Looking to earn more money without necessarily getting a master’s degree? Here is a list of lucrative four-year college degrees.
Want to make the big bucks without going on to graduate school? You might want to pick a college major in one of these high-paying fields. How do we determine which ones pay the most? There are a few different ways.
One is by looking at average early-career salaries. This is a nice measure, because it gives you an idea of how much you will be making right after you get out of college. However, a disadvantage of using these figures is that sometimes the career earnings of jobs associated with a certain major are capped unless you go on to get a master’s or Ph.D.
Another way to view the data is by looking at average mid-career salaries, which is what we will be doing here. You may be surprised to see that college degrees with comparatively low starting salaries actually rival those with higher-starting salaries once you reach the mid-career level.
Note: Salary data is provided by PayScale.
- 10) Mining Engineering – $108,083
In addition to designing mines, mining engineering also involves studying extraction methods and reclamation. Graduates usually work on location at the site of the mine, in offices for mining companies, or mining services firms.
Mining engineering majors go on to jobs making an average entry-level salary of $71,083 and an average mid-career salary of $108,083.
- 9) Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineering – $109,862
If you want to be a true rocket scientist, sign up for aerospace and aeronautical engineering. Majors in this field learn how to design, build, and test all types of aircrafts, spacecrafts, and even missile systems.
Upon receiving a bachelor’s in aerospace and aeronautical engineering, students go to jobs that start at an average of $60,675 and reach an average of $109,862.
- 8) Chemical Engineering – $109,904
If you’re not a fan of laboratory science, it’s best to steer clear of chemical engineering. Majors in this area need to gain a solid background in chemistry and physics as well as in general engineering.
After graduating, chemical engineering majors enter the career field making an average of $64,325. This increases to an average of $109,904 by mid-career.
- 7) Mathematics and Statistics – $110, 575
Oh, the dreaded math. Some people hate it, and some people love it. If you’re part of the latter group, this might be the perfect major for you. Math and statistics majors follow a variety of career paths, becoming teachers, statisticians, analysts, actuaries, and more.
The average starting salary for math graduates may be comparatively low at $48,600, but the mid-career average jumps up to $110,575.
- 6) Biomedical Engineering – $112,300
Biomedical engineering majors combine their love for the medical sciences with their engineering affinity to develop and build equipment and software used in healthcare.
People with careers in this field tend to find their work very meaningful, and they make pretty good money, too. The average starting salary is $56,943, and the average mid-career salary is $112,300.
- 5) Applied Mathematics – $116,229
Applied mathematics is a discipline in which you focus on learning how to use math to solve real-world problems. Depending on the college you go to, this field may be part of the general math and statistics curriculum, or it may be its own specialized track.
After graduating, applied math majors go on to entry-level jobs earning an average starting salary of $53,788, which progresses to $116,229 by mid career.
- 4) Public Policy – $118,000
Those who major in public policy take classes in political science, statistics, and economics among other things. They learn about factors that influence public policy decisions and how those decisions impact the world around us.
Public policy is another major that has a comparatively low average starting salary—it’s only $46,383. However, by mid-career the average salary is $118,000.
- 3) Systems Engineering – $120,000
Those who major in Systems Engineering go on to jobs that involve complex systems—such as IT, transportation, and manufacturing systems—and learn how to construct and manage them.
Graduates in this area tend to go on to lucrative careers after receiving their bachelor’s. The average starting salary for a systems engineer is $66,357, which jumps up to $120,000 at mid-career.
- 2) Cell Biology and Anatomical Sciences – $121,000
Cell biology is, you guessed it, the study of cells and cell functions. Majors in this area take a wide range of science courses, including biology, chemistry, and physics.
Upon graduation, Cell Biology and Anatomical Sciences majors go on to jobs with an average salary that is lower than any others on this list—$42,943. However, by mid-career, the average salary of cell biologists is $121,000.
- 1) Petroleum Engineering – $170,782
Petroleum engineering college degrees take classes in applied math, geology, and general engineering to learn the skills necessary to collect petroleum and maintain oil rigs. Their jobs often require long hours and non-traditional schedules where they work up to 60 or 70 hours a week or rotate in and out of shifts every three or four days.
Petroleum engineers earn the highest average starting salaries for both early career and mid-career, at $90,827 and $170,782 respectively.
Michele McDonough writes for College Factual, a website that helps students choose the best college and major for them. Sign up for your free account.