Highest-Paying Degree Fields
Pursuing a degree is a great way to develop your skills, advance your career and increase your earning potential. If you're considering pursuing advanced education, there are several fulfilling degree fields to consider. Understanding the degree fields with the highest earning potential may help you determine which field and level of study is best suited to your career goals. In this article, we define the different types of degrees and offer a list of some of the highest-paying degree fields with average salary information and primary duties.
Related: Highest Paying Master's Degrees
What is a degree?
Degrees are designations awarded to individuals who complete advanced education programs through universities, colleges or technical schools. These programs provide specialized training in a wide range of fields and prepare students to succeed in the workforce. If you're considering pursuing a college degree, there are a few different paths from which you may choose. Depending on your long-term career goals and the requirements of your ideal positions, you may choose from the following types of degrees:
Associate degrees comprise two years of full-time study and offer advanced training on a variety of topics and fields of study. Associate degrees are a great way to gain specialized training before entering the workforce or to begin your academic career before moving onto a more advanced degree. Universities, community colleges and vocational schools are all great options to consider when deciding on an associate degree program.
To obtain a bachelor's degree, you may need to complete three to four years of full-time study, depending on your university and area of study. These programs often provide highly advanced training in areas that require more study than associate programs and some may require successful completion of an associate degree or before enrollment. You may find bachelor's degree programs through universities and community colleges.
Master's degree programs often require two years of full-time study. In order to enroll in a master's program, you'll need to hold a bachelor's degree in a related field. Master's programs often expand upon the knowledge gained from your bachelor's program and provide additional, specialized training in your field of choice.
To obtain a doctorate degree, you'll need to complete an additional four to six years of study after receiving your bachelor's and master's degrees. Doctorate programs often provide expert-level, rigorous training on complex subjects, such as healthcare, science, engineering or mathematics.
What are the highest-paying degrees?
Below is a list of some of the highest-paying fields in which to consider pursuing an associate, bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree:
Chemical engineering programs prepare graduates to convert basic raw materials into finished goods and products. There are several opportunities available in a wide range of industries for chemical engineers, from oil production to cosmetics. You may consider a degree in chemical engineering if you're interested in chemistry, science and manufacturing. Chemical engineers make an average salary of $63,762 per year. Chemical engineering requires advanced training and programs often exist at the bachelor's, master's and doctorate degree levels.
As a healthcare or hospital administrator, you may oversee and plan the daily healthcare services within a hospital or healthcare facility. This often involves coordinating multiple units, teams and individuals to ensure optimal patient care and compliance with institutional and national guidelines. You may also be responsible for maintaining an inventory of important medical equipment, supplies and medications. Health administration degrees are a great choice for individuals interested in healthcare, leadership and administration. The national average salary for health administrators is $64,637 per year. Most positions in healthcare administration require a bachelor's and master's degree.
Individuals with degrees in accounting often manage the budgets of corporations and businesses. You may use accounting software to calculate spending, plan budgets, reduce costs, receive and process payments and ensure the payment of business expenses. You may also help organizations with their yearly tax filings to ensure compliance. This degree field is a great choice for individuals interested in mathematics, technology and finance. A common position you may pursue with an accounting degree, account executive, makes $65,321 per year. Most commonly, accounting positions require bachelor's or master's degrees in this field.
Related: Learn About Being an Accountant
A degree in business management often prepares graduates for careers in office management, administration or executive positions. Business management positions pay a national average salary of $65,493 per year. Depending on your career path, you may be responsible for a variety of tasks that often involve supervising business operations, directing office team members or maintaining corporate budgets. Business management is a great choice for individuals interested in administration, finance or business development. Business management programs often exist at the associate, bachelor's and master's degree levels.
As a biologist, you may contribute to the scientific community by exploring topics such as environmental health, genetics and the biology of plants and animals. Biologists make an average salary of $80,421 per year. You may work in a laboratory or academic setting and may conduct important research that helps to advance the scientific community's understanding of living organisms. This degree field is a great option for individuals interested in science, chemistry and research. You may consider enrolling in a biology program at the bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree levels.
