While earning a bachelor’s degree offers a relatively clear path into the professional world, not all degrees can lead to the highest-paying jobs. Certain college degrees lead to careers that pay substantially more than others, and graduates from fields like business, STEM, and computer science tend to earn the most.
We look at some academic tracks that lead to both generous compensation and a positive job outlook throughout the following page. Keep reading as we review some of the highest-paying college degrees of 2023.
1. Petroleum Engineering
Students with a petroleum engineering degree enter one of the most lucrative fields for college graduates. The best programs hold ABET accreditation and offer students the theoretical knowledge, practical skills, and hands-on experiences they need when beginning their career in petroleum engineering. Graduates enter a variety of career fields spanning from environmental efforts to petroleum exploration.
In addition to coursework that includes classes like drilling engineering, well testing, and petroleum economics and law, students traditionally complete an internship before graduation.
Median Salary: $137,330
Job Outlook: 8%
2. Finance and Financial Management
Those completing a finance and financial management degree often enter fast-paced fields like banking and money management. These degrees are compatible with multiple careers spanning from financial analysis to financial planning, and those in management roles typically pull in the most generous salaries.
Undergraduate finance students often have access to academic concentrations in investment management, corporate finance, real estate, and banking and financial services. Throughout their journey to a bachelor’s degree, finance students complete required classes like financial statement analysis, fundamentals of investments, and business statistics.
Median Salary: $134,180
Job Outlook: 17%
3. Human Resources Management
College grads with a human resources management degree enter a growing field, and experienced HR professionals can secure management roles that boast median salaries exceeding $121,000 annually. Human resources careers rely on a mix of soft skills and technical proficiencies and tackle roles in public and private sectors, handling employee training, organizational management, and staff development.
Because HR is relevant to organizations spanning from manufacturing to local governments, HR students can complete academic concentrations in business administration, healthcare, and organizational leadership. HR management is also a popular concentration for MBA students.
Median Salary: $121,220
Job Outlook: 9%
4. Aerospace Engineering
Graduates with an aerospace engineering degree gain the skills to enter a lucrative, growing field. In addition to gaining technical expertise, students also leave their programs having honed essential soft skills like problem-solving and deductive reasoning. Future aerospace engineers should review prospective programs and ensure that they hold ABET accreditation.
Students typically select from academic tracks like aeronautics, astronautics, or propulsion and complete classes such as aerospace structures, aerospace flight vehicles, and space mechanics. Like other technical degrees, aerospace engineering students gain extensive hands-on experience through labs, project-based work, and internship opportunities.
Median Salary: $118,610
Job Outlook: 8%
5. Actuarial Mathematics
Actuaries earn substantial salaries and leave the classroom for a rapidly expanding job market—BLS projects that the field grows by 24% by 2030. These math-minded professionals explore and evaluate the tangible price of business risks. Traditionally working within the insurance industry, these professionals develop strategies to mitigate risk and financial loss.
Throughout their college career, actuarial science degree students tackle complex mathematics and coursework in statistics, economics, and finance. Students also enhance their undergraduate journey through internships and real-world scenarios.
Median Salary: $111,030
Job Outlook: 24%
6. Software Engineering
Software engineering and software development degree grads enter a rapidly growing field bolstered by generous salaries. As we become perpetually more connected and reliant on tech, software engineers take on roles essential to everything from manufacturing to energy infrastructure. These engineers utilize training to develop software, test new programs, and take roles like software developers and quality assurance analysts.
During their undergraduate experience, software engineering students complete core classes like programming fundamentals, computer architecture, and discrete math for computing. Alongside core classes, students can also choose from academic concentrations, including project management, information technology, and software design.
Median Salary: $110,140
Job Outlook: 22%
7. Chemical Engineering
Chemical engineering degree graduates leave college prepared to use their unique set of skills within various sectors spanning from biotechnology to the pharmaceutical industry. These professionals conduct research and testing while keeping a close eye on environmental and safety concerns, standards, and regulations.
Chemical engineering students complete a host of core academic requirements, including classes such as physical chemistry, chemical process thermodynamics, and chemical reaction engineering. These students also have access to specialized areas of study like nanomaterials engineering, biochemical engineering, and business and management.
Median Salary: $108,540
Job Outlook: 9%
An economics degree can prepare students for various careers within the business world. Those interested in pursuing a career as an economist traditionally complete graduate-level coursework in the field. These professionals work within the public and private sectors and rely on critical thinking and analytical skills to scrutinize data and evaluate economic issues.
Degree-seekers build a strong foundation in math and analytical thinking throughout an undergraduate economics program. Standard undergraduate courses include topics such as consumer economics, applied game theory, and urban economics. Additionally, academic concentrations include public policy, financial economics, and health policy.
Median Salary: $108,350
Job Outlook: 13%
9. Cyber Security
College grads with a cyber security degree have the potential to earn six-figure salaries within a field that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will expand by 33% by 2030. Career options for these students can include roles as information security analysts and system penetration testers—top earners often take on management and leadership positions.
During an undergraduate cyber security program, students complete core classes such as ethical hacking, cloud security, web page development, and introduction to operating systems. In addition to core coursework, popular academic concentrations include cloud security, software development, and computer forensics and vulnerability management.
Median Salary: $103,590
Job Outlook: 33%
10. Electrical Engineering
Electrical engineering degree graduates work within various business sectors and utilize specialized training to design electronic systems in everything from power grids to smartphones. During their degree program, EE students gain strong foundational engineering knowledge while simultaneously gaining extensive hands-on training through labs and real-world experiences.
Throughout their undergraduate degree, EE students tackle STEM-based coursework and typically complete an academic concentration in areas such as microelectronics, computer engineering, and communications and signal processing. Typical coursework includes classes like introduction to electrical engineering, electromagnetic power systems, and communication systems.
Median Salary: $103,390
Job Outlook: 7%