Obtaining a doctorate degree can open the door to a wide range of fulfilling and high-paying careers. While doctorate degree programs may take several years to complete, they can drastically boost your earnings potential as you join a small pool of experts in your chosen field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, doctorate degree graduates earn a median weekly salary of $1,885, compared to $1,305 for bachelor’s degree holders. Though, as not all doctorate degrees offer the same earnings potential, we found the top 10 highest paying jobs you can obtain with a doctorate degree.

Our Ranking Criteria

To find the highest paying doctorate degrees and careers, we pulled data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and CareerOneStop, both of which track salaries and job growth projections for a variety of different careers. Using this data, we chose degrees based on their median annual salaries and the types of jobs that can be obtained with them. We also found the top programs for these degrees in the United States to give you a better idea of how you can start your path to your new degree.

Chemical Engineer

The Highest Paying Jobs You Can Get With a Doctorate Degree

Physicist

Median Salary: $128,950

What They Do: Physicists may take on a wide range of professions, from scientists to educators. Many work at universities or laboratories to conduct research, or they may work in a commercial environment to apply their research and findings. Experimental physicists work to test new theories and make new discoveries, while theoretical physicists work to formulate new theories and hypotheses. Many physicists also work at universities or high schools to teach physics and present their findings.

How to Become One: To become a physicist, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in physics, which will allow you to find work as a technician or research assistant. To become an independent researcher or high-level educator, you will need to obtain a Ph.D. in physics. Completing a Ph.D. in physics typically takes three to five years, which includes a combination of coursework and research. To increase your chances of finding a career in physics, you may also consider joining a postdoctoral research fellowship at a university or independent research facility.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $128,950
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 7%
  • Highest Paying States: Connecticut, New Mexico, South Carolina, New York, Louisiana

Top Academic Programs for Physicists:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Drexel University $1,342 per credit 90 credits
University of California, Berkeley $5,721 per semester 38 credits
University of Washington $914.50 per credit 60 – 90 credits

 


 

Computer and Information Research Scientist

Median Salary: $126,830

What They Do: Computer and information research scientists work to create uses for new technologies and new ways to apply existing technologies. They work in a wide variety of fields, including healthcare, science, and business. They may work in programming to study and develop new programming languages, or they work in robotics to explore how robots can interact with the real world. Computer and information research scientists conduct research and experiments with various technologies and present their findings at conferences and events.

How to Become One: Computer and information research scientists will often need at least a master’s degree in computer science to find relevant employment opportunities. In some cases, a bachelor’s degree may suffice for lower-level positions. To obtain a higher-paying position in the field, you may need a Ph.D. in computer science or computer engineering. Computer and information research scientists need to develop several job-related skills, including analytical thinking, logical reasoning, math, and problem-solving skills.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $126,830
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 15%
  • Highest Paying States: California, Virginia, Washington, New York, Oregon

Top Academic Programs for Computer and Information Research Scientists:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Carnegie Mellon University $635 per credit 72 credits
Georgia Institute of Technology In-State: $586 per credit

Out-of-State: $1,215 per credit

31 credits
University of Minnesota $1,487 per credit 55 credits

 


 

Political Scientist

Median Salary: $125,350

What They Do: Political scientists research political ideas and theories and closely study political systems. They often research the origin and development of political ideologies and analyze emerging political trends. Political scientists frequently specialize in either national politics, foreign relations, or political theory. They may work at universities to teach political science. They may also work with labor unions, political groups, or government agencies as political analysts to analyze policies and conduct policy research.

How to Become One: Individuals interested in becoming political scientists will need to obtain either a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in political science or public administration. To be admitted into one of these programs, your undergraduate studies will have to include a focus on political science, statistics, and writing. Doctorate degrees in political science require several years of coursework followed by independent research. Most graduates begin their careers with relevant internships or fellowships at political organizations or universities. Political scientists also may consider pursuing work in a field other than politics, such as law or business.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $125,350
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 6%
  • Highest Paying States: Maryland, Virginia, Michigan, District of Columbia, New York

Top Academic Programs for Political Scientists:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Resident: $830 per credit

Non-Resident: $1,335 per credit

51 credits
Columbia University in the City of New York $25,248 per semester 75 credits
Duke University $28,950 per semester 8 courses

 


 

Aerospace Engineer

Median Salary: $118,610

What They Do: Aerospace engineers work with organizations to design spacecraft, aircraft, and satellites. They also create prototypes to test their designs and ensure they function as intended. Aerospace engineers often choose one of two specializations: aeronautical engineering (working with aircraft) and astronautical engineering (working with spacecraft). They may find work with government agencies, commercial organizations, or military organizations to design and evaluate new technologies.

