College Degrees That Could Pay Well


Learn more about five degrees with high pay back potential.

By Chloe Jenkins-Sleczkowski

Do you want to pursue a degree that has the potential to pay you back?

Great news: there are some degrees that are linked to careers with high average pay, according to career experts, Hallie Crawford and Dr. Rich Feller.

And while there are no guarantees that a specific degree will help students land a high-paying gig, Crawford and Feller both agree that well-paying careers tend to involve high levels of risk and responsibility. This means that people in charge of running things - from entire businesses to computer systems - tend to be rewarded for the skills they bring to the table, according to the experts.

So, which degrees have the potential to give your paycheck a healthy kick? Keep reading to learn more...

Degree #1 - Business Administration

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Looking for a way to hone your natural-born leadership skills? A bachelor's degree in business administration - which could have solid payback potential - might be a great option for you.

In a business administration and management program, students might learn to "be a whiz on how to budget, organize, plan, hire, direct, control, and manage various kinds of organizations - from entrepreneurial-type start-ups to multi-million-dollar corporations," according to the "Top 10 College Majors" list published by the Princeton Review, an organization that offers test preparation services.

Often offered at the bachelor's degree levels, typical major courses may include operations management, financial management, and accounting, says the College Board, an educational organization that administers tests like the SAT.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Administration Program.

Potential Career Payback: Crawford says that since business is a very general degree, it can be leveraged towards specializing in a high-paying position and moving up the corporate ladder. Upper-level opportunities could include general and operations managers, in which people might oversee diverse operations across various areas of management in public or private sector organizations, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Besides having a considerable amount of work experience, many top executives have a bachelor's or master's degree in business administration or in a subject related to their field of work.

General and operations managers have an average salary of $114,490, according to the Department of Labor, with New Jersey ($162,450), Rhode Island ($142,040), and Connecticut ($141,760) doling out the top salaries for this career.*

Degree #2 - Health Services Administration

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Are you ready to learn about how health care and business interact? You're in luck, a bachelor's degree in health services administration could teach you just that - and the payback potential isn't too shabby either.

In a health services administration program, students may take common courses like health care law and health care finance, as well as "learn all aspects of overseeing health care facilities and the services they provide," says the College Board.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Health Services Administration Program.

Potential Career Payback: "This kind of degree is helpful not only because it can lead to high paying careers like hospital administration, medical center administration, government and research positions like the CDC, but health care is one of the more stable industries in general," says Crawford. Depending on whether you earn a bachelor's or master's degree in this field, you could be prepared to pursue a career as a health and medical services manager. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, "prospective medical and health services managers have a bachelor's degree in health administration."

Master's degrees are also common, adds the Department of Labor, in fields such as health services, business administration, public health, long-term care administration, and public administration. Health care executives may plan and coordinate medical and health services in a hospital, physician's offices, or other health care facilities.

Health and medical services managers have an average salary of $96,030. Top paying states for this field include Massachusetts ($112,690), Rhode Island ($112,260), and New York ($111,270).*

Degree #3 - Computer Science

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Students in a bachelor's degree in computer science usually learn to be well versed in all things computers - and could potentially strive for careers with high average salaries - thanks to their tech-savvy skills.

IT and information systems programs may include common courses like computer science, computer programming, and math and statistics, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Often offered at the bachelor's degree level, students in this type of program may also learn strong technical skills that could be utilized in helping to solve a variety of problems related to computer and IT systems, according to the College Board.

Computer science programs may include common courses like artificial intelligence, software engineering, and mathematics for computer science, according to the College Board. Often offered at the bachelor's degree level, students in this type of program may also learn the skills needed to debug computer programming and solve other computer problems.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Computer Science Program.

Potential Career Payback: With a bachelor's degree in a computer or information science related field, you could prepare to pursue a cutting-edge position as a computer and information systems manager, notes the Department of Labor. People in this career generally coordinate an organization's computer-related activities and make sure they meet their information technology goals.

Computer and information systems managers have an average annual salary of $125,660. The best paying states for this field include New York ($145,550), California ($144,240), and New Jersey ($143,710).*

Degree #4 - Accounting

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Do you love balancing your checkbook and making calculations? You could put your money skills to use - and prep to pursue a career with payback potential - by earning a bachelor's degree in accounting.

Accounting majors usually learn how to gather, analyze, and interpret financial data, according to the College Board. In a bachelor's in accounting program, students often learn how to make balance sheets and evaluate a company's profitability, says the College Board.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Accounting Program.

Potential Career Payback: Positions that support people who make lots of money are much more likely to take in a high income, says Feller. And this is exactly what you could be doing as an accountant by helping ensure that financial statements are accurate and the organization runs smoothly, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

A bachelor's degree in accounting is required to pursue most accountant positions, which have an average annual salary of $70,130. Accountants in District of Columbia ($86,030), New York ($85,070), and New Jersey ($81,250) have the highest average salaries.*

Degree #5 - Civil Engineering

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Are you intrigued by the Chrysler Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Seattle Space Needle? A bachelor's degree in engineering generally focuses on understanding how constructions are designed - and also has the potential for solid payback.

In a civil engineering program, students learn to design big constructions using math and science, according to the College Board. Civil engineering majors usually take commonly offered courses like strength of materials, structural analysis and design, and engineering economics.

Next step: Click to Find the Right Engineering Program.

Potential Career Payback: Civil engineers not only supervise large construction projects, they also provide cost estimates for equipment, material or labor. To obtain a license as a civil engineer, you must first complete a bachelor's degree in civil engineering or one of its specialties, notes the U.S. Department of Labor. The program must be accredited by ABET, formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. You will then need to pass the Fundamental of Engineer Test and may need to meet other requirements, depending on the state, notes the Department of Labor.

But the payoff could be big: Civil engineers have an average annual salary of $82,710. However, in states like California ($95,070), Alaska ($91,420), and Texas ($89,840), civil engineers tend to earn more.*

*All education requirements per the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition. Average annual salary information is from the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2011 statistics, unless otherwise noted.

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