When it comes to the best degrees for your money, engineering offers the highest median income per degree. Because college is so expensive, it’s important to pay attention to the degree’s return on investment (ROI) to ensure that you can get a well-paying job after you graduate.
However, you shouldn’t choose a major solely because it’s linked to the best-paying jobs. Doing so could lead you to being miserable in college. Or worse, miserable when you start working. You have to weigh the degree’s ROI with your interest and passion for the subject to ensure you have a fulfilling career.
15 best degrees for your money
To find the median income for people holding each degree, Student Loan Hero researchers sampled Census Bureau data from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS). Researchers only included people older than 18 with a degree who were employed at the time of the 2018 survey.
1: Engineering ($96,200)
2: Military technologies ($88,100)
3 (tie): Computer and information sciences ($86,300)
3 (tie): Transportation sciences and technologies ($86,300)
5: Construction services ($83,100)
6: Engineering technologies ($81,000)
7: Physical sciences ($77,000)
8: Mathematics and statistics ($76,000)
9 (tie): Architecture ($71,000)
9 (tie): Biology and life sciences ($71,000)
11: Social sciences ($70,500)
12: Business ($69,500)
13: Medical and health sciences and services ($65,900)
14: History ($65,600)
15: Nuclear, industrial radiology and biological technologies ($62,800)
Less than 6% of college degrees conferred in 2016 — the last available data — were in engineering, but it’s a degree that leads to the highest-paying careers. In fact, the Harvard Business Review reported in 2018 that 34 of the top 100-performing CEOs in the world had engineering degrees.
There are different specializations within engineering, including chemical engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. Depending on which discipline you choose, you have a wide range of career options, from working for the government to private organizations.
If you’re preparing for a career in the military and want to become an officer, obtaining a degree in military technologies can give you an edge. Within this degree program, you’ll study leadership skills, military strategy, weaponry and ethics. After graduation, you can enter into the armed forces, homeland security, or join a private defense and security company.
If you need to take out student loans to pay for your military technologies degree, there are a number of loan repayment assistance and forgiveness options for military servicemembers and veterans.
By majoring in computer and information sciences, you’ll learn how to design and analyze programs, systems and programming languages. From software engineering to web development, you can work on the cutting edge of technology, using artificial intelligence and data science to address today’s problems.
With a bachelor’s degree in computer and information sciences, you can qualify for good-paying jobs throughout your career.
For students who pursue a degree in transportation sciences and technologies, they may have an interest in both engineering and solving transportation and environmental issues. Students may specialize in particular areas, such as air transportation, urban transportation, or logistics.
Degree holders can go on to careers in logistics, city planning for government agencies, or manage supply chains for major companies.
If the idea of being stuck in an office all day bores you, you may want to consider a degree in construction services. With a degree in this field, you could become a construction manager, planning and supervising construction projects on-site. As companies continue to grow, building construction — and demand for construction managers — will continue to grow as well, so this can be a lucrative career option.
While engineering and engineering technologies degrees are similar, there are distinct differences. Engineering technology degrees focus on hands-on learning and implementation, with more lab work. Instead of focusing on theory, engineering technology graduates are technologists, and primarily spend their time working in the field doing construction, product design, or testing.
Physical sciences is a degree that focuses on studying processes of the nonliving world, such as chemistry and physics.
If you major in chemistry, you could work for a biochemistry company or in forensic science. If you have a bachelor’s in physics, you could work as a research technician or lab assistant. However, many physical science majors go on to get a master’s or doctoral degree to open up more career opportunities.
While you may need to take out significant student loan debt to pay for school, physical science has the highest earnings to debt ratio, offsetting its cost.
If you enjoy math, obtaining a degree in mathematics and statistics can make you a candidate for some of the best-paying jobs. Mathematicians and statisticians work for the government, private companies and research firms to analyze data and come up with formulas to solve problems.
While some entry-level positions are available if you have a bachelor’s degree, you’ll likely need a master’s degree to advance in your career.
The demand for professionals in this field is extremely high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook is expected to grow by 30% by 2028, much faster than the national average.
With a degree in architecture, you can get a job as an architect and plan and design houses, office buildings and other structures. When it comes to the best degrees for your money, architecture is a solid investment, as you can earn a high salary without needing an advanced degree; most entry-level positions require just a bachelor’s degree to get started.
The job outlook for architects is quite good, with the industry expected to grow faster than the national average.
If you decide to major in biology and life sciences, you could plan to teach high school or college-level students. Or, you could enter into a career doing biological research, forensic science, pharmaceutical development, or medicine.
To succeed in this field, you’ll likely need to go on to get your master’s and doctorate degrees. Demand for skilled professionals is expected to grow, as new treatments for diseases and physical conditions are needed.
A social sciences degree covers a broad range of majors, including anthropology, comparative human development, race and ethnic studies, economics, psychology and sociology.
With a bachelor’s degree in these areas, you have many different career options, from teaching to journalism.