How to Become One: A bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a related field is typically the minimum that is required to enter this field. To obtain higher-paying, senior-level positions, you may need to obtain a master’s or doctorate degree in aerospace engineering. Aerospace engineers who work with government agencies may also need to obtain security clearance when working on projects related to national defense. When studying to become an aerospace engineer, you can expect a combination of coursework, field studies, and laboratory work.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $118,610
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 3%
  • Highest Paying States: District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, Texas

Top Academic Programs for Aerospace Engineers:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University $1,563 per credit 42 credits
Florida Institute of Technology $1,050 per credit 42 credits
Worcester Polytechnic Institute $1,610 per credit 60 – 90 credits

 


 

Chemical Engineer

Median Salary: $108,540

What They Do: Chemical engineers use their knowledge of chemistry, physics, math, and biology to develop, design, and test chemical manufacturing processes. They may develop safety procedures for organizations that work with chemicals, design equipment for manufacturing that involves chemicals, fuel, or food, or they conduct research to develop new chemical manufacturing processes. They may work in fields such as medicine, education, law, or manufacturing. Chemical engineers often work with commercial organizations, research institutions, or universities as educators.

How to Become One: Entry-level chemical engineering positions often only require a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from an ABET-accredited program. However, a Ph.D. will be necessary to obtain a position as a researcher or postsecondary educator. Employers in this field value practical experience, meaning aspiring chemical engineers should search for internship opportunities while completing their education. Many universities also offer cooperative engineering programs, which allow students to gain real-world chemical engineering experience while pursuing their degrees.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $108,540
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 4%
  • Highest Paying States: Texas, Delaware, Louisiana, New Mexico, Idaho

Top Academic Programs for Chemical Engineers:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Stanford University $1,286 per credit 135 credits
New York University $1,943 per credit 75 credits
Massachusetts Institute of Technology $1,335 per credit 5 elements

 


 

Economist

Median Salary: $108,350

What They Do: Economists collect and analyze data relating to the production and distribution of goods and services. They study emerging economic trends, economic issues, and economic policies. They may work as researchers, consultants, educators, or journalists in fields such as healthcare, education, or public policy. Economists often work with local, state, and federal government agencies to analyze data relating to employment, wages, and productivity. They may also work with commercial businesses as consultants to help them understand how the local and national economy may impact their business.

How to Become One: For most jobs in this field, you will need either a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in economics to qualify. A strong undergraduate background in mathematics and statistics is typically considered essential before moving on to a graduate program in economics. Employers value a combination of education and practical experience, and students should familiarize themselves with statistical analysis software. Aspiring economists should look for internships that involve economic research and statistical analysis to prepare themselves for high-level positions in commercial or research organizations.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $108,350
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 14%
  • Highest Paying States: New York, District of Columbia, California, Maryland, Vermont

Top Academic Programs for Economists:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Stanford University $1,207 per credit 135 credits
Boston University $1,626 per credit 64 credits
University of Arizona Resident: $865 per credit

Non-Resident: $1,794 per credit

66 credits

 


 

Information Security Analyst

What They Do: Information security analysts work with organizations to design and implement security measures for their computer systems. They constantly monitor their organization’s computer networks to identify and respond to security breaches, conduct penetration tests, develop new security procedures, and deliver reports after cyber attacks. Information security analysts are part of their company’s IT department and are responsible for protecting sensitive data and information.

How to Become One: Information security analysts will need to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field to qualify for most entry-level jobs. For senior-level positions, you may need an MBA or Ph.D. in information systems or information assurance. You will also likely need previous experience as a network administrator, computer systems administrator, or another role in an IT department. Beyond college, you might also consider pursuing licenses and certifications, such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Certifications like this help IT professionals learn valuable skills and stay up to date with current security trends and technologies. In terms of advancement, information security analysts may eventually become the chief security officer for their organizations.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $103,590
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 31%
  • Highest Paying States: California, New York, New Jersey, District of Columbia, Virginia

Top Academic Programs for Information Security Analysts:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
University of Fairfax $55,490 per program 62 credits
Capella University $965 per credit 75 credits
Johns Hopkins University $58,720 per program 10 courses

 


 

Education Administrator

Median Salary: $97,500

What They Do: Education administrators are responsible for overseeing academics, faculty research, and student affairs at universities. Their specific duties vary depending on the size of their university and may include helping students complete the admissions process, reviewing student applications, preparing promotional materials for the university, helping students determine graduation requirements, and developing academic policies. Larger universities may split these responsibilities between multiple departments, while administrators at smaller colleges may have more responsibilities. Many education administrators choose to specialize in a specific area of administration, such as student activities, athletics, residential life, or student housing.

