Most Valuable Degrees

517

And the most valuable college degree goes to...

By Chris Kyle

What makes a degree valuable?
-Career opportunities?
-Average entry-level compensation?
-Time to completion?
-Versatility?

Our answer is: all of the above.

With graduation season coming up, we've compiled our list of Most Valuable Degrees based on these criteria.

And without further ado...the Most Valuable Degree goes to...

Winner: Bachelor's Degree in Business

The most popular college degree in the world is also the best college degree and a superb pick for students looking for a versatile bachelor's degree with major earning potential.

Time to completion: 4 years
Average entry-level compensation: $41,100*
Average mid-career income: $70,600*

Winning factor: One of the advantages of a business degree is that you're able to move into many different industries. To name just two, health care is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, and finance is one of the most stable.

Search for online and local Business schools!

2nd Place: Associate's Degree in Medical Assisting

The timing for earning an associate's degree in medical assisting couldn't be better. The suddenly red-hot career was highlighted in Laurence Shatkin's book Best Jobs for the 21st Century and was also named by Forbes as one of the fastest growing jobs for women in 2010.

Time to completion: 18 months to 2 years
Average entry-level compensation: $29,450*
Potential income: $39,970*

Winning factor: Medical assisting opportunities are expected to grow 34 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Search for Medical Assisting schools near you!

3rd Place: Bachelor's Degree in Accounting

Accounting is often overshadowed by the more popular business degree but the potential income figures are often higher for this more specialized degree.

Time to completion: 4 years
Average entry-level compensation: $46,500*
Average mid-career income: $77,500*

Winning factor: There's a lot of opportunity for those with an accounting degree. In a recent survey of more than 500 senior finance executives, more than half of the CFOs expressed concern about a lack of qualified accountants entering the workforce, according to global accounting organization Grant Thornton.

Search for Accounting degree programs now!

4th Place: Associate's Degree in Paralegal Studies

It's hard to imagine a two-year degree with more upside than an associate's degree in paralegal studies. This extremely solid degree could allow you to work for a law firm or for yourself, in whatever city or town you want in America.

Time to completion: 2 years
Average entry-level compensation: $50,080*
Potential income: $75,700*

Winning factor: Opportunities for paralegals and legal assistants are expected to grow at a healthy 28 percent clip between 2008 and 2018, according to the Department of Labor.

Search for Paralegal schools near you now!

5th Place: Bachelor's of Science in Nursing

Add security to the long list of reasons to pursue career as a nurse. A Vanderbilt University analysis in 2009 predicted that the U.S. will have a shortage of 260,000 nurses in 2025. Find a Nursing school near you.

Time to completion: 4 years
Average entry-level compensation: $52,700*
Average mid-career income: $68,200*

Winning factor: Employment opportunities are expected to soar 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, with hundreds of thousands of career openings expected from retirements, according to the Department of Labor.

Search for Nursing degree programs now!

*All starting income and mid-career income information comes from Payscale's 2010-2011 college salary report. Average income comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, using May 2009 median salary information, and potential income reflects earnings by the top ten percent.

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