5 Most Profitable College Degrees

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When children are asked what they want to be when they grow up, they often reply with occupations such as actor, astronaut, or the President. Unconcerned with student loans, interest rates, job outlooks, or median salaries, as children we choose our dream job based solely on what we think would be a rewarding, fun, and adventurous endeavor.

These days, choosing an enjoyable field of study is only a small piece of the puzzle in determining an ideal college degree program. Tuition cost and job data are also essential considerations. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is a federal entity that collects and analyzes educational data. Tom Snyder, NCES program director of annual reports and information, says it’s prudent to “know the bottom line” when choosing a degree program. To help degree seekers find this information, the NCES recently published reports indicating employment data across specific degree programs. Based on NCES reports, coupled with salary and job outlook data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following is a list of the five most profitable bachelor’s degree programs.

1. Engineering

Degree seekers have the option of obtaining a general engineering degree or a more concentrated degree, such petroleum engineering. The BLS reports the median annual salary for this occupational group, as a whole, at $74,530, with chemical engineers and petroleum engineers earning higher median annual salaries of $94,350 and $130,280, respectively. Along with a high salary (well above the national median annual household income of $53,046) comes a stable job outlook. Among recent graduates of engineering programs, 96.4 percent are employed. Additionally, while some engineering disciplines are expected to see slower growth, many fields, such as the civil engineering and petroleum engineering fields, are expected to see faster than average growth from 2012 to 2022.

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