Top Degrees for Making Money


See which degrees can lead to high-income careers.

By Chris Kyle

When it comes to making money, having the right education can make all the difference.

In fact, according to PayScale's 2010-2011 College Salary Report, $100,000 in annual income separates a petroleum engineering major ($157,000) from the average music major ($57,000) at the mid-career mark.

Don't like engineering? Don't despair. There are plenty of degrees to choose from.

[Click here to find the right college degree for you]

Using PayScale's 2010-2011 College Salary Report, we've identified 8 money-making college degrees:

  • Business Administration
  • Health Care Administration
  • Finance
  • Information Systems
  • Paralegal Studies
  • Criminal Justice
  • Accounting
  • Information Technology

Keep reading to learn more about these money-making degrees...

Degree #1: Bachelor's in Business Administration
Mid-Career Income: $70,600*

As a whole, business-related majors enjoyed the biggest paycheck increase over the past year, according to Andrea Koncz, employment information manager for the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Current business administration majors are seeing an average starting offer of $44,171. Market research analyst and advertising sales agent positions are typical career paths for business administration majors. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, research analysts had an average annual income of $67,500 in 2009, while sales agents averaged at $53,190.

[Search Business Administration degree programs]

Degree #2: Bachelor's in Health Care Administration
Mid-Career Income: $60,800

Health care is the biggest and fastest growing sector of the economy. While you might start out as an office manager in a doctor's office, earning roughly $40,000, some grads use work experience and sometimes a master's to help them transition into medical services managers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average income for this job was $90,970 in 2009.

[Find Health Care degree programs]

Degree #3: Bachelor's in Finance
Mid-Career Income: $91,500

Want to make money? It helps to study it. According to NACE's Winter 2011 Salary Survey report, starting salary offers for finance grads rose nearly two percent this year to $50,535. Typical careers for finance grads include personal financial advisors and budget analysts. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, financial advisors had an average income of $94,180 in 2009, while budget analysts averaged at $69,240.

[Search for Finance degree programs]

Degree #4: Bachelor's in Information Systems
Mid-Career Income: $87,100

Many information systems majors find careers in business and technology, two potentially lucrative options to say the least. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the top ten percent of computer systems analysts earned $119,170 in 2009. The agency lists a bachelor's degree as the most common qualification for the job.

[Search for Information Systems degree programs]

Degree #5: Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies
Mid-Career Income: $51,300

Paychecks are growing for paralegals, who are taking on many responsibilities that lawyers used to handle. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the top ten percent of paralegals earned $75,700 in 2009. For an even quicker entry into the field, consider earning an associate's degree or certificate in paralegal studies.

[Find Paralegal programs now]

Degree #6: Bachelor's in Criminal Justice
Mid-Career Income: $58,000

The war on terror has increased our need for criminal justice majors to fill positions at home and abroad. To use just one example, the top ten percent of police supervisors earned $116,340 in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

[Search for Criminal Justice career programs]

Degree #7: Bachelor's in Accounting
Mid-Career Income: $77,500

What recession? In the past year alone, accounting majors have seen their average starting salary offer rise 2.2 percent to $49,022, according to NACE's Winter 2011 Salary Survey report. What's more, 47 percent of accounting majors received a job offer prior to graduation in 2010, according to a separate NACE study. Getting an accounting degree is a great first step for those interested in pursuing a financial manager position. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, finance managers had an average income of $113,730 in 2009.

[Find Accounting degree programs near you]

Degree #8: Bachelor's in Information Technology (IT)
Mid-Career Income: $79,300

Studying IT is a great way to prepare for a potentially profitable job in today's digital age. Typical careers include computer programmers and database administrators. Computer programmers had a average income of $74,690 in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, while database administrators averaged at $74,290.

[Find IT degree programs]

*Unless otherwise noted, salary info comes from PayScale's 2010-2011 College Salary Report, which tracks full-time employees in the U.S. who possess a bachelor's degree and no higher.

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