Even if Uncle Sam is picking up all or part of your college cost, you worked hard and took risks for those education benefits. So you’ll probably still want a degree that has good financial ROI. In terms of your degree, your ROI is calculated by your salary after graduating. Here are the top undergrad degrees with the best return on investment.
Methodology note: I based the ROI calculations on mid-career salary. While many jobs offer a great initial salary, what I’m really after is which jobs start with a great salary and provide opportunities for upward mobility, increasing your ROI year after year.
Annual pay for bachelor’s degree graduates without higher degrees.
Typical early career salaries have zero to five years of experience; mid-career graduates have 10 or more years. See full methodology.
1. Petroleum Engineering
- Early Career Salary: $102,300
- Mid-Career Salary: $187,600
Think crude oil and natural gas. With the continual development in these fields, it makes sense that this degree is the top ROI for your money.
2. Actuarial Mathematics
- Early Career Salary: $60,800
- Mid-Career Salary: $119,600
Best known for their work in the insurance industry, actuarial mathematicians are the brains behind companies that require analyzing and minimizing financial risks.
3. Nuclear Engineering
- Early Career Salary: $67,00
- Mid-Career Salary: $118,800
Fission and fusion, anyone?
4. Chemical Engineering
- Early Career Salary: $69,600
- Mid-Career Salary: $116,700
Chemical engineers work with the production, transport and proper use of chemicals.
5. Electronics & Communications Engineering
- Early Career Salary: $64,100
- Mid-Career Salary: $113,200
Soon, Google Fiber (or some other fiber connection) is coming to your city, and electronics and communications engineers will play a part in its application. These engineers study the transmission of information across channels like coax cable and optical fiber.
6. Electrical & Computer Engineering
- Early Career Salary: $66,500
- Mid-Career Salary: $113,000
It’s as simple as its name suggests, right?
7. Computer Science & Engineering
- Early Career Salary: $66,700
- Mid-Career Salary: $112,600
Essentially two degrees in one package, computer science and engineering students combine both disciplines to gain a holistic understanding of computers and what computer systems are capable of doing.
8. Computer Engineering
- Early Career Salary: $67,300
- Mid-Career Salary: $108,600
Computer engineers intersect a variety of disciplines to develop computer hardware and software.
9. Aerospace Engineering
- Early Career Salary: $64,700
- Mid-Career Salary: $107,900
Aerospace engineers research, design and test developments for aircraft and spacecraft.
10. Electrical Engineering
- Early Career Salary: $65,900
- Mid-Career Salary: $107,900
Affectionately nicknamed “Double-E’s,” electrical engineers focus on electricity — specifically electronics.
It’s no surprise that with the huge push toward STEM worldwide, 10/10 of the degrees with the best ROI are STEM-related. Engineering and math — comprising the “E” and the “M” of STEM — are incredibly in-demand, and consequently well-paid.
For the Bachelor of Arts students:
If you feel more comfortable reading and writing than you do with arithmetic, do not fear. Your degree may not be considered “best ROI” based on the hard financial numbers, but it may be the best ROI for you in terms of getting a degree that you’ll use throughout a career that you’ll love.
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