11 of the Best Paying College Degrees

Updated: June 01, 2010

A college degree is essential for many of the high-paying careers in America, and, whether we like it or not, having money is extremely important to living a comfortable life. A nice house, supporting a family, and securing a happy future in retirement all depends on obtaining enough money to do so. Besides, some of the highest paying careers are also the most interesting and innovative jobs around. Without stuff like inventions, astrophysics, and computer science, we wouldn't have many of the convenient amenities we take for granted today. This reason alone supports the huge salaries each of these careers supply their employees. Here are the 11 highest paying college degrees.

Engineering

Be it chemical, mechanical, civil, electrical or environmental, engineers are making big bucks -- in fact, some of the biggest around. In general, engineering involves developing new technologies for various industrial sectors -- basically thinking up new inventions and improvements to the ones already in production. Their ideas help repair, improve and revolutionize the way we do things, from farm work to space travel. Careers in engineering are varied, challenging, and bring in a hefty salary even at the base level. A newly employed engineer can expect to make up to $60,000 a year, with a steady pay increase and good job security.

Economics

Just the word 'Economics' may be reminiscent of the scene in Ferris Bueller where Ben Stein drones on and on in the way only a true economist could. Economics may sound monotonous to some, but ranks a fairly close second to engineering in terms of its profitability. Broken down in simple terms, Economics is the study of the way we produce and circulate goods and services. From Sales Directors, who make an average of $137,000 a year, to a Branch Manager at a bank earning $58,000 per year, most economists can afford to buy a Ferrari and drive it down the road at a whopping 25 miles-an-hour.

Physics

On the moon, it takes the exact same amount of time for a penny to hit the ground as a one hundred dollar bill dropped from the same height. Any physicist will tell you that, and they'll take a wad of the latter for the trouble, thank you very much. Physics comes in at number three on the list, with an average starting salary of over $50,000. If you're noticing a mathematical trend amongst the degrees on this list, treat yourself a slice of pi -- because it is so purely mathematic as a science, a physics degree allows its graduates a great range of career choices. Physics teachers may not make as much as astrophysicists, but it proves more rewarding to some. After all, money isn't everything.

Computer Science

Being a member of the IT crowd may not guarantee popularity, but it certainly bodes well for those who desire a swollen back pocket. With our daily lives becoming more and more entwined with computer technology, a degree in computer science is one of the most sure-fire ways of landing a well-paying job in the modern world. A fresh-out-of-the-box IT graduate can expect to earn up to $56,000 for their first job and reach a mid-level salary of $97,000. All that for sitting around playing with computers is a pretty good de—hey, wait a minute! However, it's a bit more complicated than browsing the 'net; those in the IT field can bear a heavy weight if they're responsible for the structure and repair of enormous companies, which is often where the big money lies.

Statistics

Some statistics on statistics: a new stats graduate can earn up to $48,000 a year, and make as much as $95,000 per annum once things get rolling. If your idea of fun is converting information into numbers and vice versa, stats may be the degree for you. Even if you don't love it but are a math-savvy calculator, a couple of years in this field can afford you a giant pool in the shape of a dollar sign. But that would just be inconvenient, so you'd better just make it a cent sign. There's no need to brag.

Biochemistry

Take up biochemistry, create a clone of yourself, and send the sucker to do your Biochemistry job while you soak up the sun in Barbados. Your clone will be earning up to $41,000 straight away -- certainly enough for a slew of mimosas and some dive lessons. Eventually, your clone will be earning you around $94,000 a year (and most of that will be profit since you, as an evil scientist, will most likely force them to survive on a diet of Diet Coke and Cup Noodles). Biochemists typically observe the chemical reactions and progressions in living things; hence the breakdown of bio -- biology -- and chem -- chemistry.

Mathematics

If a degree in Mathematics sounds general or nebulous, that's really only because of its capacity to lead to so many different career paths. Math majors can pursue careers in areas ranging from banking all the way to computer science. Because they're so good with numbers, short-changing them on their salary is a big no-no -- a math graduate can expect up to $47,000 dollars as their starting salary, a number that will increase exponentially over the years.

Construction Management

Construction Management has to do with coordinating all the details surrounding a construction project; specifically, dealing with time-constraints, quality stands, costs, and meeting clients' needs and demands. This sounds like quite a bit for one person, and maybe it is, but construction managers make a great salary to compensate them for all their time and effort. The average starting salary for a CM graduate is a girder-bendingly awesome $53,000, and by mid-career this average rises to nearly $90,000.

Information Systems

A degree in Information Systems prepares students for a career working with -- guess what -- information systems! Think of it as kind of Macro IT; dealing with computer networks and their systems on a smaller scale. Payroll, ordering and security are all included in the IS graduate's job to make sure things run smoothly. They're compensated with a starting salary average of $51,000 and a mid-career average salary of $87,000.

Geology

We all know what the Richter scale is, but geologists have been shunning that old-school method of measurement for years. Today, they use the MMS, the Moment Magnitude Scale, to accurately describe tremors and earthquakes. Geology is the general study of earth, its history and composition. The average starting and mid-career salaries for Geologists are $45,000 and $84,000, respectively. Now that rocks!

Accounting

If you get really excited during tax time, definitely consider completing a degree in accounting. Accountants may be in charge of individuals' finances or those of an entire company. Either way, accountancy is here to stay -- as are everyone's pesky taxes. At a starting salary of $46,000 a year, thinking and talking about money all the time certainly pays off in this profession.

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