10 Highest-Paying Bachelor’s Degrees
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- Professionals can increase their salary potential by earning a bachelor's degree.
- Certain majors lead to higher-paying jobs than others.
- The highest-paying bachelor's degrees include STEM, business, and social science majors.
How much can you earn with a bachelor's degree? Workers with a bachelor's degree earned a median annual salary of almost $68,000 in 2020. That was about $19,000 more than associate degree-holders and $27,000 more than those with only a high school diploma.
But what are the highest-paying bachelor's degrees? Should you choose to major in electrical engineering, computer science, or something else? Our guide analyzes the data on the highest-paying bachelor's degrees.
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How to Earn a Bachelor's Degree
College graduates typically earn higher salaries than those without a bachelor's degree. But which majors offer the best return on investment? It's useful to know how to get a bachelor's degree before learning which majors pay the most.
Earning a bachelor's degree generally takes four years for full-time students. Undergraduates need a minimum of 120 credits to receive a bachelor's degree. And colleges award several types of bachelor's degrees.
A bachelor of arts degree emphasizes more humanities and social science coursework, while a bachelor of science degree may focus on natural sciences and engineering. When choosing a BA vs. BS, both types of degrees can lead to high-paying jobs. In general, however, professionals with a BS often earn higher salaries.
Degree-seekers can earn bachelor's degrees at public colleges, private universities, and online schools. Many accredited colleges offer online bachelor's programs for students seeking a more flexible enrollment option. Both in-person and online degrees can lead to high-paying jobs.
What Are the Highest-Paying Bachelor's Degrees?
What are the highest-paying bachelor's degrees? Which major will land you the highest salary out of college? Our list features 10 of the highest-paying majors, according to BLS data. Keep in mind that many of these careers are fit for candidates from various fields or majors.
Petroleum engineers create ways to extract oil and other natural resources from underground deposits. Some also design methods to extract resources from previously tapped wells. These professionals may develop equipment and methods to drill for or extract oil. They also monitor, test, and maintain equipment.
Careers in petroleum engineering require a bachelor's degree. Students learn about materials science, engineering principles, and geology within an engineering major. Related careers include nuclear engineering.
- Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $137,330
- Highest-Paying State: New Jersey (average salary of $184,560)
Aeronautics and Astronautics
Aeronautics and astronautics majors learn to design airplanes, satellites, and spacecraft. Undergraduates study engineering principles, aerodynamics, and propulsion while earning an aeronautics degree. They also learn how to create prototypes and run tests. The curriculum features laboratory and field training. Many students complete internships with aerospace and aeronautics companies.
After earning a degree, aeronautical and aerospace professionals apply their training to build aircraft. They work in teams to complete projects that meet quality and safety standards. Aeronautical engineers and aerospace engineers can earn an aeronautics degree online.
- Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $118,610
- Highest-Paying State: Washington, D.C. (average salary of $145,300)
Actuaries evaluate the costs of business risks, primarily in the insurance industry. They determine the likelihood of risks, like accidents and natural disasters, by using statistical analysis. Then, they evaluate the costs of those events. After their analysis, actuaries create insurance policies or strategies designed to minimize the cost of uncertainty and risk.
Most actuaries major in actuarial science, statistics, math, or a related field. They typically take applied statistics, risk management, finance, and economics courses. Actuaries also complete a certification process in their specialty area, such as health insurance, car insurance, or investments.
- Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $111,030
- Highest-Paying State: New York (average salary of $154,150)
A bachelor's in computer science teaches students about programming languages, computer architecture, and software development. After earning a computer science degree, graduates can work in diverse roles, including software developer, systems architect, and information security analyst.
In these roles, computer science majors create applications, design networks, and protect private data. Software developers, for example, design tools to complete tasks or run devices. Related careers include software quality assurance analyst and software tester.
- Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $110,140
- Highest-Paying State: Washington (average salary of $138,400)
Business computing blends business administration with information technology. A bachelor's degree in business computing or business management includes IT and management training. Majors learn to analyze an organization's business needs, design tech solutions, and lead IT teams. Many programs incorporate an internship component to provide students with hands-on experience.
With training in business computing, graduates may pursue careers as IT managers, systems analysts, and information security analysts. Security analysts evaluate an organization's networks to prevent security breaches and protect private information. They may also recommend security strategies and best practices.
- Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $103,590
- Highest-Paying State: California (average salary of $125,990)
Electrical engineers build electrical tools. They design motors, communications systems, and other equipment that uses or generates electricity. They also test electrical tools for safety. Electrical engineers evaluate problems and recommend solutions.
