How Much Education Do You Need for a High-Paying Job?

Published  July 13, 2016 |
How Much Education Do You Need for a High-Paying Job?
While you can certainly obtain a job with an undergraduate degree, many careers offer better jobs and higher salaries if you continue your education.

Before you apply to college you need to think about what kind of classes interest you so you know which major to focus on. With so many options, out there, however, it can be difficult to make a choice. While it is important to consider your interests and your skills, you also need to be practical – what career will earn you enough money to live the life you want?

What are the Highest Paying Careers?

When you start thinking about attending college, whether you choose a community college or a traditional university, you should have some idea what kind of career you are interested. What makes this so challenging is the fact that there are a nearly limitless array of options. With tuition costs ever increasing, leaving graduates with more debt than ever, it is worth doing a little research to see if the career path you are on will pay enough for you to pay back your loan debt while also covering your cost of living. If you want to make sure that you will have financial security, consider going into one of the highest paying careers which include the following:

  • Engineering – According to Bankrate.com, seven out of the top ten highest-paying majors are within various engineering fields. Not only are engineering jobs some of the highest paying jobs out there, but engineers can increase their rate of pay by obtaining additional certifications and licenses such as a Professional Engineering (PE) license. The median starting salary for a career in engineering is about $65k to $101k with the medium mid-career salary jumping to $115k to $168k.
  • Computer Science – With technological advances happening every day, careers in computer science and mathematics are highly in-demand and they pay very well. This field is very competitive, however, so it is important to graduate from a good school and to have a good internship. The median starting salary for a career in computer science is about $63k with the medium mid-career salary jumping to $107k.
  • Physics – With a degree in physics there are a wide variety of job opportunities open to you in all kinds of industries including healthcare, government, hospitals, education, and more. The median starting salary for a career in physics is about $55k with the medium mid-career salary jumping to $106k.
  • Applied Mathematics – Having a degree in statistics, applied mathematics, or mathematics in general will set you up for a very successful (and lucrative) career. It is estimated that 95% of mathematics majors are employed, so you can rest easy knowing that you will have little trouble finding a job after graduation. The median starting salary for a career in applied mathematics is about $56k with the medium mid-career salary jumping to $102k.
  • Economics – With a degree in economics you can pursue a wide variety of career options in various business- and finance-related fields. An economics degree can also open doors for careers in consulting, law, education, research, and government. The median starting salary for a career in economics is about $52k with the medium mid-career salary jumping to $98k.
  • Management Information Systems – It doesn’t do a company any good to collect data unless they have someone who knows how to interpret it – that is where a degree in management information systems comes into play. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this field is growing by 15% each year. The median starting salary for a career in management information systems is about $56k with the medium mid-career salary jumping to $96k.
  • Finance – When it comes to the world of finance, the career options are nearly endless. With so many finance majors entering the job market each year, however, you need to set yourself apart with a high GPA and some real-world experience from an internship or by playing a financial role with on-campus organizations. The median starting salary for a career in finance is about $52k with the medium mid-career salary jumping to $89k.
  • Government/Politics – If you want to get a job with the U.S government, you will need a degree in government or politics. This degree can also get you a job with various contracting firms, international companies, think tanks, and lobbying groups. The median starting salary for a career in government or politics is about $42k with the medium mid-career salary jumping to $88k.
  • Construction Project Management – Construction jobs are always available but there is also a need for qualified individuals to manage those projects. In order to succeed as a project manager you will need an education in planning, organizing, and supervising construction projects. The median starting salary for a career in construction project management is about $51k with the medium mid-career salary jumping to $83k.
  • Biochemistry – Careers in biochemistry and molecular biology are great because you can find a job in a research lab nearly anywhere in the country – you can also find employment in hospitals, biotech firms, pharmaceutical companies, refineries, and more. The median starting salary for a career in biochemistry is about $44k with the medium mid-career salary jumping to $91k.

Will You Really Make More Money with a Master’s Degree?

Obtaining a degree in one of the ten fields mentioned in the previous section can go a long way toward securing your financial future. In many fields, however, having an undergraduate degree simply isn’t enough – especially if you want to maximize your earnings. According to a 2015 study conducted by students at Georgetown University, the average annual salary for college graduates holding a bachelor’s degree is about $61k over the course of their entire career. For students who go on to obtain a master’s degree, however, that number jumps to $78k – that is a difference of $17k! Annual salary varies depending on your major, of course, but higher education can significantly boost your earnings.

But why is it that students with master’s degrees earn more than students who only hold a bachelor’s degree? For one thing, obtaining a master’s degree requires several years of extra education and, in any cases, it allows the student to become a specialist in a more nuanced part of their chosen field. With a master’s degree, you may receive a higher starting salary and you are more likely to be successful in climbing the corporate ladder on your way to an even higher salary. The key is to obtain a master’s degree in a field that is relevant to your career choice and that will increase your value for potential employers.

Tips for Finding High-Paying Jobs After College

Some careers require more education than others and the careers that pay the most tend to require the most education. With certain careers you can get your foot in the door with an undergraduate degree (like engineering or mathematics), but you will find that bigger, better jobs become available as you continue your education. In addition to furthering your education, there are a few other things you can do to find and keep a high-paying job – here are some simple tips:

  • Never stop learning! Take every opportunity you have to cross-train, to learn new skills that will help you in your current job or that will increase your chances of getting a bigger, better job.
  • Develop your verbal and nonverbal skills and as well as your leadership skills. These are called “soft skills” and in many careers they are just as important as your technical knowledge.
  • Make yourself valuable to your employer. Play an active role in team development and don’t be afraid to step into a leadership position.
  • Network, network, network. In many cases, obtaining a high-paying job is more about who you know than what you know – build a reputation for yourself within the industry and take advantage of opportunities to meet other big players.
  • Learn how to interview well. Take the time to research the company before you interview and understand the importance of asking questions, not just answering the interviewer’s questions. Employers want to see initiative and an interest in the field.

When it comes to landing a high-paying job, there are many factors that come into play. Obtaining an undergraduate degree in a lucrative and competitive field is certainly important, but you may be able to boost your earnings even further by pursuing a master’s degree. 


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