The Ten Highest Paying Jobs Out of College

FT Contributor  | 

In 2017, Americans had over $1.3 trillion total in federal student loan debt. Due to the increasing amount of student loan debt that burdens college alumni collectively throughout the United States, recent graduates are carefully weighing their options of what to study in college. Now more than ever, students are gearing their major towards one that will allow them to obtain a career with a higher income as opposed to one that they’re interested in. It makes sense – the more you earn from the get-go, the sooner you’ll be able to pay off that incredible amount of debt. Below, we dissect the ten highest-paying jobs you can get straight out of college with a bachelor’s degree. Find out which career paths will start you with a high salary based on information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Outlook for Bachelor’s Level Occupations.

The Ten Highest Paying Jobs Out of College

1. Software Developer

IT jobs can be quite lucrative out of college, but they can also be a risky career choice. Most often, companies in need of software developers are start-ups. While they are an excellent option for in-experienced college graduates to get their feet wet, start-up companies are extremely volatile. Because of this, you could lose your job just as quickly as you landed it.

  • Starting Salary: $101,790.
  • Degree Needed: A bachelor’s degree in computer science or software engineering will be helpful in landing a software developer job. Internships with software companies are also beneficial. In most cases, employers prefer that you obtain a master’s degree.
  • Job Details: Software developers create computer programs. From applications to games and control networks, software developers create a software program from start to finish. Software developers also have the capability to assess problems with software and make changes or upgrades as needed. They work closely with computer programmers to ensure software runs smoothly.

2. Actuary

Actuaries use a mix of statistics, math, and financial theory to help businesses in the life and health insurance sector. Working collaboratively with accountants and analysts, an actuary assesses risk and helps determine things like company policy and premiums. Actuaries may also work with top business executives or wealthy individuals to help maximize their return on investment while minimizing loss. An actuary will be highly skilled in data analysis and information compilation, as well as the ability to communicate complex ideas.

  • Starting Salary: $102,880.
  • Degree Needed: To become an actuary, you must obtain a bachelor’s degree in math, actuarial science, statistics, or business. Coursework in economics and corporate finance are required to become certified. Courses in computer science and statistical analysis tools are also beneficial, as well as public speaking and writing.
  • Job Details: An actuary is responsible for assessing the financial costs associated with risk and uncertainty. Using math, statistics, and financial theory, an actuary can assess the risk of events and help businesses develop policies that mitigate the cost of that risk. Most often, actuaries work for insurance companies. Actuaries can also have careers in fields like accounting, underwriting, and finance.

3. Engineer

There are a wide variety of engineering jobs out there for recent graduates. Engineers are required in all kinds of business, including nuclear, chemical, civil, and electrical sectors. According to Michigan Tech, engineers are paid the highest average salary year over year. Each sector of engineering is quite profitable even for recent grads, though some more than others, with top earners working in the computer, material science, and chemical engineering sectors.  

  • Starting Salary: $91,010.
  • Degree Needed: A bachelor’s degree is required, but the focus will depend on what kind of engineer you want to become. For example, aerospace engineers should obtain a bachelor’s degree in physics, chemistry, or advanced math while civil engineers should study civil engineering, math, and fluid dynamics.
  • Job Details: Engineers use science and math to develop economical solutions to technical problems. Engineers are required in a variety of industries including civil science, aerospace, electronics and computer hardware, environmental, health and safety, industrial, landscape, and even nuclear sectors. Their work often involves developing new products, but engineers can also be responsible for meeting societal and consumer needs that are cost-effective, safe, and reliable.

4. Computer Systems Analyst

Most of the highest paying jobs out of college fall into the business or information technology sector. Through a combination of business skills and IT know-how, computer systems analysts understand how an organization uses their computer systems and try to find ways to improve their effectiveness. Employment is on the rise for computer systems analysts and expected to grow 9% from 2018 to 2028. Computer systems analysts are needed in companies small and large across a multitude of industries, from healthcare to business.

  • Starting Salary: $88,270.
  • Degree Needed: A bachelor’s degree in computer or information sciences is helpful, but some companies will hire a candidate with a business or liberal arts degree with skills in IT or computer programming.
  • Job Details: Sometimes referred to as systems architects, computer systems analysts bring business in information technology together by understanding the needs and limitations of both so that an organization can run more efficiently.

5. Financial Analyst

Experts in the financial industry help other people manage their money. Whether it’s a large corporation or an individual, a financial analyst takes a look at where and how money is allocated, then makes suggestions about how to better invest that money. The BLS anticipates a 6% growth of financial analyst jobs from 2018 to 2028, making this an excellent career path for recent college graduates.