Becoming an electrical engineer requires a bachelor's degree. Most professionals in this field hold a bachelor's in electrical or electronics engineering. Students study circuit theory, electrical systems design, and engineering design during their program. Undergraduate engineering programs also incorporate laboratory requirements.
- Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $103,390
- Highest-Paying State: Washington, D.C. (average salary of $126,840)
Industrial engineers design systems that improve efficiency. They also create equipment or processes to reduce wastefulness. Industrial engineers help manufacturing and production organizations function smoothly.
Industrial engineers typically major in industrial engineering or industrial technology. Students study manufacturing systems design, engineering principles, and production systems planning during their undergraduate program. They may also learn about automation in manufacturing, including integrating machines or robots into manufacturing systems.
- Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $88,950
- Highest-Paying State: New Mexico (average salary of $113,920)
Operations research analysts evaluate an organization's processes using statistical and analytical methods. They research sales information, customer satisfaction, and other metrics to recommend solutions to an organization's problems. Operations research analysts may rely on simulations, modeling, and statistical analysis to develop their recommendations.
Some colleges offer a bachelor's degree in operations research. Operations research analysts may also major in fields like business and social science. Any degree that focuses on quantitative training, statistics, and data analysis can help graduates pursue careers in operations research.
- Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $86,200
- Highest-Paying State: Washington, D.C. (average salary of $116,700)
Applied Economics and Management
An economics degree ranks as one of the highest-paying bachelor's degrees. During an economics program, undergraduates study microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics. In applied economics courses, participants learn how to analyze financial information and create projections. Many economics programs incorporate management coursework, as well.
After earning an applied economics degree, graduates often pursue high-paying careers as financial analysts. In this role, they evaluate financial trends and measure the performance of different investment vehicles. Financial analysts also manage portfolios and recommend investment strategies.
- Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $83,660
- Highest-Paying State: New York (average salary of $130,670)
Public accountants create tax returns and financial statements for individuals and organizations. They specialize in financial information that clients must disclose by law, including corporate earnings reports and income tax returns. Within public accounting, professionals may specialize in areas like auditing, forensic accounting, and personal financial advising. Public accountants who return to school can pursue a CPA license to increase their earning potential.
Careers in public accounting require a bachelor's degree in accounting. Accounting majors study financial accounting, income tax accounting, and auditing theory. CPAs need additional coursework beyond the bachelor's degree to earn their license.
- Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $73,560
- Highest-Paying State: Washington, D.C. (average salary of $110,140)
Frequently Asked Questions About the Highest-Paying Bachelor's Degrees
What is the easiest degree with the highest pay?
The highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's degree include careers in tech, engineering, business, and healthcare. But what degree offers the easiest route to a high-paying career?
The answer depends on your strengths and weaknesses. Majoring in information technology or computer science can be relatively easy for some students, while others may find these fields quite difficult. However, STEM and business aren't the only lucrative options. For example, education and social work majors can find jobs that pay well above average.
Which bachelor's degree is best for the future?
Picking a college major can sometimes feel like predicting the future. Which degree will lead to a long and successful career? And what are the best ways to career plan for the future?
Rather than choosing a bachelor's degree based solely on projections, choose a degree that builds future-proof skills. The ability to analyze information, communicate clearly, and work on a team will benefit you in just about any career. Since most people change careers multiple times during their working life, choose a major that emphasizes skills that transfer well between fields.
Which job has the highest salary in the world?
Many of the highest-paying careers are related to business leadership, healthcare, finance, and tech. According to the BLS, many jobs exceed the $100 per hour threshold, including chief executive officers, physicians and surgeons, and petroleum engineers.
Other high-paying jobs include financial manager, senior software developer, and data scientist. However, many of the highest-paying jobs require experience and a graduate degree. For example, the top-paid lawyers earn more than $208,000 per year, but lawyers need a law degree to practice. Similarly, many top-paying healthcare careers require a graduate degree.
What is the most respected degree?
Undergraduates gain valuable training and skills in diverse majors, including in the liberal arts, education, healthcare, and STEM. Employers tend to look for candidates with transferable skills, like critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.
The most respected degree depends on the company and role in specific fields, like tech or business. Many tech companies hire computer science majors, but they also hire candidates who complete coding bootcamps or other majors. Before choosing a major, look into common educational requirements in your specific field. And consider how to stand out by adding an internship, practicum experience, or certification to your resume.
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