While there are ways to generate income to pay off your college debts through side gigs, nothing compares to a steady paycheck to bolster your finances, especially through high paying entry-level jobs.
The good news for former students entering the workforce is that the average entry-level salary for new college graduates is increasing. The class of 2020 has an average starting salary of $55,260 — a 2.5% raise over the previous year, according to the Summer 2021 Salary Survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
Landing well-paying jobs with ample room for advancement is also one of the best ways to pay off your student loans — though, it often depends on the field in which you earned your degree. While wages look to be rising across the economy, the very highest-paying positions seem to be dominated by the sciences.
Here are the 10 highest paying entry-level jobs, according to data from NACE and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), earning you the most money straight out of college:
1. Petroleum engineer
2. Computer programmer
3. Computer engineer
4. Computer scientist
5. Electrical, electronics and communications engineer
6. Operations research analyst
7. Computer and information scientist
9. Applied mathematician
10. Chemical engineer
Plus: How to get that first job
What are entry-level jobs?
Entry-level jobs are positions suited for young professionals or recent college graduates who have little to no experience in the workforce. Many entry-level jobs come with lower pay and require more training than other positions. But the ones on the list below pay significantly more than what most people make right out of college.
Average starting salary: $87,989
Petroleum engineering comes in as one of the top high paying entry-level jobs with an average starting salary that isn’t far off from being six figures.
Petroleum engineers are responsible for developing ways to extract oil and gas from the earth that will be used toward energy production. Many employers in this field look for recent graduates with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. This can include petroleum, mechanical, civil and chemical engineering.
The average annual salary for a petroleum engineer is $137,330 and the position has a projected 3% growth rate — which is heavily determined by oil prices — an average percentage for most jobs.
Average starting salary: $86,098
Computer programmer positions are a bit unusual because, while they are among the most high paying entry-level jobs, the projected growth rate is -9%. This may be due to the fact that because computer programming positions can be done remotely, some companies hire out internationally where they don’t have to pay as big of salaries.
Computer programmers write code for software programs and operating systems, and analyze them to ensure that they work. In these types of roles, you’ll need to be well-versed in programming languages such as SQL, C++, HTML, Python and Java. The average annual salary for a computer programmer is $89,190.
Average starting salary: $85,996
Computer engineers design, create and test components used to make a computer run such as circuits, routers and processors. To become employed as a computer engineer, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in computer or electrical engineering or computer science. Many employers also look to hire those who attended programs accredited through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET).
On average, computer engineers make an annual salary of $119,560. While computer engineer jobs pay well, unfortunately, they only have a projected 2% annual growth rate which is a slower pace than most industries.
Average starting salary: $85,766
Computer scientists create and assess software programs and can find positions in places like Silicon Valley or at large technology companies. To work as a computer scientist, employers look for those with computer science or similar types of degrees.
With a 15% projected growth rate, there are plenty of career opportunities as this is a much higher rate than most fields. Computer scientists typically make a wage of $126,830 a year.
Average starting salary: $80,819
Electrical, electronics and communications engineers work hands-on with electrical products. It is their responsibility to research, create and improve the manufacturing of electrical equipment. These types of engineers make an average salary of $103,390 a year, and can work in a variety of industries including automotive, communications and energy.
Positions as an electrical, electronics and communications engineer have a projected 3% growth rate which is average for most jobs.
Average starting salary: $80,166
Operations research analysts help businesses run more effectively by utilizing data mining and statistics. Employers typically seek those with degrees in mathematics, computer engineering, business, engineering or other types of technical degrees.
With a projected growth rate of 25%, work as an operations research analyst offers a wide range of opportunities for new college graduates going into this field. Operations research analysts typically make a median wage of $86,200 per year.
Average starting salary: $78,603
While working in the computer and information science field, people in these types of positions can usually expect to make a median annual salary of $126,830. Computer and information science workers must have a well-rounded knowledge of how computers work as well as their programs so they can best help manage a company or organization’s computer system.
Aside from high salaries, positions in computer and information science also offer plenty of room for expansion with a 15% projected growth rate, much higher than the average job growth rate.
Average starting salary: $75,916
As the gathering and application of data is in high demand across many industries, the need for statisticians is growing at a top speed. Work as a statistician is one of the fastest growing jobs on this list with a 33% projected growth rate. Statisticians collect and study information and data to help guide companies and organizations in their decision making.
Statisticians make a median wage of $92,270 a year, and will need to have strong analytical, technical and communication skills.
Average starting salary: $73,558
With a degree in applied mathematics, mathematicians in this field focus on the theory and application of mathematical data to address questions and issues in the scientific and engineering fields. These mathematicians should be familiar with subjects such as statistics, probability and computation.
Those going into the applied mathematics field can expect an eventual median annual salary of $110,860. With a 33% projected growth rate, like statistics, applied mathematics offers the most opportunity for growth on this roundup of high paying entry-level jobs.
Average starting salary: $72,713
As a chemical engineer, there are a wide variety of industries available to explore such as agriculture, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing. Chemical engineers are responsible for researching and testing manufacturing processes, sometimes working with dangerous chemicals. People in these positions need a strong grasp on mathematics and chemistry as well as other areas of science.
Chemical engineers make a median annual salary of $108,540. The field has a 4% projected growth rate which is on track with the average growth rate for all jobs.
Of course, none of the jobs above will necessarily fall straight into your lap. While some students are lucky enough to be recruited by interested employers, the vast majority of graduates will need to put in the time and effort to apply for their first post-graduation position.
If you’re nearing the end of your academic career, or have already matriculated but haven’t yet found work, there are things you can do to get that first career opportunity. For one thing, check out our guide to 12 tips for making yourself a marketable job candidate.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 9 lenders of 2022!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|2.49% – 11.72%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.30%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|4.13% – 7.39%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.99%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.99%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.24% – 8.24%6||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.48% – 7.98%||Undergrad |
|1.74% – 7.99%7||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.69% – 9.92%8||Undergrad & Graduate|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of September 6, 2022.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $9 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of 5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.
As of 09/09/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 4.13% APR – 7.39% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.99% APR – 9.93% Fixed APR with AutoPay.
4 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 3.99% – 8.74% APR (3.74% – 8.49% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.74% APR to 8.24% APR (2.49% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.
5 Important Disclosures for Navient.
6 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
Fixed rates range from 3.99% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 3.24% APR to 8.24% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.
7 Important Disclosures for Purefy.
Purefy Student Loan Refinancing Rate and Terms Disclosure: Annual Percentage Rates (APR) ranges and examples are based on information provided to Purefy by lenders participating in Purefy’s rate comparison platform. For student loan refinancing, the participating lenders offer fixed rates ranging from 2.73% – 7.99% APR, and variable rates ranging from 1.74% – 7.99% APR. The maximum variable rate is 25.00%. Your interest rate will be based on the lender’s requirements. In most cases, lenders determine the interest rates based on your credit score, degree type and other credit and financial criteria. Only borrowers with excellent credit and meeting other lender criteria will qualify for the lowest rate available. Rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice. Terms and conditions apply.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens.
Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%-9.92% (3.69%-9.92% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49%-10.11% (4.49%-10.11% APR).
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 6.39%- 9.60% (6.39% – 9.60% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.58% – 9.79% (6.58% – 9.79% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).
Education Refinance Loan for Parents Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69%- 9.09% (3.69%- 9.09% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.28% (4.49% – 9.28% APR).
Medical Residency Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.69% – 9.16% (3.69% – 9.16% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 9.35% (4.49% – 9.35% APR).