Friday, July 12, 2024

These 17 College Degrees Have the Highest Starting Salaries

Pay off those student loans in a flash.

Want to pay off your student loans as soon as you can after graduation? Pick a college degree that promises a high starting salary and excellent job prospects! 

These 17 college degrees won’t just help you take care of your student loans (fast) but will also cover the occasional shopping spree or vacation. 😉

1. Applied Mathematics

pupil doing homework on blackboard
Anybody can love numbers but with a degree in applied math, you can have numbers love you back (with a lucrative salary 😉). Photo: Freepik

Love crunching numbers and solving puzzles? There are plenty of college degrees available for math fans, but applied mathematics is the one that could offer the most bang for your buck. 

In fact, a four-year degree in applied math may just help you earn 30 percent more than the average college graduate.

As the name suggests, graduates with this degree use mathematical methods across different fields, including physics, business, and computer science. 

From software development to aerospace engineering, applied math students have a plethora of well-paying job options open to them after graduation. 

💰 Average starting salary: Between $61,130 and $79,280 
📆 Years of study: Four
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $9,067 (in-state), $43,040 (out-of-state)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 35 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brown University

2. Electrical Engineering

Male worker at a factory
Electrical engineers design and develop electrical equipments that keep the world running. Photo: senivpetro/Freepik

Electric toothbrushes, wireless charging, automated cars, and more — electrical engineers are the ones behind the devices and systems that keep the world running. 

Their innovative ideas turn into technologies that reduce effort and maximize efficiency, which is why leading companies around the world are desperate to recruit these talented professionals. 

As an electrical engineer, you can work on a variety of projects involving computers, robots, cell phones, and other kinds of electrical systems. 

While electrical engineering is a pretty broad discipline, you can choose to specialize in telecommunications or computer engineering if you feel like one of these areas is more up your alley. 

💰 Average starting salary: $96,872
📆 Years of study: Four
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $9,498 (public university), $10,823 (private university)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 7 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: University of California, Berkeley, California Institute of Technology

3. Finance

Young laughing woman student holding and using calculator solving math equations sitting near globe, backpack, school books
Whether you want to work on Wall Street, the IRS, or an investment bank, a finance degree will give you the necessary foundation to kickstart your career. Photo: ViDIstudio/Freepik

If you were bowled over by Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as stockbroker Jordan Belfort in the film The Wolf of Wall Street, you already know that finance is a famously high-paying industry often offering six or even seven-figure salaries. 🤑

With a degree in finance, you can choose from careers in banking, stockbroking, or risk management. A lot of finance grads also pair their degree with an MBA to help them rise up the corporate ladder and earn even loftier salaries. 

Just remember, from day one, finance graduates will face stiff competition from other intelligent and highly motivated candidates and sometimes work in stressful environments. You’ve been warned!

💰 Average starting salary: $112,139
📆 Years of study: Four
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $7,394 (in-state), $32,440 (out-of-state)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 6 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University

4. Pharmacy

Pharmacist serving customer at drug store
A degree in pharmacy is a fantastic choice if you’re looking to prepare for a career as a professional health practitioner. Photo: senivpetro/Freepik

Pharmacy is an excellent career choice for students who want to be at the forefront of scientific research and innovation in the healthcare sector. 

Now make no mistake: pharmacy technicians don’t just dispense medications! They also work with state-of-the-art prescription drug monitoring programs and medication management technology across a range of environments. 

In fact, with the rapidly evolving industry, many pharmacists now work in hospitals, intensive care units, supermarkets, and even for the government and the military.

💰 Average starting salary: $79,600
📆 Years of study: Six to seven (four years of undergraduate education followed by two to three years of residency program training) 
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $10,507 (in-state), $29,322 (out-of-state)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 4 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, University of Michigan–Ann Arbor

5. Petroleum Engineering

Asian engineers checking the maintenance of the oil refinery factory
The world will always need energy which means petroleum engineers will never go out of demand. Photo: ake1150sb/Freepik

Did you know the US is one of the top five consumers of crude oil globally? The country imported 8 million barrels of petroleum per day in 2020! 😮

This ever-increasing demand for petrol means there is also high demand for petroleum engineers. A petroleum engineer recovers and maintains critical oil and gas supplies. 

Rest assured, the demand for workers in the petroleum sector isn’t going anywhere. Despite advances made in the renewable energy sector, countries still depend on fossil fuels. A complete global transformation to alternative fuels is still a distant dream

💰 Average starting salary: $97,528
📆 Years of study: Four
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $10,427 (in-state), $29,062 (out-of-state)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 8 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: Texas A&M University, Stanford University

6. Statistics

Man analyzing data and stats
In a data-driven world, translating statistical information into meaningful insights is a highly valued skill. Photo: pressfoto/Freepik

Looking for a major that will give you the freedom to work in a wide variety of subject areas? Your search ends here. 

