The Highest-Paying Jobs and Majors

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Notice a discrepancy? By mid-career, there were 50 business-related job titles that averaged $100,000 in pay. Yet, just two business-related majors hit the six-figure mark. What’s behind that? For one, business is often a catch-all profession, with jobs attracting a swath of professionals from STEM to the liberal arts. More importantly, the business-related titles were not restricted to graduates with only bachelor’s degrees (unlike business-related majors). Take the chief marketing officer category. Not only could it include individuals who hold a business-related bachelor’s degree; it also includes those with advanced degrees like MBAs, J.D.s, or Ph.D.s. In other words, PayScale’s data illustrates that an advanced degree is closely pegged to increased pay.

How much of an increase? Take a look at early and mid-career pay in every pay category. For example, an MBA with a concentration in finance yields starting pay of $69,400 and mid-career pay of $140,000. Compare that to a bachelor’s degree in finance, where the number is $53,300 early on and $89,600 by mid-career, a difference of $16,100 and $50,400, respectively. You’ll find the same pattern play out in marketing, where the early career difference between an MBA and a bachelor’s degree is $16,400 ($61,700 versus $45,300) and $40,500 by mid-career ($123,000 versus $82,500). Bottom line: A bachelor’s degree can give you a comfortable living — but chances are, you won’t see the big bucks until you return to campus for an advanced degree.

Overall, you’ll find a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering resulted in the highest earnings, with graduates receiving $172,000 a year by mid-career, $16,000 more than the runner-up, a master’s in nurse anesthesia, which yields $156,000. Two MBA concentrations — strategy, and general and strategic management — ranked just behind them at $149,000 and $146,000, respectively. In fact, MBA degrees produced six of the 20 highest-paying mid-career salaries. Compare that to business bachelor’s degrees, where the best-performing degree was finance and real estate, which ranked just 127th overall in terms of mid-career pay.

Go to next page for highest paying graduate and undergraduate degrees.

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