Highest Paying Degrees:
Top 10 List of Degrees
that Pay the Most

This top 10 list of highest paying degrees is based off information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Keep in mind that this list is categorized by college majors - not professions. This means that the median salary data is averaged between many professions related to its perspective degree.

1) Medicine (M.D. or D.O)

Median Annual Salary: $186,000

Common Professions:

  • Family and general practitioner

  • Obstetricians and gynecologist

  • Psychiatrist

  • Surgeon

  • Anesthesiologist

Medical Doctors (MD) or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) provide varying, specialized healthcare to their patients - commanding the 2 highest paying degrees on this list. MDs and DOs must complete 4 years of undergraduate school, 4 years of medical school, and approximately 3 to 8 years of residency.

Residents are paid a modest salary while completing their training. Admission to medical schools are highly competitive - exemplary GPA, student activities, and MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) scores are all taken into consideration by each school's admissions department.

While the MD and DO degrees top this list, many students are swayed from the profession by the competition, years of education, demanding hours, and level of responsibility.

2) Dental (DDS or DMD)

Median Annual Salary: $142,870

Common Professions:

  • Dentist

  • Orthodontist

  • Maxillofacial surgeon

Doctors of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctors of Dental Medicine (DMD) provide dental examinations, treatment, recommendations, and surgery to their patients. Students seeking these degrees must complete at least 3 years of undergraduate school and 4 years of dental school - however many dental school graduates continue with residency programs. Like physicians, DDS and DMD schools only admit those with a good GPA and score well on their DAT (Dental Admissions Test).

While dental professions require many years of education and training, their salaries are slightly less to that of physicians, yet the nature of their work is not as demanding as an MD or DO's.

3) Engineering Degree

Manager Median Annual Salary: $155,270 | Non-Manager: $73,336

Common Professions:

  • Industrial engineer

  • Civil engineer

  • Mechanical engineer

  • Electrical engineer

  • Computer hardware engineer

Engineering is among the highest paying degrees without requiring post-graduate education. There are many types of engineering positions - each with their own work conditions. While professions in engineering pay very competitive salaries, employees who seek management positions boost their wages well over six figures.

The highest paid engineering jobs are for those who specialize in petroleum, nuclear, and aerospace.

4) Computer and Information Systems Degree

Manager Median Annual Salary: $112,210 | Non-Manager: $71,255

Common Professions:

  • Software engineers/programmer

  • Systems analyst

  • Network administrators/engineer

  • Database administrator

With technology changing, the need for talented professionals is growing as well. While many positions in IT (Information Technology) pay respectfully well, management positions average over six figures. Managers in IT hold much responsibility - protecting, administrating, and developing IT systems for businesses.

Students who wish to pursue management in IT may be better off obtaining a post-Baccalaureate degree.

5) Law (J.D.)

Median Annual Salary: $110,590

Common Professions:

  • Private practice lawyer

  • Patent lawyer

  • Criminal Trial lawyer

  • Bankruptcy lawyer

The J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree requires students to, on average, undergo 7 years of higher education. A 4 year undergraduate degree is required for admission into law school, which is typically a 3 year program. Admissions into law school is fairly difficult - students should have a good GPA, a clean background, and receive a good score on their LSAT (Law School Admission Test).

6) Marketing Degree

Manager Median Annual Salary: $108,580 | Non-Manager: $56,400

Common Professions:

  • Sales manager

  • Advertising sales agent

  • Market researcher

  • Public relations specialist

The highest paying degrees most often require some sort of post-baccalaureate education. In marketing, this is sometimes not the case. Marketing professionals develop a skill set that not everyone can obtain - and if they're good at what they do, employers will pay top-dollar for their services.

Managers in marketing are typically paid over six figures. As with all management positions on this list, a Masters or Professional degree will boost your chances for landing that kind of pay.

7) Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)

Median Annual Salary: $106,410

Common Professions

  • Retail pharmacist

  • Hopital pharmacist

  • Federal Government pharmacist

Students who earn their Pharm.D. degree will usually enjoy good hours, working conditions, and a very comfortable salary. Unlike lawyers, medical doctors, and dentists, students have the opportunity to enter pharmacy school without 4 years of college.

Many community colleges and universities have articulation agreements with pharmacy schools, which prepare students for what they will need before proceeding; however, there is still a large number of students who enter pharmacy school after earning their Bachelors degree.

8) Physics/Astronomy Degree

Median Annual Salary: $102,095

The demand for physicists and astronomers will increase faster than average - and so will their paychecks. Many of these types of degree holders will work in universities as researchers - many of those jobs are funded by the Federal Government, and facilitated by the schools. Physics and astronomy degrees should be pursued at the Ph.D. level, as this is where the highest salaries are given.

If this list expanded past the top 10 highest paying degrees, Ph.D. level science professions would rank very well.

9) Finance Degree

Manager Median Annual Salary: $99,330 | Non-Manager: $58,484

Common Professions:

  • Branch manager

  • Securities broker

  • Financial advisor

  • Insurances sales agent

While finance majors are given comfortable salaries, the near six figure incomes primarily come from management positions with the exception of some talented securities brokers.

Management positions are often given to employees that have advanced degrees. A Master's in finance or business administration is recommended if you have ambition to become a manager.

10) Computer Science Ph.D.

Median Annual Salary: $97,990

Common Professions:

  • Systems design consultant

  • Computer scientific researcher

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a Ph.D. in computer science is one of the highest paying degrees for employees outside of management positions. Computer scientists with advanced degrees are typically wanted for design and research development positions.

Advanced subjects in networking technology, software engineering, or computer hardware engineering are typically studied while pursuing the Ph.D.

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Degrees for the Future

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Best College Degrees

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