With a degree in statistics, you can work in biology, economics, engineering, medicine, public health, psychology, marketing, education, and even sports. 

You will analyze data to look for patterns and help your organization make data-driven decisions. In a world inundated with information, statisticians apply computational techniques to solve problems, which is why it is a fast-growing and profitable career.

💰 Average starting salary: Between $52,000 and $91,000
📆 Years of study: Four
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $11,227 (in-state), $33,385 (out-of-state)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 35 percent
🏛️ Top schools: Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University

7. International Relations

Young African American girl teen student in denim clothes, backpack holds globe
An international relations degree is a golden ticket to learning how politics, history, and economics impact global systems. Photo: ViDIstudio/Freepik

If you’ve always wanted the opportunity to make the world a better place, a degree in international relations is an excellent place to start. 

During your studies, you’ll learn about relationships between various nations and cultures. Courses include subjects like politics, economy, governance, law — basically, everything you’ll need to know to help you deal with international relations, diplomacy, or global issues.

From coordinating counterterrorism efforts to promoting women’s rights, an international relations degree can help you make a big impact (while making big bucks)! 😉

💰 Average starting salary: Between $60,000 and $64,999 
📆 Years of study: Four
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $9,020 (in-state), $31,425 (out-of-state)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 9 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: Georgetown University, University of Chicago

8. Computer Science

Young cheerful programmer with headphones
The demand for computer scientists is not limited to Silicon Valley — hundreds of industries need computer science grads to work on a wide variety of jobs. Photo: Pressmaster/Freepik

In 2019, there were more than 665,000 computing jobs available but less than 72,000 candidates to fill them. 😔 

With technology evolving in leaps and bounds, it is no surprise that computer science graduates are in high demand (and will remain so for a long time in the future).

Whether it is working on artificial intelligence, creating software programs, or even building robots — there are tons of career options for computer science students that are both professionally and financially rewarding. 🤖🦾

💰 Average starting salary: $67,411 
📆 Years of study: Four
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $7,852 (in-state), $22,954 (out-of-state)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 22 percent
🏛️ Top schools: Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

9. Biotechnology

Scientist with equipment in laboratory
While the 20th century saw biotechnologists discover penicillin, who knows what’s in store for the 21st century? Photo: DCStudio/Freepik

Biotechnology is the development of products and technologies that can reduce our environmental footprint, feed the hungry, decrease waste generation, and combat serious illnesses. 

In fact, this broad scientific field is why billions of people worldwide could access the coronavirus vaccine after just one year (when it usually takes far longer to develop vaccines).

Need another reason to pick this college degree? The global biotechnology market is expected to surpass $720 billion by 2025, making it a hot market for job seekers! 🔥

💰 Average starting salary: $83,574
📆 Years of study: Four
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $7,078 (in-state), $25,553 (out-of-state)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 7 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: University of Pennsylvania, University of Wisconsin

10. Physics

Woman standing in front of blackboard
As kids, we all wanted to be astronauts, but with a degree in physics, you might actually have a chance! Photo: Max Fischer/Pexels

Have you ever heard the saying: physics is not for the faint of heart? 😅

Regardless, physics is an excellent choice for any student who wants to spearhead innovation across science and technology.

While not everyone has the smarts and drive to conquer black holes and string theory, you might be surprised by how much you’ll like this subject once you understand the stories behind these concepts.

Whether you want to develop new ways to understand the earth or work on particle accelerator research in the US Department of Energy, this degree serves as a fantastic gateway to many fast-paced (and financially rewarding) careers.

💰 Average starting salary: $60,191
📆 Years of study: Four
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $7,848 (in-state), $29,058 (out-of-state)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 8 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

11. Economics

Student with laptop showing graphs
If you thought economics is just about picking stocks, you’d be surprised at the wide array of topics you’ll learn in class. Photo: syda_productions/Freepik

Donald Trump, George Bush, and Ronald Reagan — what do they have in common? Aside from all being former US presidents, the three leaders each have a degree in economics. 

Economics gives you broad insights into how the economy works. Your classes will cover a variety of subjects, including organizational behavior, game theory, and tax policies. 

However, economics is not an easy choice. Often, the courses can be quite thought-provoking and challenging. But if that doesn’t deter you, prepare to be a part of a versatile major that is also well-remunerated. 💰

💰 Average starting salary: $72,567
📆 Years of study: Four
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $8,203 (in-state) $30,380 (out-of-state)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 13 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: Harvard University, Northwestern University

12. Law

Young woman with arms folded
Want to be the next Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Or say, Harvey Specter from the series Suits? A degree in law is the perfect place to start. Photo: pch.vector/Freepik

Law school and passing the bar in your state can be challenging, but wait until we tell you what’s on the other side! 😏

Earning potential, prestige, and an opportunity to help others — need we say more about what a law degree can help you achieve?

