25 Best Paying Careers for Bachelor’s Degree Grads

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Study­ing longer for an MBA or doc­tor­ate isn’t always nec­es­sary for a six-fig­ure salary. Sev­er­al careers offer big bucks to bach­e­lor’s pro­gram grads with good expe­ri­ence and work eth­ic. We’re talk­ing fig­ures well beyond the aver­age start­ing wage of $50,390 on CNN Mon­ey. Some even rival what alum­ni with advanced degrees earn. For instance, PhD-lev­el pro­fes­sors only report medi­an income of $76,000. Work­ing hard for an MSW opens mean social work pay of just $47,980 in com­par­i­son. There­fore, it’s clear that some bac­calau­re­ate paths have bet­ter earn­ing poten­tial if mon­ey is your moti­va­tor. We’ve used the Bureau of Labor Sta­tis­tics to locate the 25 best pay­ing careers for bach­e­lor’s degree grads with year­ly norms above $100,000. We also used the U.S. News & World Report and Niche to find five excel­lent col­leges with bach­e­lor’s majors to start each lucra­tive career.

1. Airline Pilot

Air­line pilots are cloud cap­tains who safe­ly nav­i­gate the skies to trans­port peo­ple or car­go many miles. They’re FAA licensed to cre­ate flight plans, man­age cock­pit con­trols, check for mechan­i­cal errors, and con­duct smooth landings.

Aver­age Salary: $161,280

Top Schools: Embry-Rid­dle, Pur­due, West­ern Michi­gan, Ari­zona State, and Caltech

2. Petroleum Engineer

Petro­le­um engi­neers are gas extrac­tors who design drilling meth­ods to reach oil reserves deep below Earth­’s crust. Their duties include inno­vat­ing rig equip­ment, sur­vey­ing wells, record­ing pro­duc­tion data, and lead­ing oilfields.

Aver­age Salary: $154,780

Top Schools: Texas Tech, Penn State, Tul­sa, Mis­souri S&T, and Louisiana State

3. Information Systems Manager

Infor­ma­tion sys­tems man­agers are tech gurus who over­see cor­po­rate IT depart­ments to ensure smooth dig­i­tal sail­ing. They install apt hard­ware, take secu­ri­ty pre­cau­tions, fix com­put­er glitch­es, and admin­is­ter net­work upgrades.

Aver­age Salary: $149,730

Top Schools: Flori­da Atlantic, Maryville, Col­orado State, NYU, and Toledo

4. Architectural Manager

Archi­tec­tur­al man­agers are build­ing fore­men who super­vise the plan­ning of edi­fices for new con­struc­tion. Their NAAB train­ing helps ana­lyze blue­prints, dis­sect project pro­pos­als, hire tal­ent­ed archi­tects, and check tech­ni­cal soundness.

Aver­age Salary: $146,290

Top Schools: Carnegie Mel­lon, Cor­nell, Rice, UNC-Char­lotte, and Tulane

5. Financial Manager

Finan­cial man­agers are mon­ey watch­ers who con­trol orga­ni­za­tion­al cash flow for prof­itable returns on invest­ment. They’re often CFA cer­ti­fied to fore­cast rev­enues, make bud­get deci­sions, min­i­mize asset risks, and abide tax laws.

Aver­age Salary: $143,530

Top Schools: Berke­ley, Boston Col­lege, Ohio State, Vir­ginia, and MIT

6. Sales Manager

Sales man­agers are retail savants who cre­ate the cor­po­rate strate­gies for cus­tomer reps to per­suade pur­chas­es. Their tasks include set­ting prices, train­ing sales­peo­ple, assess­ing buy­er demand, and resolv­ing ser­vice complaints.

Aver­age Salary: $137,650

Top Schools: Hous­ton, Ore­gon State, Lib­er­ty, Saint Joseph’s Maine, and Lamar

7. Natural Sciences Manager

Nat­ur­al sci­ences man­agers are STEM lab chiefs who coor­di­nate empir­i­cal research to test hypothe­ses about the phys­i­cal world. They hire PhD-lev­el sci­en­tists, allo­cate project funds, pur­chase equip­ment, and review progress.

