5 Highest Paying College Degrees

Let’s admit it – many of us go to college so that we could inevitably get a high-paying job after graduation.

Sometimes, we go through all the trouble of taking out student loans, applying for federal college grants, looking for scholarship opportunities, and sifting through other more inexpensive alternatives just so that we can get a college degree.

But do you know how much you can earn with that diploma in your hand?

How much is your degree really worth?

PayScale.com recently published a report on the highest paying jobs that certain college degrees can pay you for in 2016 – 2017 (hint: most of them are in the sciences field).

#1 – Petroleum Engineering


Being a Petroleum Engineering is first on the list of highest paying degrees – image source: usnews.com

Starting Pay: $96,700

Mid-Career Pay: $172,000

Job Description:

Petroleum engineers are responsible for recording and investigating the rock formations surrounding newly discovered oil and gas.

They work closely with geologists and other earth science experts. Oil and gas are a multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s important to have the right person on hand.

Petroleum engineers job tasks:

  • Supervise and design the best way to extract oil and gas
  • Oversee evaluation of wells
  • Develop drill plans
  • Ensure that all field equipment have been tested and are in top condition
  • Make use of the best technology for drilling

Best Petroleum Engineering Colleges:

A) University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering is, according to the US News and World Report, the best in petroleum engineering.

There are 400 students enrolled in the recent academic year, and with the low student-teacher ratio, many of them get the full degree experience.

The second best is, of course, Texas A&M University at College Station.

B) Texas A&M University’s Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering is also on top. It is ranked No. 8 among public colleges that offer undergraduate and graduate in engineering.

C) Colorado School of Mines is one of the most expensive public colleges in the country.

It is also a special school dedicated to engineering and applied science courses. In fact, it’s been ranked No. 1 in the QS World University Ranking.

#2 – Systems Engineering


Covers multiple fields with a diversified degree in Systems Engineering – image source: gatech.edu

Starting Pay: $66,400

Mid-Career Pay: $121,000

Job Description:

A systems engineer can work in different industries like aerospace & defense, biotechnology, business, computer programming, etc.

This type of engineer is also in charge of:

  • Planning and developing a system or organizations’ infrastructure
  • Monitoring system performance
  • Supporting daily system operations
  • Troubleshooting network hardware and software
  • Evaluating and assessing system performance and equipment

Best Systems Engineering Colleges:

A) The Georgia Institute of Technology’s H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering offers the best in the country when it comes to systems or industrial engineering.

Its faculty members have received several awards in the field of science. The school has also always been ranked in the top when it comes to undergraduate and graduate engineering studies.

B) The University of Michigan’s engineering department at Ann Harbor is handled by highly successful scientists and engineers. In fact, the university is well-known for its undergraduate teaching (No. 7 in the entire country).

C) The Purdue University at West Lafayette offers an exceptional education in Industrial Engineering, and is the No. 3 in the entire nation.

The college also offers online education for those interested in taking a master’s degree in systems engineering.

#3 – Chemical Engineering


Hazardous job getting a degree in Chemical Engineering but pay is great – photo source: uh.edu

Starting Pay: $69,800

Mid-Career Pay: $119,000

Job Description:

Of course, chemical engineers will work usually in laboratories, handling chemical instruments and properties. Their main tasks are:

  • Designing safety procedures for the team in working with chemicals
  • Conducting research for manufacturing products/food
  • Designing the equipment for the manufacturing
  • Monitoring and evaluating the manufacturing process and product
  • Estimating production costs
  • Treating byproducts

Best Chemical Engineering Colleges:

A) Massachusetts Institute of Technology It’s no surprise that its one of the colleges that produce successful engineers.

The college’s Chemical Engineering department is the best in the country. There are constantly projects and activities for the teachers and students to do every semester and every year.

MIT has always been ranked among the top-performing schools. It is No. 7 among National Universities, No. 5 in Best Value Schools, and No. 2 in Best Colleges for Veterans.

B) University of California-Berkeley almost has it all in terms of great college town, Olympic medals, world-class education, millionaire alumni, and being the top public school in the country.

It’s almost a given that Berkeley would have one of the best degree offerings from their Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering.

C) University of Texas at Austin has such an amazing department for engineering, including chemical engineering.

Its McKetta Department of Engineering is topnotch when it comes to research and projects: from regenerative bandage, solar cell research, and T-cell effectiveness, among others.

#4 – Actuarial Science


Calculating risk with a Actuarial Science degree – image source: screenshot from youtube.com

Starting Pay: $60,800

Mid-Career Pay: $119,000

Job Description:

Actuaries, though not so common, are stellar jobs. An actuary is a person responsible for calculating risk or damage so that business owners and insurance companies can make better decisions.

As you can see, this type of job is huge, and that’s why it pays so well.

People are relying on you to help them prepare for the damaging event or risk, or how to minimize the negative impact.

Best Actuarial Science Colleges:

Actuaries have to pass the extremely difficult SOA (Society of Actuaries) exams – all 8 of them.

In fact, many people take almost 10 years to complete them all.

Also, if you want to be an actuary, you will have to look specifically for colleges that are recognized as CAE (Center of Actuarial Excellence).

A) University of Nebraska-Lincoln was one of the first few colleges to be recognized as CAE.

The university’s Actuarial Science program offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Students taking this program can be assured of summer internships, VEE (Validation by Educational Experience) courses, actuarial science club, and preparation for the SOA exams on financial management, probability, and more.

B) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the largest CAE in the country. Its actuarial science program aims to prepare their students for the actuary job and all eight of the SOA exams.

In fact, the university will help students take and pass two or three SOA exams before graduating from the program.

C) University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin School of Business has been offering degrees in actuarial science since 1948.

In fact, its risk management program is the second-oldest in the country. Students here are constantly doing risk and actuarial research.

#5 – Computer Science & Engineering


Some of the best colleges in the world offer a degree in Computer Science & Engineering – image source: mit.edu

Starting Pay: $71,200

Mid-Career Pay: $116,000

Job Description:

It’s no stretch of the imagination that computer engineers are responsible for designing, monitoring, troubleshooting, and assessing computer hardware and software.

Depending on the industry you want to work in, as a computer engineer, you can be part of a team of people who make sure that the computer equipment for trains, airplanes, and other vehicles run smoothly.

You could also be in charge of the computer system for a school or a company, together with a systems or industrial engineer.

Best Computer Science & Engineering Colleges:

A) MIT is, of course, at the top of the list when it comes to computer sciences.

Its Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department is, according to the college’s website, “everywhere”.

It’s the blood of the institute and exemplifies everything that MIT is good at: math and science.

Students, both undergraduate and graduate, develop mobile apps, investigate the use of nano-sensors to treat diseases, design cities and infrastructures, and more.

Furthermore, the 2016 CWUR placed MIT as No. 1 in terms of patents.

B) Stanford University came in 2nd place, after Harvard, in the same world university ranking.

Stanford is proud to say that many of the famous startups we know now like Yahoo and Google were founded by their students. In fact, Google founders were studying at the university’s Computer Science department.

C) University of California-Berkeley offers several excellent computer science and engineering programs.

Coming in at third, the UC Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department is renowned for its innovations and undergraduate teaching, especially among state universities.

Berkeley’s students and faculty members have won numerous awards:

  • National Medal of Technology & Innovation
  • National Academy of Medicine
  • Arthur M. Hopkin award
  • and more
Rob Clark

SchoolCampus.org admin staff managing editor

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