Can you guess what the best undergraduate college degree is? What about the top ten? If you answer didn’t have “engineering” in it somewhere, chances are you’re wrong. Pick any type of engineering and you’re almost guaranteed you’ll hit something that will get you above or close to six figures by “mid-career,” defined as 15 years of experience. Start at $60,000, get 15 years of 4% raises, and you’ll pierce $100,000 (though your purchasing power will be reduced by inflation, something to consider).
Aerospace engineering, Chemical engineering, computer engineering, and electrical engineering degrees can expect to break the $100,000 limit by mid-career, joined only by Economics majors (perhaps working in finance?). The back half of the top ten? Physics, mechanical engineering, computer science, industrial engineering, and environmental engineering. The lesson here isn’t that you should pick a degree based on where it sits on this list, the lesson is that if you’re going to pick a career, pick something in engineering.
This list shouldn’t surprise you. We’ve been posting similar studies for years and every year engineers, specifically chemical engineers, have topped those charts. In 2006 , the best paying job was in chemical engineering. In 2007 , the best paying job was in chemical engineering. In 2008 , surprise surprise, the best paying job was in chemical engineering. In each of those years, chemical engineering barely edged out other engineering disciplines (oil prices!) but the point was clear – a degree in engineering is a safe bet.
Best Undergrad College Degrees By Salary
Annual pay for Bachelors graduates without higher degrees. Typical starting graduates have 2 years of experience; mid-career have 15 years. See full methodology  for more.
Here’s PayScale.com’s full listing , with my beloved Computer Science putting up competitive numbers – $56,400 starting median salary and $97,400 mid-career median salary. The two careers bringing up the rear – elementary education (not bad considering you get summers off) and social work.
(Photo: argonne )