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If you are considering going to college to attain a bachelor’s degree, you might be wondering which careers offer the best bang for your buck when it’s time to get a job. While a degree in underwater basket weaving might sound like a hoot, it’s probably not going to pay all that well. If you’re looking for a rewarding career that also provides an excellent salary, here are some options.

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What Goes Into Getting a Bachelor’s Degree?

A bachelor’s degree is also referred to as a four-year degree because it typically takes four years of full-time study to complete. Some students do finish their four-year degrees in less time, while others need more than four years to complete their education if they’re working a job or going to school part-time. Another reason it could take longer is that the student might change majors. When this happens, a student is required to take more classes.

Most bachelor's degree programs require a minimum of 120 credit hours to complete. That averages out to roughly 40 different classes. Some courses are general courses that almost all college students take such as bio, freshman English, and a physical education class. Most students take these classes during the first two years of school. After that, students delve into their major classes, begin internships and other major requirements outside of the classroom. The highest paid bachelor degrees take the same amount of time as other degrees at this level.

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Types of Bachelor’s Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
    A bachelor of Arts degree is a four-year degree that focuses on the liberal arts and humanities. Examples include a BA in English, a foreign language, or sociology. The program includes courses in language arts, foreign language, sociology, and major coursework.
  • Bachelor of Science (BS)
    A bachelor of science degree is focused on studying some aspect of math or sciences. Degree examples include accounting, business administration, psychology, and math.
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)
    Students seeking a bachelor of fine arts are studying a specific aspect of arts such as dance or art history. Students will be trained in a specific field and gain a specific skill set to help them pursue a career in their major.
  • Bachelor of Applied Arts (BAA)
    A bachelor of applied arts degree combines practical experience with critical thinking and logic training. Commercial art is an example of a BAA. It combines learning the craft of art or marketing and advertising purposes with critical and analytical studies.
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)
    The bachelor of applies science degree readies a person to work in a specific profession in the scientific realm. Statistics, chemistry, and other majors with a scientific background that also requires hands-on experience can be BAS degrees.

The Importance of Experience

For some careers, an advanced degree, such as a master’s, is required. However, in some cases, experience in the field is sufficient and will be accepted instead of an advanced degree. Although the additional education might be appreciated, there’s a good chance that an applicant has gained that knowledge through working in the field. Unless it is a licensing or insurance issue, a person with a bachelor’s degree and five years’ experience working in a field should feel comfortable applying for positions that usually require an advanced degree. If given a choice, many employers would choose a worker with a degree and years of experience over an applicant with an advanced degree and no work experience. Typically the hardest college majors are also the ones that have the highest pay, but not always. Bachelor's degree jobs that might pay well after you earn bachelor's degree are incredibly varied but might include aerospace engineers or petroleum engineers, chemical engineers, financial managers, computer hardware engineers or computer network architects, software developers, compensation and benefits managers or human resources managers, marketing managers, project managers, natural sciences managers, information security analysts, etc.

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Highest Paying Jobs

  • Chief Executive Officer
    Average Income: $158,900
    Degree Needed: Bachelor of Science in a related field plus experience
    Projected Growth: Varies by industry

    Chief Executive Officers oversee the entire operation of an organization. In collaboration with the board, the CEO makes the decisions regarding the path the business is going to take. They will oversee workers dealing with computer systems, benefits managers, human resources manager and marketing management positions, etc.

  • Computer Network Architect
    Average Income: $119,400
    Degree Needed: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
    Projected Growth: 6% average growth by 2026.

    Network architects build and design data communication systems and networks such as LANs, WANs, and Intranets and may direct computer related activities, as well. Along with a BS in Computer Science, training and experience in network and information systems is desired.

  • Engineering Program Manager
    Average Income: $112,500
    Degree Needed: Bachelor of Science in Engineering
    Projected Growth: 6% average growth by 2026.

    Engineering program managers plan, coordinate, and direct activities for engineering companies. They usually work with a team of engineers and complete a variety of projects as needed. They may work on research and development projects with aerospace engineers, chemical engineers, nuclear engineers, materials science engineers, industrial engineers, construction engineering, aeronautical engineering, etc. at various engineering firms.

  • Program Manager, Aviation
    Average Income: $109,400
    Degree Needed: Bachelor of Science in Aviation
    Projected Growth: Unknown

    Aviation program managers run the operations at airports. They could be in charge of the pilot training program or handle the day-to-day operations of the airport. They are often trained pilots themselves with current, valid certifications from the FAA.