As a lawyer, you can represent clients in matters related to estate planning, family disagreements, civil rights, and even tax fraud. 

A degree in legal studies is also a gateway to explore a range of careers beyond a courtroom, including law enforcement, social work, and even real estate (as an agent).

💰 Average starting salary: $75,000
📆 Years of study: Three to five
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $26,264 (in-state), $39,612 (out-of-state)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 9 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: Harvard University, University of Chicago

13. Architecture

Creative architects working on blueprints in modern office
Whether it’s the Colosseum, Taj Mahal, or Burj Khalifa, for centuries, architects have always left us mesmerized with their architectural marvels. Photo: DCStudio/Freepik

Want to honor your artistic side but still choose a degree that can take you places? Architecture is for you! 

Architects must have a keen eye for design and understand how different materials and components work together to create a spectacular (and sturdy) structure. 🏗️ 🌆

Graduates with this degree can pursue a number of career paths, including software modeling, graphic designing, and urban planning.

💰 Average starting salary: Between $57,987 and $73,951
📆 Years of study: Five
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $9,967 (in-state), $31,754 (out-of-state)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 9,400 openings per year in the US
🏛️ Top schools: Rice University, Syracuse University

14. Psychiatry

Psychiatrist with patients
Besides a booming job market, psychiatrists have the unique opportunity to improve the quality of life of their patients. Photo: Freepik

No, you cannot google your mental health symptoms and find a cure. You need to see a qualified psychiatrist!

Unlike psychologists, who treat disorders that do not require medication, psychiatrists treat complex health conditions that require medical intervention.

Psychiatry graduates can have a profound impact on the lives of people with mental health disorders, treating everything from panic attacks and anxiety to substance abuse. 

In fact, demand for psychiatrists is at an all-time high as the world continues to grapple with rising rates of mental health disorders amid the pandemic.

Perks include flexibility, job security, and skyrocketing salaries, with clinical psychiatrists earning upwards of $250,000 a year later in their careers. 🤑

💰 Average starting salary: Between $69,470 and $135,300
📆 Years of study: 12 (four years of college, four years of medical school, and four years of residency)
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $6,604 (2011-12) (public, in-state university), $25,838 (private university)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 11 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: University of Pittsburgh, Yale University

15. Data Science

African American man holding documents
If you enjoy problem solving and statistical analysis, a career in data science can prove to be financially and professionally rewarding. Photo: wayhomestudio/Freepik

Loved a certain Netflix show? The platform will recommend 10 more just like it. Lost on campus? Google Maps will guide you.

Data is everywhere, and data science is the magic behind your tech-related ventures. 

As a data scientist, you will make sense of unstructured data — from smart devices, social media, emails, and more — and advise on future data strategies. 

In a world where everyone relies on these technologies, data science is one of the most in-demand and lucrative college majors you can opt for.

💰 Average starting salary: $95,000
📆 Years of study: Four
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $24,900 (public universities), $51,900 (private universities)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 22 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: University of California, Berkeley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

16. Physiotherapy

Physiotherapist with patient
As a physiotherapist, you’ll help to maximize your patients’ ability to move and function. Photo: Freepik

Did you know that physiotherapy ranks as one of the “happiest” professions in terms of salary, flexibility, and job satisfaction?

Physiotherapists use drug-free, exercise-based remedies to treat a variety of ailments — both physical and mental — inspiring people to live healthier lives. 😌

Students looking for a career that pays generously and allows you to set your own work hours will find physiotherapy a winner. 

💰 Average starting salary: $71,608
📆 Years of study: Three
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $18,989 (public university), $37,448 (private university)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 21 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: University of Pittsburgh, Washington University in St. Louis

17. Software Engineering

African American man working on computer
If you’re always looking for a simple solution to ease complex technical problems, a career in software engineering might be the right choice for you. Photo: Freepik

From calculating complex equations to ordering lunch right to your doorstep — there’s a software application for nearly everything these days. 

Companies are constantly building new apps that reduce human effort and make our lives more comfortable. That’s where software engineers come in! 

In this thriving industry, you can choose from a wide variety of projects ranging from game design to cybersecurity. 

Whether it’s working with large tech giants or smaller educational companies, publishers, and credit unions — your career options (and earning potential) are endless with a software engineering degree in hand.

💰 Average starting salary: $72,117
📆 Years of study: Four
💸 Average cost of study (per year): $9,927 (in-state), $28,555 (out-of-state)
🔮 Job growth outlook: 22 percent 
🏛️ Top schools: Carnegie Mellon University, California Institute of Technology

Is the thought of paying off your college loans keeping you up at night? Choosing a major that guarantees a high starting salary is a foolproof way to enjoy debt-free life within as little as a few years of graduation.

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