Top 15-paying Jobs for College Grads

September 25, 2012 |

Electrical engineer

You’re taking advantage of your GI Bill and other military education benefits, right? If not, here’s some more incentive for you: a run-down of the top-paying jobs available to people who have a bachelor’s degree, according to the authors of the book College Majors: Handbook with Real Career Paths and Payoffs. Below are the career fields, ranked by median annual salary, along with details on some potential jobs within each field, courtesy of the Department of Labor.

1. Medical preparatory programs, $100,000
Job Example:
Physicians and surgeons ($160,000 per year in median annual salary)diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses in patients. Physicians examine patients, take medical histories, prescribe medications, and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

2. Computer systems engineering, $85,000
Job Example:
Computer hardware engineers ($98,000 per year) research, design, develop, and test computer equipment such as chips, circuit boards, or routers. By solving complex problems in computer hardware, these engineers create rapid advances in computer technology.

3. Pharmacy, $84,000
Job Example: A pharmacist ($111,000 per year) dispenses prescription medications to patients and offer advice on their safe use.

4. Chemical engineering, $80,000
Job Example: Chemical engineers ($90,000 per year) apply the principles of chemistry, biology, and physics to solve problems. These problems involve the production or use of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and many other products. They design processes and equipment for large-scale safe and sustainable manufacturing, plan and test methods of manufacturing products and treating byproducts, and supervise production.

5. Electrical and electronics engineering, $75,000
Job Example: Electrical engineers ($89,000 per year in salary) research, design, develop, test, or supervise the manufacturing and installation of electrical equipment, components, or systems for commercial, industrial, military, or scientific use.

6. Mechanical engineering, $75,000
Job Example: Mechanical engineers ($78,000 per year) design, develop, build, and test mechanical devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

7. Aerospace, aeronautical engineering, $74,000
Job Example: Aerospace engineers ($97,000 per year) design aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. In addition, they test prototypes to make sure that they function according to design.  

8. Computer science, $73,400
Job Example: Software developers ($90,000 per year) are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or other device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or control networks.

9. Industrial engineering, $73,000
Job Example: Industrial engineers ($76,000 per year) find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient ways to use workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.

10. Physics and astronomy, $72,200
Job Example: Physicists and astronomers ($105,000 per year) study the fundamental nature of the universe, ranging from the vastness of space to the smallest of subatomic particles. They develop new technologies, methods, and theories based on the results of their research that deepen our understanding of how things work and contribute to innovative, real-world applications.

11. Civil engineering, $70,000
Job Example: Civil engineers ($77,000 per year) design and supervise large construction projects, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

12. Electrical and electronics engineering technology, $65,000
Job Example: Electrical and electronics engineers ($87,ooo per year) design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, and power generation equipment. Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, such as broadcast and communications systems—from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPS).

13. Economics, $63,300
Job Example: Economists ($89,000 per year) study the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services.

14. Financial management, $63,000
Job Example:
Financial managers ($103,000 per year) are responsible for the financial health of an organization. They produce financial reports, direct investment activities, and develop strategies and plans for the long-term financial goals of their organization.

15. Mechanical engineering technology, $63,000
Job Example:
Mechanical engineers ($78,000 per year) design, develop, build, and test mechanical devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

About Ho Lin

Ho Lin is an editor at His interests include naval history, the New York football Giants, and loud rock music.


  1. Disillusioned says:

    You're going to have some very disappointed readers when they find out they can't be a physician, pharmacist or physicist with only a bachelors degree.

  2. Chad says:

    Wow, Engineering is undergraduate! Cough…. The author shot out another useless article for this community. I see a job opening for a journalist with creativity opening up soon…

  3. Walter says:

    More realistically, a bachelor of Science degree is Business administration which requires as much math as the ones mentioned. It’s another $70,000 and after 4 years of experience and saving some money, you can go for that MBA cheaper than grad school.

  4. Jim says:

    I just wasted 5 minutes of my life.

    • Probably did, Jim. The best way to avoid that is to get 8 hours of restful sleep and 8 hours of money making (called Job) and 8 hours of R & R. Reading all this is not conducive to making the best of your time. For me, I'm retired (that is tired X 2). so it is pure entertainment for me.

  5. An American says:

    Hey Ho Lin, sorry do disappoint you, but here in America, doctors need a Phd.

    • Bryan Clinkenbeard says:

      MD, not PhD

      • Bryan is correct. M.D. stands for Medical Doctor and Phd stands for Doctorate of what ever the specialty is, ie: A.S. = Associate degree in Science, B.S = Bachelor in Science, M.S = Master's degree in Science and Phd. = Doctorate degree in Science. M.D stands for Medical Doctor which requires a B.S in a medical related field, then 4 more years in Medical School and serve an internship before being able to practice. Hope this helps.

  6. Wayne says:

    "jobs available to people who have a bachelor’s degree, according to the authors of the book College Majors: Handbook with Real Career Paths and Payoffs."

    Mr. Ho Lin, You should do your research before writing an article that could effect peoples lives in a negative way. Physicians and surgeons?? This position requires way more than a bachelors degree. Sure, you do need a Bachelors to get there though. And most Engineering positions do not start at the amounts listed. Did you actually research any of this?, or simply quote another author that doesn't have a clue?

