If you are interested in a career that offers a high entry-level salary or will pay for your college degree within a short time, you may want to consider majoring in computer science or engineering. According to PayScale’s most recent college salary report based on earnings of alumni with bachelor’s degrees, some of the best fields to pursue include engineering and technology.
To determine which bachelor’s degrees have the best earning potential, we looked at PayScale’s most recent College Salary Report. We listed the top 10 bachelor’s degrees in increasing order based on mid-career salaries (ten or more years experience in the field). In the event of a tie, the bachelor’s degree with the higher early career salary was placed higher on our list. The bachelor’s degree in our #1 spot offers the highest salary potential as a mid-career earner.
Below are the 10 best bachelor’s degrees by salary.
#10 – Bachelor’s in Aeronautical Engineering
Early Career Salary: $63,000
Mid-Career Salary: $113,000
Aerospace engineers must have earned at least a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering or aeronautical engineering to work in the field. Most aeronautical engineers design aircraft, missiles, satellites, and spacecraft to make sure prototypes are safe and function according to design. Projects generally require security clearance, especially those related to national defense. To become an aerospace engineer, a bachelor’s from a four-year, accredited institution is usually required. The United States Department of Labor–Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment for these highly specialized types of engineers is projected to decline 2 percent through the year 2024. However, industries focusing on noise pollution and fuel efficiency will help sustain demand for research.
#9 – Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering (CE)
Early Career Salary: $69,600
Mid-Career Salary: $113,000
As a computer engineering undergraduate student, you learn the basic foundations and skills in computer organization, logic design, operating systems, and other computer science-related applications and systems. Computer engineers, especially those focused on hardware, work in research laboratories that build different types of computer models. High-tech manufacturing firms also hire computer engineers. Requirements for entry-level jobs require at minimum a bachelor’s in computer engineering. The entry-level pay is highly competitive, although job growth is expected to slow over the next several years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a minimum number of engineers will be needed to meet the industry demands because the emphasis on innovation will take place more at the software level than hardware.
#8 – Bachelor’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE)
Early Career Salary: $68,100
Mid-Career Salary: $114,000
A bachelor’s in electrical and computer engineering (BSECE) degree is a highly specialized major with two areas of concentration: electrical engineering and computer engineering. Students with this type of degree are often well suited for work in industries that emphasize research and development. It is common to find this degree requirement for jobs in communications systems, engineering services, manufacturing, and telecommunications. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports little to no change in employment through the year 2024. The decline in job growth is expected to be tempered due to little expansion taking place in manufacturing sectors. However, advancement for current employees could open up more entry-level opportunities.
#7 – Bachelor’s in Electronics and Communications Engineering
Early Career Salary: $68,000
Mid-Career Salary: $115,000
Electronics and communications engineers work in industries such as research and development, manufacturing services, or telecommunications. The federal government also hires these specialized engineers to assist with testing and supervising electrical equipment and communication systems. A bachelor’s degree is required for entry-level jobs and the pay is extremely competitive, as compared to other engineering fields. Undergraduate programs are designed to equip students with the entry-level skills required to work as team members, often overseen by leaders and master engineers. Due to the expected decline in most manufacturing sectors that hire electronics engineers, little to no change in job growth is projected through the year 2024. However, private sectors may continue hiring as funding is provided.
#6 – Bachelor’s in Nuclear Engineering
Early Career Salary: $68,500
Mid-Career Salary: $116,000
Nuclear engineers are highly trained individuals who work in various areas of research and development testing and deriving the benefits of nuclear energy and radiation. These specialized engineers work in government, medical fields, and other areas that research radioactive materials. A bachelor’s in nuclear engineering is required, especially for entry-level jobs. Bachelor’s degree programs from reputable and accredited institutions help provide adequate training for work as nuclear engineers. Compared to the average job outlook (7%), employment for nuclear engineers is expected to decline. This projected 4% decline is anticipated due to federal funding being cut for research and development. Of course, this number is subject to change.
#5 – Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Engineering
Early Career Salary: $71,200
Mid-Career Salary: $116,000
Earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering can provide job opportunities that pay well, even at the entry level. Individuals with this type of degree often work in software development and other computer engineering occupations. Developers are the creative minds behind computer programs and applications. To work in this promising and lucrative field, strong computer programming skills are essential. The job outlook for software developers with bachelor’s degrees in computer science and engineering is highly favorable. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the growth rate is 17 percent over the next seven years. This is a much faster rate than the average of all occupations (7%).
#4 – Bachelor’s in Actuarial Science
Early Career Salary: $60,800
Mid-Career Salary: $119,000
Actuaries use mathematics and statistics to help analyze financial costs of risk and uncertainty for insurance companies and consulting firms. Actuarial roles are often part of teams that include managers and professionals in accounting, finance, and underwriting. To become an actuary, a bachelor’s degree is required. Also, a series of exams must be passed in order to become certified. A strong background in business, math, and statistics is also helpful. The pay and job outlook draw students to this major. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for actuaries is expected to grow by 18 percent over the next seven years. The BLS reports an anticipated 4,400 new jobs will be created through the year 2024. This is great news for those majoring in actuarial science.
#3 – Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering
Early Career Salary: $69,800
Mid-Career Salary: $119,000
A bachelor’s in chemical engineering is one of the best-paying undergraduate degrees on our list. Chemical engineers are responsible for applying biology, chemistry, math, and physics to solving problems that involve chemicals, drugs, food, and many other products. Chemical engineers are often employed with laboratories and spend much of their day monitoring or directing operations at these sites. Bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering are required for entry-level careers, although some employers may also require practical experience. Taking advantage of internship opportunities while in school can be quite valuable for future positions. The job outlook for chemical engineers shows an anticipated 2% increase in employment over the next seven years.
#2 – Bachelor’s in Systems Engineering
Early Career Salary: $66,400
Mid-Career Salary: $121,000
Systems engineering bachelor’s degree programs are designed to prepare students with skills in analysis, design, and modeling of technological systems that employ both people and machines. Employment opportunities often exist in areas of communication, healthcare, manufacturing, and transportation. Entry-level employment requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum, and some employers value practical experience gained from internships or time spent working in labs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports little to no change in job growth over the next several years. The projected minimal change is due to industries seeking new and innovative ways to contain current costs and improve efficiency.
#1 – Bachelor’s in Petroleum Engineering
Early Career Salary: $96,700
Mid-Career Salary: $172,000
The highest-paying bachelor’s degree on our list for both entry-level and mid-career salaries is petroleum engineering. These highly trained engineers design and develop methods for extracting oil and gas deposits from beneath the Earth’s surface. Petroleum engineers work in research labs and often spend time outdoors overseeing drilling sites. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for petroleum engineers is projected to grow 10 percent through the year 2024. This is a faster growth rate than the national average of 7 percent. Oil prices are a major determinant of the job growth. Higher prices mean more engineers.