Most Rewarding Degrees


If you're thinking of going back to school, check out our list of the Most Rewarding Degrees...

By Chris Kyle

Are you thinking of going back to school?

Before you do, check out our list of the Most Rewarding Degrees.

To compile our list, we looked at studies from the National Center for Employment Statistics (NCES), the University of Iowa, the University of Chicago, and

Each study tracked how satisfying different degrees (and subsequent careers) can be using various criteria including: average earning potential, satisfaction, benefits, and long-term opportunity.

Mixing together our research and data from these studies, we've identified today's Most Rewarding Degrees.

[Click here to find a degree program]

#1 - Health Care Administration Degree

The potential for excellent career satisfaction, high earning potential, and competitive benefits packages make health care administration our Most Rewarding Degree. But reported career stability is what sets it apart from the competition.

According to a 2008 NCES study that analyzed employment experiences of bachelor's degree recipients ten years after graduation, health care topped all other degrees in job security.

[Click here to find a Health Care Administration program]

Did You Know? Health care boasts 10 of the twenty fastest growing careers in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Average Salary for Health Care Administration Majors: $60,800*

Related Career and Average Salary:
Medical and health services managers: $80,240*

[Find schools offering Health Care Administration programs now]

#2 - International Business Degree

In today's global economy, it's hard to imagine a more relevant degree than international business…which is why we gave it the #2 spot on our Most Rewarding Degrees list.

[Click here to find schools with International Business programs]

According to a 2010 PayScale report, international business beat out the always popular business and health care degrees in a list of the most satisfying college majors.

Did You Know? When college graduates were asked how satisfied they were with their average earnings, business degrees led all others in a study from the University of Iowa's Educational Policy and Leadership Studies department. The 2005 study analyzed the link between career satisfaction and college majors over 25 years across 30 public and private institutions.

Average Salary for International Business Majors: $73,700*

Related Careers and Average Salaries:
Operations research analysts: $69,000*
Management analysts: $73,570*
Industrial production managers: $83,290*

[Find Business and International Business programs now]

#3 - Accounting Degree

Researchers in various studies have concluded that pursuing a career that is linked to your college major has a big effect on satisfaction levels after graduation.

Studying accounting in college could provide a direct pipeline to a career path in accounting or finance - two growing professions with upward mobility and good average earning prospects.

[Click here to find an Accounting school]

Generally speaking, people enjoy doing what they do well. If you have a head for numbers, an accounting degree could lead to great personal and professional satisfaction.

Did You Know? In PayScale's 2010 college major satisfaction survey, accounting trailed only chemical engineering and management information systems. The PayScale study was done in conjunction with a Wall Street Journal project, which looked at careers with high average salaries and growth potential.

Average Salary for Accounting Majors: $77,500*

Related Careers and Average Salaries:
Auditors: $59,430*
Financial analysts: $73,150*
Financial managers: $99,330*

[Find online and local Accounting programs]

#4 - Information Systems Degree

Information technology, also known as IT, is big but information systems, or IS, is getting even bigger. Information systems helps bridge the gap between the business and computer worlds. In fact, some of today's most successful companies are built upon this very foundation.

Garett Rogers and Christopher Dawson, who both have information systems degrees, run a popular blog called "Googling Google" on ZDNet in which they write about their passion for the internet. If you share their passion for computers, information systems could be a perfect match for your college major.

[Search for IT & Information Systems degree programs]

Did You Know? The U.S. Department of Labor forecasts "excellent" job prospects through 2018 for information system workers and managers, since new technology is driving a need for new hires.

Average Salary for Information Systems Majors: $87,100*

Related Careers and Average Salaries:
Computer systems administrators: $66,310*
Network systems analysts: $71,100*
Information systems managers: $112,210*

[Find the right IT program for you]

#5 - Education Degree

And coming in last, but certainly not least, is education.

Unlike some of our other rewarding degrees, education didn't rely upon high earning potential to crack our list. Instead career satisfaction and happiness - imagine that! - are primarily responsible.

According to a 2009 study by MetLife, teachers are more satisfied with their careers now than at any time in the past 25 years. The study measured job satisfaction with regards to such indicators as average pay, recognition, and respect from society as a whole.

[Find Teaching degree programs now]

Did You Know? A 2007 University of Chicago study found that the most rewarding jobs involve serving others. Education administrators and teachers finished near the top of the list.

Average Salary for Education Majors: $54,900*

Related Careers and Average Salaries:
Middle school vocational teachers: $47,870*
Secondary schools special education teachers: $51,340*
Elementary school principals: $85,907*

[Learn more about Education and Teaching programs]

*All salary information for college majors comes from PayScale's 2010-2011 College Salary Report that details average earnings for graduates with a bachelor's and no higher, while all career salary information comes the U.S. Department of Labor, using median averages for 2008.

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