This field is a great choice for individuals interested in computer science, information technology (IT) and engineering. As a computer engineer or in a similar role, you may build and maintain complex computer systems, develop software and install hardware for individuals or corporations. A common position in computer engineering, an information technology manager, makes $91,151 per year. You may specialize in industries such as cybersecurity, healthcare technology or accounting software. Depending on your employer, you may need an associate, bachelor's or master's degree to work in computer engineering.
Biomedical engineering degrees prepare students to design, build and research equipment and devices to be used in the medical field. The national average salary for biomedical engineers is $91,204 per year. You might work in a hospital, laboratory or research setting to design prosthetics, healthcare equipment and supplies. This degree field is ideal for individuals with an interest in biology, engineering and healthcare. Biomedical engineering programs often exist at the bachelor's, master's and doctorate degree levels.
Nuclear engineering programs prepare graduates to research and develop the processes, instruments and systems used to benefit from nuclear processes and radiation. The national average salary for nuclear engineers is $93,089 per year. As a nuclear engineer, you can work in a laboratory setting or on nuclear plants and refineries. This field can be a fulfilling choice for individuals interested in advanced chemistry and engineering. Nuclear engineering requires highly advanced training, so most positions require a master's or doctorate degree.
Related: Learn About being a Nuclear Engineer
Electrical engineers design, develop and test electrical equipment during the manufacturing process. This may include electrical motors, radar and navigation systems or power generators. As an electrical engineer, you might also design electrical systems for vehicles and aircraft. Individuals interested in mathematics, manufacturing and electrical design may find fulfillment in this career field. As an electrical engineer, you may expect to make around the national average salary of $93,721 per year. Because of the complexity of electrical systems, you may most commonly find electrical engineering programs at the bachelor's, master's and doctorate degree levels.
Aerospace engineering programs prepare graduates to design aircraft, spacecraft and satellites. As an aerospace engineer, you may design and assist in the manufacturing of these vehicles to ensure safe space travel and the successful completion of missions. Most aerospace engineers work in a laboratory environment. Aerospace engineers make a national average salary of $104,353 per year. This degree field is a great choice for individuals interested in space exploration, engineering and aircraft design. In order to work as an aerospace engineer, you'll likely need a master's or doctorate degree.
Architecture degree programs provide training on the design of buildings and structures. As an architect, you could design, plan and draw specifications for complex construction projects. You may design buildings for corporations, highway infrastructure, manufacturing plants or private homes. The national average salary for architects is $106,288 per year. You might be interested in this field if you have an interest in design, are skilled in mathematics and or have engineering skills. You may commonly find architecture programs at the bachelor's and master's degree level.
Related: Learn About Being an Architect
Computer science is a field in which professionals use computers to solve complex problems. As a computer scientist, you might write complex code, design software systems or create applications. You may also design software solutions that improve the usability of existing systems. Computer science degrees are often a fulfilling choice for individuals interested in computers, information technology and software development. As a computer scientist, you may make the national average salary of $106,514 per year. If you're interested in a career in computer science, you may consider a program at the bachelor's or master's degree levels.
Degree programs in economics prepare students to study the production and distribution of products, goods and services. To do this, you could analyze data, research market trends and assess economic issues. Economists often work for international organizations or research firms to monitor the state of the global economy. Economists make an average national salary of $113,125 per year. A career in nursing can be a great option for individuals interested in science, serving their communities and providing patient care. Depending on the type of nursing position, the education requirements in this field may vary from a bachelor's degree to a doctorate degree.
A degree in orthopedics prepares students for a career as a physician who specializes in the muscular and skeletal systems. As an orthopedist, you may assess patients, evaluate radiographs, diagnose illness or injury to bones or muscles, recommend treatment or perform surgery. A common position in orthopedics, orthopedists, can make $142,976 per year. This degree field may be a great choice for individuals interested in biology, physiology and medical science. The degree requirements for a career in orthopedics may vary, but most commonly include a doctorate degree.
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