember to be patient with yourself through this process and enjoy being a student.

No matter if you are going back to college at 30 or starting college right out of high school, you are on the path toward a rewarding and good-paying job without needing a graduate degree. Take pride in your decision to learn and set yourself up for the future. You won’t regret it.

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