  • Senior Database Administrator
    Average Income: $105,200
    Degree Needed: Bachelor of Science in Information Technology or Computer Science
    Projected Growth: 11% growth by 2026 - faster than average growth.

    Database administrators build and maintain databases and data communication networks for customers and workers. They ensure that the information a business needs is accurate and available but secure from those who should not access to the information or computer systems. They can work for private, non-profit, or government agencies.

  • Senior Software Engineer/Software Developer
    Average Income: $102,200
    Degree Needed: Bachelor of Science in Software Development
    Projected Growth: 24% growth by 2026. Much faster than the national average according to the BLS.

    Software engineers develop and design computer software structural systems. The software could be programmed for an end-user such as word processing or accounting software, or it could be the software used to run the computer system itself such as Windows. You may also earn a computer hardware, software engineering, or computer engineering degree and have a similar role. Computer hardware engineers and computer network architects need a similar bachelor's degree.

  • Petroleum Engineer
    Average Income: $101,600
    Degree Needed: Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering
    Projected Growth: 15% growth by 2026. This is faster than the national average.

    Petroleum engineers develop and design methods to extract oil and gas from deposits below the earth’s surface. They are also tasked with finding new and innovative ways of getting oil and gas out of older existing wells. The job often requires travel since much of the work and consultations with other engineers and workers must be done on-site. You may also be able to find a role in mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, chemical engineering, etc.

  • Airline Pilot
    Average Income: $101,500
    Degree Needed: Bachelor of Science in Aviation. Airline pilots also must hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate which is issued by the FAA
    Projected Growth: 4% by 2026. This is slower than the national average for job growth, according to the BLS.

    Airline pilots fly and navigate airplanes, helicopters, and other aircraft. They work for airlines of companies which own their own aircraft. Many pilots get their career started in the military, then go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree later.

  • Senior Electrical Engineer
    Average Income: $101,300
    Degree Needed: Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering
    Projected Growth: 7% by 2026. This is average job growth. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 21,000 new electrical engineer positions will be created by 2026.

    Electrical engineers design, develop, and test electrical equipment, usually in a manufacturing setting. Electrical engineers build items such as engines, GPS systems, and power generation equipment.

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The Runners Up

  • Compensation and Benefits Managers: $88,400
    Benefits managers work with human resources to administer and manage benefit packages such as vacation pay, insurance benefits, and other forms of compensation outside of hourly pay and salaries. A bachelor’s degree in business or accounting is the typical educational background needed for this position.

  • Physicist: $91,000
    A physicist is a scientist that is focused on the study of physics and the universe. There are many types of physics that a scientist could focus on, such as theoretical, astrophysics, or quantum. A bachelor’s degree is the base degree, but more education is often required.

  • Physician Assistant: $93,900
    A physician assistant or PA is a healthcare provider who practices medicine under the direct supervision of a physician. They are licensed to diagnose and treat diseases and illnesses and can prescribe medicine. Laws vary, but at a minimum, a bachelor's degree is required.

  • R&D Manager: $96,700
    Research and development occurs in a variety of industries. The manager of an R&D team supervises the other workers while they conduct experiments and do testing. A bachelor’s degree in the field in which the R&D is being conducted is required, as well as experience working in the specific field.

Which Sectors Promise the Best ROI (Return on Investment)?

Although high paying jobs are possible in a variety of industries, some seem to be more promising than others for those who earn bachelor's degrees, whether or not they choose to earn a graduate degree. The field of engineering in all its forms is a profitable career option, whether you choose to study petroleum, chemical,, mechanical, or civil engineering. The job prospects for all the engineering fields are positive, with predictions for job growth ranging from average to much faster than average according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you have an aptitude in math and science, this could lead to a viable and profitable career options for bachelor's degree graduates.

Another option is computer programming and information technology. Whether you want to design software, build computer or GPS systems, or build databases to help with managing and securing data, this is another good opportunity for someone who wants a high-paying career. Job growth projections for this sector remain high, so there’s a good chance that once you attain your bachelor’s degree, there will be work available.

Another profitable degree type is in business. Every industry needs a CEO. Many CEOs started as rank and file employees and worked their way up the corporate ladder. Although CEOs who hold only a bachelor’s degree are rare, it is possible if the person has the right skill set and business acumen to make solid business decisions.

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