  7. Another graduate says:

    Your article title is very misleading. -Perhaps you meant to say top paying jobs? Most of those positions definitely require a lot more than just a bachelors degree.

  8. American says:

    HO Lin is clearly mis-led, have you checked any American Universities to see what is required in the fields you list. Computer Science you may only need a Bachelor's Degree but that is about it. Further, with all of your friends and others practicing as Doctors and Dentists here in the United States, I do question their Educational Credentials b/c requirements in other Countries are very different from the United States.

  9. mdahms says:

    I have to say I am very disappointed in this article. I suggest next time you need to fill space write an article on the advatages of brushing you teeth daily.

  10. DAVID C. says:

    Read the 'About Ho Lin' section below the article…..well that explains it!

  11. BudShort says:

    Right out of Vietnam, I used my GI Bill education benefits to get both a BS and an AS degree from an engineering university. I am currently licensed as an engineer in 4 states and as a land surveyor in 2 states. Thanks to the GI Bill, I never had any student loans or other debt related to my education expense. All I can say is "If it's available to you, use it!!"

  12. BudShort says:

    Not sure if it has changed, but just after Vietnam, some of my officer friends who already had a bachelors degree used their GI Bill education benefits to fund their advanced degrees. One of them I really have trouble calling him "Doctor" instead of "Captain" (that's Airforce O-3 Captain, not Navy O-6 Captain and P.H.D. Doctor, not M.D. Doctor).

  13. LACHRIST says:


  14. John says:

    You can’t be an economist either without a phd

  15. Hot Cat #3 says:

    Welcome to the Alphabetizing of America. You said it. Qualifications of employers now pretty much disqualify the Undergrads in this jobless market.
    I have 25 years experience in my field, yet get bounced by my lack of a Phd at this time. Seems to fit a profile to warrant compensation over 40K these days. Pretty soon we'll be a nation of Custodians that need a PhD for a job..

    • Unemployed Veteran IT Worker says:

      Maybe you need a PhD to be an economist, but you only need a high school diploma to crash the economy by creating ‘securities derivatives’.

  16. FAA Controller says:

    FAA air traffic control specialist in an enroute center or large TRACON i.e. Atlanta or Chicago pays close to $200,000 (maxed GS-15) a year with night diff, holiday pay, ot etc. all on a high school diploma…

  17. khail says:

    the Art of War …Sun Tan ….
    The robots of the 21st century …
    medical science would have evoled 2 another generational language …
    data networks that have standadised structures ….
    third world scenerios …..

  18. Really?? says:

    Totally useless piece of garbage. I am in freshman English and even I know the fundamental idea of knowing who your audience is when writing anything. There is not a lot of variety in your article. I understand these fields are booming right now but come on! The VA money won't stretch that far for most of us. And you are speaking to an audience that may be unemployed who might need to find a job before the 6-8 years half of these majors require. Use your brain a little if you expect us to do the same!

  19. Dave says:

    Ho lin: How about posting some of the better jobs that a veteran can get with a Bachelor's degree like being a nuclear physicist or brain surgeon. Veterans really live in the real world. I think it's great that many employers give vets priority in the hiring process but face facts, many of the jobs are not at a college graduate level.

  20. Mae Brooks says:

    I also heard that engineering companies in calgary is in need of new engineers or even engineering graduate, board passer or not. They are privileged to be trained in like 2 months and then have their practice afterwards.

  21. Ken Whitby says:

    I am a disabled vet that signed up during the end of the Gulf War. Before i left I found out that my home state Illinois has the IVG Illinois Veterans Grant when used in conjunction with the Gi Bill it is possible to get a PHD or close to it at with little to no cost to the vet. I am 2 semesters from my B.S. in Industrial Engineering Technology and I still have enough of my IVG to get my Masters and start on a PHD I waited some years after i was discharged before starting school. Had i started earlier I would be a lot further in school and degrees

    • Good for you. Your using your valuable GI benefits. Most vets just say they want to, but never get to it. Remember, those GI education benefits do have a shelf life of 10 years from date of discharge. Good Luck

  22. Hey Boris, don't let this article get you upset. It's strictly entertainment for most of us anyway. Better to concentrate on looking for careers with your credentials. Try contacting a Veterans Employment Rep at your states job centers. They may be able to open some doors for you that you can't open yourself. I used to be a Vet Rep in PA and now retired from State service. I still assist veterans via my chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America and through other contacts.

  23. I've got to say, that is the best answer I've heard here yet. I used to be a Veterans Employment Representative in PA before I retired and that is exactly what I helped Vets do. Keep putting out good answers to their questions. You're the first one here to actually give good advice as to how to look for a good career, not just a measly job.

  24. Not so. You need to take up or should I say, should have taken up anything that you are really interested in and have the skills to pursue them. You can always compliment your skill with more education in electronics or anything else you want. Go for it.

  25. After reading all these comments and reviewing the information in the article, I think the should confine these articles to the author's own skills and credentials. He has none that match the information in this article. All of this information is available "free" to anyone from the Federal Department of Labor and from each State Dept. of Labor, either via internet or in written form.