  • Starting Salary: $84,300.
  • Degree Needed: A bachelor’s degree in accounting, economics, finance, statistics, or math.
  • Job Details: Financial analysts assess the performance of a company or individual’s stocks, bonds, and other investments so that they can help them make smart financial decisions.

6. Management Analyst

Management analysts are hired in a range of industries including military and government organizations, medical facilities, and investment companies. As more organizations continue to seek ways to control their costs and operate more effectively, the demand for this kind of professional increases. Management analysts assess everything from payroll, budgets, new programs, and internal policies. The BLS anticipates a 14% growth in management analyst employment from 2018 to 2028.

  • Starting Salary: According to PayScale, the average entry-level salary for a management analyst is $52,856.
  • Degree Needed: A bachelor’s degree in business or public administration or finance is required.
  • Job Details: Management analysts propose new ways to make a business more effective. Working with managers, they will assess the way a company operates, keeping an eye out for any weak or inefficient processes, then develop solutions or alternative practices so that the business can run better.

7. Registered Nurse

Pay for RN’s varies by state. Starting salaries, however, are generally quite high, as there is a shortage of registered nurses in the U.S. With the increased rate of chronic conditions and a focus on preventive care, there is a great demand for registered nurses. The BLS anticipates a 12% growth in job opportunities for registered nurses from 2018 to 2028.

  • Starting Salary: The national average salary is $70,000. There are also student loan forgiveness programs for nurses that count as an additional financial benefit.
  • Degree Needed: To become a registered nurse, you can obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an associate’s degree in nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing program. Licensing laws vary by state.
  • Job Details: Registered nurses’ responsibilities vary depending on who they work for, but they are generally responsible for providing and coordinating patient care, educating patients about their health condition, and providing medical advice and emotional support to patients and their families.

8. Pharmaceutical Representative

Pharmaceutical representatives spend much of their time on the road meeting healthcare providers. It is their job to understand pharmacology, or how the medication affects the human body. With this understanding, they are able to sell a new product by describing its chemistry, method of action, side effects, and potential interactions with other drugs to medical care providers so that they will want to prescribe them to patients. The pharmaceutical industry evolves at a rapid pace, which means there are always new products ready for pharmaceutical representatives to research and sell.

  • Starting Salary: According to MedReps.com, the average base salary for a pharmaceutical representative is $103,930.
  • Degree Needed: A bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical science or pharmaceutical sales is required. Some companies many want candidates with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in pharmaceutical marketing or management.
  • Job Details: Pharmaceutical sales representatives connect with doctors and educate them on the new developments of a particular pharmaceutical product. They are responsible for connecting providers with the knowledge, medications, and treatments they need to provide the latest and greatest care to their patients.

9. Web Designer

Web developers design the look and feel of a website, as well as the site’s technical aspects like performance, capacity, and speed. They may also be responsible for the content on the site, depending on the company. The starting salary for a web designer can vary, but some jobs can be very lucrative based on whether you’re working full-time, as a freelancer, or taking web design jobs on the side.

  • Starting Salary: According to Indeed, the average salary for a junior web designer is $53,155.
  • Degree Needed: A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field like programming. Graphic design skills are also preferred.
  • Job Details: Web designers create what a website will look like, but also how it functions. Web designers ensure that websites are accessible from any device with a focus on functionality, speed, and bandwidth.

10. Accountant or Auditor

Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records. In the accounting and financial world, you only need a bachelor’s degree to get a job. However, if you obtain your Certified Public Accountant license, you stand to earn much more annually. To get a CPA, you’ll need to complete 150 hours of education and have two or more years of public accounting experience.

  • Starting Salary: $69,350.
  • Degree Needed: A bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or related field. Certification, like a CPA, can increase improve job opportunities.
  • Job Details: Accountants and auditors ensure financial records are accurate. They also assist with taxes, ensuring they are paid properly and on time. They can also be hired to assess the financial operations of a company to ensure an organization runs smoothly.

Getting a Job Right Out of College

Getting a job right out of college can be tough, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. For students currently in college, make plans to attend networking events around the industries that interest you. Networking should be done not only inside of your work and educational environment but also in your everyday life. Connecting with people in the industries that interest you can help you gain a better understanding of a particular career path. If you’re not sure what you’d like to do, attend a career fair to get a better idea of the opportunities that are out there. For a closer look at what your day-to-day will look like in a certain career, apply for internships that align with your field of study. Doing so can even help you land a job after graduation.

If you want to start paying off your student debt upon graduation, take a course of study that will help you land one of these high-paying jobs. The more you earn, the sooner you’ll be out of debt.


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