For example, you could become a sociologist, which studies society and social behaviors. While you’ll likely need a master’s degree to secure a job, positions tend to be well-paying. And, the job outlook is expected to grow faster than other occupations, improving your chances for job security.
If you’re getting ready to go to school, you may be asking yourself, “What should I go to college for?” Common advice is to pursue a business degree; it’s by far the most popular major. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 372,000 degrees — nearly 20% of the total degrees issued in 2016, the last available data — were business degrees.
It’s easy to understand why. A business degree gives you a solid foundation to enter into a wide range of careers, from starting your own business to working as a consultant. If you choose to go on to pursue a masters of business administration, you could qualify for the highest-paying careers and boost your salary over the $100,000 mark. According to the survey by the Wall Street Journal, the median salary for consultants who returned to top consulting firms after receiving their MBA nearly doubled.
Medical and health sciences and services is a huge degree field encompassing a wide range of career paths. It includes fields like administrative health services, nursing, pharmacy and community and public health.
Typically, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree to get started. However, most positions in these fields will require advanced degrees. But if you’re looking for jobs that make good money and that offer security, this can be an excellent field, as demand for trained medical personnel continues to grow.
If you’re thinking of majoring in history, you’re in good company. Many famous people majored in history, including former Vice President Joe Biden, comedian Conan O’Brien, and Martha Stewart.
With a bachelor’s degree in history, there are a number of careers that pay well you can choose from. While some history majors go on to become professional historians, you may opt to become a professor or teacher, enter into politics or law, or work for a museum.
Nuclear, industrial radiology and biological technologies is an increasingly popular major as it can lead to a relatively secure career in healthcare. With a degree in this area, there are two main career paths:
- Radiologic and MRI technologist: Technologists create diagnostic images of patients, usually working in hospitals or other healthcare facilities.
- Nuclear medicine technologist: As a nuclear medicine technologist, you’ll prepare radioactive medications — such as those used to treat cancer — and administer them to patients
These are two examples of jobs that pay well without requiring a bachelor’s degree or advanced credential, giving you an excellent return-on-investment. Both positions typically require an associate’s degree for entry-level positions. The job outlook for nuclear, industrial radiology and biological technologies is high, with it expected to grow faster than the national average.
Elyssa Kirkham contributed to this report.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2020!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.99% – 6.65%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.99% – 7.10%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.99% – 6.44%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|1.99% – 6.43%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.19% – 6.08%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
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. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
ANNUAL PERCENTAGE RATE (“APR”)
There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.
For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
ELIGIBILITY & ELIGIBLE LOANS
Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).
Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.
All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.
For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.
The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.
The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.
POSTPONING OR REDUCING PAYMENTS
After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.
We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.
If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of June 23, 2020 and is subject to change.
2 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Splash Financial loans are available through arrangements with lending partners. Your loan application will be submitted to the lending partner and be evaluated at their sole discretion. For loans where a credit union is the lender, or a purchaser of the loan, in order to refinance your loans, you will need to become a credit union member.
The Splash Student Loan Refinance Program is not offered or endorsed by any college or university. Neither Splash Financial nor the lending partner are affiliated with or endorse any college or university listed on this website.
You should review the benefits of your federal student loan; it may offer specific benefits that a private refinance/consolidation loan may not offer. If you work in the public sector, are in the military or taking advantage of a federal department of relief program, such as income based repayment or public service forgiveness, you may not want to refinance, as these benefits do not transfer to private refinance/consolidation loans.
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 May 1, 2020.
Fixed APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rate options range from 2.88% (without autopay) to 7.27% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.88% per year to 6.21% per year for a 5-year term, 3.40% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term, 3.45% to 5.08% for a 8-year term, 3.89% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term, 4.18% per year to 5.11% per year for a 12-year term, 4.20% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term, or 4.51% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. The fixed interest rate will apply until the loan is paid in full (whether before or after default, and whether before or after the scheduled maturity date of the loan).
Variable APR: Annual Percentage Rate [APR] is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Variable rate options range from 1.99% (with autopay) to 7.10% (without autopay) and will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Our lowest rate option is shown with a 0.25% autopay discount. Our highest rate option does not include an autopay discount. The variable rates are based on the Variable rate index, is based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of April 27, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.43763%. The interest rate on a variable rate loan is comprised of an index and margin added together. The margin is a fixed amount (disclosed at the time of your loan application) added each month to the index to determine the next month’s variable rate. Variable rate options without an autopay discount consist of a range from 2.01% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term, 4.00% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term, 2.09% per year to 3.92% per year for a 8-year term, 4.25% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 2.67% per year to 4.56% per year for a 12-year term, 3.44% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term, 4.75% per year to 6.93% per year for a 20-year term, or 5.14% per year to 7.10% for a 25-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate may be between 9.00% and 16.00%, depending on loan term. The floor rate may be between 0.54% and 4.21%, depending on loan term. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.19% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.43% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.43% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of June 15, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 6/15/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.2% effective May 10, 2020.