How to Become One: To begin your career as a postsecondary education administrator, you will typically need at least a master’s degree in a relevant discipline, such as educational administration or social work. To advance into a position as a dean or provost, you will likely need to have a Ph.D. Many university deans and provosts begin their careers as professors and hold a Ph.D. in the field that they taught as a professor. To gain experience, you may start by finding a position as a resident assistant or at a university’s registrar’s office while pursuing your degree.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $97,500
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 4%
  • Highest Paying States: New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Hawaii, North Dakota

Top Academic Programs for Education Administrators:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Harvard University $51,904 per year 16 courses
Trident University International $990 per credit 56 credits
Drexel University $1,355 per credit 74 credits

 


 

Biomedical Engineer

Median Salary: $92,620

What They Do: Biomedical engineers use their knowledge of science and engineering to design, test, and create biomedical equipment and devices. This may include, for example, artificial organs or artificial body parts. They also help install and maintain biomedical equipment, design and conduct experiments, conduct research, and develop new drug therapies. Biomedical engineers may work with research institutions, government agencies, healthcare organizations, or universities. There are several specializations within biomedical engineering, including genetic engineering, biochemical engineering, clinical engineering, and biomaterials engineering.

How to Become One: Entry-level biomedical engineering positions will usually require a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering or bioengineering from an ABET-accredited institution. Students may also major in a traditional engineering discipline, like mechanical or electrical engineering, while also taking biological sciences courses. To become an independent researcher or educator, or obtain a high-level biomedical engineering position, you may need to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, which will require several years of coursework, laboratory work, and research.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $92,620
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 5%
  • Highest Paying States: Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, California, Maryland

Top Academic Programs for Biomedical Engineers:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Stanford University $1,286 per credit 90 credits
Columbia University $25,248 per semester 30 credits
Northwestern University $12,643 per quarter 9 – 12 courses

 


 

Statistician

Median Salary: $92,270

What They Do: Statisticians work closely with mathematicians to gather and analyze data to solve problems. They conduct surveys, experiments, and polls to collect data, and they use a range of mathematical techniques and theories to analyze this data. When conducting these surveys and polls, statisticians choose how much and what type of data needs to be collected. Statisticians may work with government agencies or political groups to conduct polls, commercial businesses to perform market analysis, or universities as educators and researchers.

How to Become One: Statisticians typically have either a master’s degree or Ph.D. in statistics or economics, though entry-level government jobs may only require a bachelor’s degree. When pursuing your degree, you should expect to take several math courses, including abstract algebra, calculus, and differential equations. Depending on the industry you want to work in, you may consider taking courses in another field. For example, biology and chemistry courses may help statisticians that plan to work in the pharmaceutical industry.

  • 2020 Median Annual Pay: $92,270
  • Job Outlook, 2019-2029: 35%
  • Highest Paying States: Idaho, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, California

Top Academic Programs for Statisticians:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Stanford University $1,207 per credit 135 credits
Harvard University Full tuition: $50,928 16 4-credit courses
Northwestern University $12,643 per quarter 9 courses

Statistician

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a doctorate degree?

A doctorate degree is the most advanced degree you can obtain in most fields. It serves as proof of your expertise in a specific field as it requires significant time, research, and analysis to obtain.

There are two types of doctorate degrees: doctor of philosophy degrees (Ph.Ds) and applied doctorates. Ph.Ds are research-focused degrees, and to obtain one, students spend much of their time conducting research projects and studies. Applied doctorates focus on practical applications of skills in real-world scenarios.

Who should pursue a doctorate degree?

There are generally two main reasons to consider pursuing a doctorate degree: your ideal job requires it or you are very passionate about a specific subject.

Keep in mind that a Ph.D. may take up to eight years to complete, and many careers only require a bachelor’s or master’s degree. While obtaining a doctorate degree can be very rewarding, it’s important to consider the significant amount of time, money, and effort you will have to commit to complete your program.

What doctorate degree pays the most?

According to the data we pulled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and CareerOneStop, a Ph.D. in physics is one of the highest-paying doctorate degrees you can get.

Of course, many degrees lend themselves to a wide range of potential professions, so before committing to a degree, it’s important to research what types of jobs will be available to you upon graduation.

How much does a doctorate degree cost?

The total cost to get a doctorate degree varies significantly depending on the university you attend, your residency status, your chosen discipline, financial aid eligibility, and more.

A Ph.D. in statistics at Stanford University, for example, costs about $1,200 per credit and requires 135 credits to complete. Alternatively, for Massachussettes residents, a Ph.D. in political science at MIT costs $830 per credit and requires 51 credits to complete.

When planning your program path, make sure to consult your university’s financial aid office to learn how you can get help paying for your doctorate degree.