If you choose a major that will position you to work in one of the highest-paying jobs for graduates, you can earn a comfortable salary straight out of college. Given the rising cost of higher education and the loan liability that many graduates have accumulated, college students are carefully considering the income potential of their degrees.
If you're an undergraduate, salary is one of the factors to consider when you're matching your interests to career options. Choose one of the best paying majors and you'll be positioned for financial success. It’s also important to consider whether the job responsibilities are a fit for your interests and whether the long-term job outlook is promising. Also consider the long-term potential if you're looking for the best-paid jobs, some of which may require additional education and training.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can help current and prospective college students to gain insight into the income and job potential of various popular options. Many of the jobs are technology-related, but there are other fields that pay graduates well, including health, communications, sales, finance, and entry-level management.
Choosing a Career Based on Earnings: Pros & Cons
Earning an income is perhaps the biggest reason why most people work for a living, so choosing a career based on potential earnings has its benefits. However, there can also be drawbacks to this approach.
Ability to pay down student debt more quickly
Being able to save for major expenses sooner
Gaining experience in an in-demand profession
More spending money
Potential for continuing education expenses
Being trapped in an unsatisfying career
Allowing money alone to drive career decisions
Potential to waste talents better applied elsewhere
Top 20 Highest-Paying Jobs for Graduates
These are the 20 highest-paying jobs for college graduates with bachelor’s degrees, as of 2018. The chart and list below show the median income, projected job growth, and a brief description with job requirements. The median annual salary for all occupations is $38,640, and the projected job growth for all occupations during the decade ending in 2026 is 7%.
1. Software Developers
Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop applications that allow people to perform specific tasks on a computer or another device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or control networks.
2. Electrical Engineers
Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, and power generation equipment. Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, including broadcast and communications systems, like portable music players and global positioning system (GPS) devices.
3. Computer Systems Analysts
Computer systems analysts study organizations' current computer systems and procedures and design solutions to help operate more efficiently and effectively. They bring business and information technology (IT) together by understanding the needs and limitations of both.
4. Industrial Engineers
Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.
5. Mechanical Engineers
Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines. Mechanical engineers design power-producing machines—such as electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines—as well as power-using machines, such as refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.
6. Civil Engineers
Civil engineers conceive, design, build, supervise, operate, construct, and maintain infrastructure projects and systems in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.
7. Financial Analysts
Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions. They assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments. They work for banks, pension funds, mutual funds, securities firms, insurance companies, and other businesses.
8. Management Analysts
Management analysts or management consultants propose ways to improve organizational efficiency. They advise managers on how to make organizations more profitable by reducing costs and increasing revenues. Organizations hire consultants to develop strategies for entering today's marketplace and staying competitive within it.
9. Network & Computer Systems Administrators
Network and computer systems administrators organize, install, and support organizations' computer systems, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), network segments, intranets, and other data communication systems. Administrators manage servers and desktop and mobile equipment. They ensure that email and data storage networks work properly.
10. Sales Representatives for Technical & Scientific Products
These sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain and promote the features of the products they are selling, negotiate prices, and answer any questions that their customers may have about the products.
Chemists study substances at the atomic and molecular levels and analyze the ways in which the substances interact with one another. They use their knowledge to develop new and improved products, and to test the quality of manufactured goods.
Logisticians analyze and coordinate organizations' supply chains—the systems that move products from supplier to consumer. They manage the entire life cycle of a product, which includes the acquisition, allocation, and delivery of a product.
13. Registered Nurses
Registered nurses provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.
14. Accountants & Auditors
Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records. They ensure that financial records are accurate and that taxes are paid properly and on time. Accountants and auditors assess financial operations and work to help ensure that organizations run efficiently.
15. Loan Officers
Loan officers evaluate, authorize, or recommend approval of loan applications for people and businesses. The work of loan officers has sizable customer service and sales components. Loan officers often answer questions and guide customers through the application process.
16. Securities, Commodities, & Financial Services Salespersons
These salespersons connect buyers and sellers in financial markets. They sell securities to individuals, advise companies in search of investors, and conduct trades.
17. Market Research Analysts
Market research analysts study market conditions to examine the sales potential of products or services. They help companies understand what products people want, who will buy them, and at what price. They collect data and information using a variety of methods, such as interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, market analysis surveys, public opinion polls, and literature reviews.
18. Human Resources Specialists
Human resources specialists recruit, screen, interview, and place workers. They often handle other human resources work, such as those related to employee relations, compensation, benefits, and training.
19. Public Relations Specialists
Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the organizations they represent. They craft media releases and develop social media programs to shape public perception of their organizations, and to increase awareness of their work and goals.
Elementary, middle school, and high school teachers prepare lessons, present educational material to students, evaluate students' progress, manage classroom behavior, and communicate with parents about student problems and progress.
Source: Job descriptions, salary, and job outlook information courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics