According to the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. institutions confer a total of 2 million bachelor’s degrees every year. But not all degrees offer the same career pathways or earning potential. The highest-paying degrees on our list include managerial degrees, such as marketing managers and natural sciences managers, as well as professional roles like airline pilots and flight engineers.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, full-time workers can expect median weekly earnings of $1,305 – less than for a master’s degree, but more than for an associate’s degree. We’ve made this list of the 10 highest-paying bachelor’s degrees to help you decide what to study.

Our Ranking Criteria

We used information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and CareerOneStop to compare the median annual salary for the top-paying jobs for each degree on our list. We also found the best school to obtain each degree and the cost per credit.

A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years to complete and requires at least 120 credits, so it’s important to consider the total cost and the job outlook for your field of study. We’ve also made note of which states pay the most for each career path.

Engineering manager

The Highest Paying Jobs You Can Get With a Bachelor’s Degree

Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers

Median Salary: $160,970

What They Do: Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers are some of the highest-paying roles you can get with a bachelor’s degree, but the pay and job description can vary widely. Some pilots are employed by an airline to carry passengers or cargo, while others work as commercial pilots, offering aerial tours and charter flights. Other jobs in the industry include being a helicopter or agricultural pilot who applies pesticides. Flight engineers are less common on modern planes, since the onboard systems do most of their tasks.

How to Become One: All pilots have to undergo flight training and obtain a license from the Federal Aviation Administration. Airline pilots must also have a bachelor’s degree and get an Airline Transport Pilot certificate from the FAA. This degree can be in any subject, and pilots don’t need to undergo flight training at the same school where they receive their bachelor’s degree. Some schools, however, do offer advanced aviation degrees. A bachelor’s degree isn’t necessary to be a commercial pilot, but they usually earn less than airline pilots.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $160,970
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 3.00%
  • Highest Paying States: Washington, Nevada, Colorado, California, Texas
School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Arizona State University Resident: $689 per credit; Non-Resident: $1,080 per credit 120 credits
Indiana Wesleyan University $392 per credit 120 credits
Kent State University Resident: $519.45 per credit; Non-Resident: $889.45 per credit 120 credits

 


 

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Median Salary: $151,150

What They Do: A computer and information systems manager, or IT manager, can pursue a career in many industries, from finance and insurance to manufacturing. They may work as a chief information officer (CIO), a chief technology officer (CTO), or a security manager. Their responsibilities may include overseeing technology purchases and upgrades, installing new software, and managing the security of a company’s computer network. IT managers need to be comfortable with budgeting, long-term planning, and negotiating with vendors.

How to Become One: The most important qualification you need to become a computer or IT systems manager is a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a similar course of study. Since this isn’t an entry-level position, you may also need substantial work experience in the industry. Some companies prefer to hire professionals with a master’s degree, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA), which may increase your earning potential.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $151,150
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 10.00%
  • Highest Paying States: California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado
School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Herzing University $325 per credit 120 credits
Minnesota State University, Mankato Resident: $289.15 per credit; Non-Resident: $621.85 per credit 120 credits
Albright College $3,311.25 per course unit 32 course units

 


 

Architectural and Engineering Managers

Median Salary: $149,530

What They Do: According to the BLS, one-third of architectural and engineering managers work in manufacturing, but graduates with a bachelor’s degree in this field can also find work in government and scientific research. Architectural and engineering managers need to be comfortable hiring, training, and supervising staff on a wide range of architectural projects. Professionals in this role may work in an office, on a construction site, or in a manufacturing facility. Other responsibilities include budgeting, safety, and quality assurance.

How to Become One: The first step to becoming an architectural or engineering manager is to earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject, such as architecture. Then you’ll need to gain several years of work experience in the field in order to be considered for a managerial position. Some professionals may go on to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or Master of Engineering Management (MEM), which may increase their employability and earning potential in a managerial role.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $149,530
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 3.00%
  • Highest Paying States: California, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, New Jersey
School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Pennsylvania State University $765 per credit 160 credits
Stanford University $1,207 per credit 180 credits
University of Cincinnati $4,661 per term 126 credits

 


 

Marketing Managers

Median Salary: $142,170

What They Do: Marketing managers work in a wide range of businesses, from advertising and public relations firms to manufacturing companies. About 11% of professionals in this capacity are self-employed. Marketing managers work with clients or executives to create marketing campaigns, oversee the design and development of promotional materials, and analyze the results of campaigns. They may also be responsible for market research and setting prices for new products and services.

How to Become One: Marketing professionals can begin their career with a bachelor’s degree in nearly any subject related to marketing, such as communications or journalism. This isn’t an entry-level position, though, and job seekers may be expected to participate in an internship program or gain work experience as a sales representative or PR specialist before being considered. Having an MBA isn’t required, but it may expand your options, especially if you intend to pursue an executive role.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $142,170
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 7.00%
  • Highest Paying States: New York, New Jersey, California, Virginia, Colorodo
School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Maryville University $500 per credit 128 credits
Franklin University $398 per credit 124 credits
Oregon State University Resident: $340 per credit; Non-Resident: $1,006 per credit 180 credits

 


 

Natural Sciences Managers

Median Salary: $137,940

What They Do: Natural sciences managers work in a managerial capacity on research and development projects, manufacturing projects, and more. They may work for state or federal government agencies, or for private businesses. Responsibilities include administrative work in an office environment, as well as traveling to locations to oversee laboratory or field work. Natural sciences managers can work in chemistry, biology, physics, or any other branch of science, and may be in charge of commercial projects or theoretical research.

How to Become One: Natural sciences managers need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field of study, such as biology or engineering. A graduate degree isn’t required to get a job in this industry, but it’s not uncommon for natural sciences managers to pursue a Professional Science Master’s (PSM) or a PhD. Other pathways include a Master of Public Administration (MPA) or Master of Business Administration (MBA), which can open up higher-paying roles. Natural sciences managers can also obtain certifications in laboratory animal management and other areas of interest.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $137,940
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 5.00%
  • Highest Paying States: New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina
School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
American Public University System $285 per credit 120 credits
Adelphi University $990 per credit 120 credits
Temple University Resident: $571 per credit; Non-Resident: $939 per credit 123 credits

 


 

Petroleum Engineers

Median Salary: $137,330

What They Do: One-third of petroleum engineers work in oil and gas extraction, but others work in mining and manufacturing. Their primary job is to oversee the management of wells and oilfields, including both onshore and offshore facilities. Petroleum engineers need both the technical skills to install and operate systems safely, as well as the people skills to work alongside other scientists and field workers. Engineers may have to travel to remote places to solve problems or research how much petroleum is left in a reservoir.

How to Become One: Petroleum engineers may have a bachelor’s degree specifically in petroleum engineering, or in a related field such as civil or chemical engineering. At some schools, it may be possible to earn a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree over five years of study. Most programs will include hands-on laboratory and field work, which may involve traveling to an oilfield or drill site. To move ahead in your career, you may want to obtain a Professional Engineering license in your state.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $137,330
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 3.00%
  • Highest Paying States: New Jersey, Texas, Florida, Colorado, Oklahoma
School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
University of Wyoming Resident: $154 per credit; Non-Resident: $639 per credit 128 credits
University of North Dakota Resident: $411.40 per credit; Non-Resident: $617.10 per credit 129 credits
University of Texas at Austin Resident: $1,131.33 per credit; Non-Resident: $3,874.83 per credit 128 credits

 


 

Financial Managers

Median Salary: $134,180

What They Do: Financial managers handle the financial operations of organizations of all sizes. They oversee budgets and business activity reports, advise executives on key financial decisions, and maintain regulatory compliance. Financial managers need to be familiar with the relevant practices of their industry, like taxes, billing, and insurance. They may also have a more specific role, such as treasurer, controller, or risk manager.

How to Become One: Most financial managers study business or economics, but you can also start a career in finance with another relevant degree, such as law. It’s a good idea to obtain a professional certification, such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) if you want to pursue a specific career path. In order to be hired in a managerial role with high earning potential, you may need to gain several years of professional work experience after earning your degree.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $134,180
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 16.00%
  • Highest Paying States: New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Colorado
School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Franklin University $398 per credit 124 credits
National University $442 per credit 180 credits
Maryville University $781 per credit 128 credits

 


 

Advertising and Promotions Managers

Median Salary: $133,460

What They Do: Advertising and promotions managers work on all aspects of a marketing campaign, from running contests to creating advertisements. They may also be responsible for managing websites, coupons, billboards, and other promotional channels. The exact job description can vary widely, with media directors focusing on print and TV ads, and account executives acting in a managerial capacity. Professional advertising and promotions managers may work for a business or ad agency, or directly with clients.

How to Become One: Advertising and promotions managers typically have a marketing degree or another relevant communications degree. Experience in a related field, such as visual art, photography, or even computer science, may be helpful for jobseekers pursuing a career in a specific type of advertising, such as online or print media. You don’t need any professional credentials to become an advertising and promotions manager, but you’ll typically start off in an entry-level role, such as a sales rep.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $133,460
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: -1.00%
  • Highest Paying States: New York, New Jersey, Colorado, California, Ohio
School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Grand Canyon University $687.50 per credit 120 credits
Portland State University Resident: $188.25 per credit; Non-Resident: $608 per credit 180 credits
Michigan State University $491.75 per credit 120 credits

 


 

Sales Managers

Median Salary: $132,290

What They Do: Sales managers are responsible for overseeing a team of sales reps in a business or organization, including hiring and training new staff members. They may work with a business to business (B2B) sales team, or a business to consumer (B2C) team, in a call center, office, or retail store. Sales managers must be able to make sales predictions, handle complaints, and coordinate with other departments. Other responsibilities include setting sales goals, tracking sales figures, and developing long-term sales strategies.

How to Become One: Most sales managers start off as a retail worker or a sales rep, and work their way up into a managerial position. A college degree isn’t always required, but it may be helpful to have a bachelor’s degree in business or marketing. Sales managers who have experience in a specific area, such as wholesale or retail sales, may be more likely to work their way up in that department. Jobseekers can also consider a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a professional credential to boost their earning potential.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $132,290
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 4.00%
  • Highest Paying States: New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia, Colorado
School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
The College of Saint Rose $1,130 per credit 122 credits
Devry University $514 per credit 124 credits
University of Northern Iowa $320 per credit 120 credits

 


 

Purchasing Managers

Median Salary: $125,940

What They Do: Purchasing managers are responsible for making all of the purchases that a business or organization needs, from farm equipment to office products. In some industries, they are referred to as purchasing agents or buyers. Purchasing managers are in charge of assessing the quality of products and their suppliers, which may involve visiting factories, trade shows, and distribution centers. They must also negotiate the purchase price and the timeline for delivery. Some purchasing managers, such as wholesale buyers, are in charge of buying consumer goods that are intended for resale in a store or online.

How to Become One: The path to becoming a purchasing manager depends on which industry you intend to work in. Some companies hire purchasing managers without a college degree, but a bachelor’s degree in business or finance is usually expected. Other options are to get a degree in a specific industry, such as agriculture, or get certified by a professional organization such as the American Purchasing Society. In most cases, you’ll need several years of work experience to be considered for a managerial role.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $125,940
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 3.00%
  • Highest Paying States: New Jersey, New York, Colorado, Washington, D.C., California
School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Southeastern Louisiana University $240.72 per credit 120 credits
Franklin University $398 per credit 126 credits
Ball State University Resident: $320 per credit; Non-Resident: $535 per credit 120 credits

Purchasing Manager

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a bachelor’s degree?

A bachelor’s degree is usually a four-year degree offered by a college or university, and is a requirement for many professional jobs. Most students choose a major or an area of focus early in their course of study, but at some schools, the first one or two years involve a more general curriculum. Bachelor’s degrees may include internships and thesis projects, but these requirements vary widely depending on your school and your major.

Who should pursue a bachelor’s degree?

A bachelor’s degree may be a good fit for anyone who wants to pursue a professional career and increase their earning potential. While not all jobs require a college degree, it’s common for many professional and managerial positions to require one. You’ll also need a bachelor’s degree if you plan to pursue a master’s or doctorate.

Some students enroll in an undergraduate program immediately after finishing high school, while others complete a two-year associate degree before transferring to a 4-year program. You can also pursue a bachelor’s degree later in life in order to make a career change.

What bachelor’s degree pays the most?

The highest-paying graduates on our list are airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers, who can expect to earn $160,970 per year in some states. Other high-paying bachelor’s degrees include architectural and engineering management, and computer and information systems management, both of which pay around $150,000 per year.

How much does a bachelor’s degree cost?

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average cost of a bachelor’s degree is $20,598 at public institutions and $44,662 at private institutions. Most institutions charge an annual rate for full-time students, but part-time students may be able to pay per credit hour. State residents often pay less than out-of-state residents at public universities. There may also be scholarships and financial aid available for some degrees.