Aver­age Salary: $133,670

Top Schools: Prince­ton, Stan­ford, Geor­gia Tech, Syra­cuse, and Vanderbilt

8. Benefits Manager

Ben­e­fits man­agers are HR pro­fes­sion­als who devise reward­ing pay struc­tures that keep employ­ees sat­is­fied and pro­duc­tive. They set wages, acquire insur­ance con­tracts, coor­di­nate retire­ment plans, and dis­trib­ute vaca­tion time.

Aver­age Salary: $130,010

Top Schools: Bay­lor, Gon­za­ga, Loy­ola Chica­go, UW-Madi­son, and Marist

9. Public Relations Manager

Pub­lic rela­tions man­agers are media mas­ter­minds who nur­ture a pos­i­tive cor­po­rate iden­ti­ty for prod­uct pro­mo­tion. They’re PRSA cer­ti­fied to draft press releas­es, cre­ate online buzz, han­dle jour­nal­ist inquiries, and write speeches.

Aver­age Salary: $127,690

Top Schools: Flori­da State, St. John’s, USC, Auburn, and South Carolina

10. Financial Planner

Finan­cial plan­ners are wealth advi­sors who help clients best man­age their assets for long-term invest­ment goals. They fin­ish CFP cre­den­tial­ing to sim­pli­fy sav­ing, sug­gest stocks, man­age port­fo­lios, and give mortgage/loan advice.

Aver­age Salary: $124,140

Top Schools: San Diego State, Clem­son, Geor­gia, Miz­zou, and Utah Valley

11. Advertising Manager

Adver­tis­ing man­agers are con­sumer psy­chics who craft the right mes­sag­ing to attract pub­lic atten­tion to goods or ser­vices. Their duties include ana­lyz­ing print lay­outs, buy­ing ad space, film­ing com­mer­cials, and plan­ning billboards.

Aver­age Salary: $123,880

Top Schools: George­town, Port­land State, Tam­pa, Emory, and Temple

12. Operations Manager

Oper­a­tions man­agers are task jug­glers who wear many hats over­see­ing the dai­ly func­tion­ing of depart­ments. They’re busy ensur­ing qual­i­ty con­trol, doing per­for­mance appraisals, track­ing pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, and han­dling logistics.

Aver­age Salary: $123,460

Top Schools: UPenn, Iowa State, Belle­vue, Ore­gon Tech, and CSU-East Bay

13. Air Traffic Controller

Air traf­fic con­trollers are plane pro­tec­tors who direct the safe move­ment of flight vehi­cles to and from run­ways. They’re FAA trained to give land­ing instruc­tions, mon­i­tor radar routes, inform pilots, and address emergencies.

Aver­age Salary: $120,260

Top Schools: Kent State, Mia­mi Dade, Hamp­ton, LeTourneau, and ENMU

14. Computer Hardware Engineer

Com­put­er hard­ware engi­neers are IT builders who plan schemat­ics for wiring elec­tron­ics devices that access the inter­net. They mod­i­fy cir­cuit boards, test proces­sors, man­u­fac­ture routers, design key­boards, and update RAM.

Aver­age Salary: $119,650

Top Schools: UT-Austin, Duke, Rens­se­laer, Johns Hop­kins, and Maryland

15. Training and Development Manager

Train­ing and devel­op­ment man­agers are cor­po­rate prin­ci­pals who run insight­ful instruc­tion­al pro­grams that teach employ­ees skills. They’re often SHRM cer­ti­fied to study work­force needs, plan work­shops, and cre­ate curricula.

Aver­age Salary: $117,690

Top Schools: Quin­nip­i­ac, Louisville, Gene­va, Hard­ing, and Lipscomb

16. Astronautical Engineer

Astro­nau­ti­cal engi­neers are space­craft cre­ators who pre­pare pro­to­types for trav­el beyond Earth­’s atmos­phere. Their oblig­a­tions include build­ing satel­lites, test­ing rock­ets, man­u­fac­tur­ing mis­siles, and mon­i­tor­ing galaxy exploration.

Aver­age Salary: $115,300

Top Schools: Texas A&M, Vir­ginia Tech, Notre Dame, Day­ton, and UC-Boulder

17. Actuary

Actu­ar­ies are math­e­mat­i­cal wiz­ards who help insur­ance car­ri­ers cal­cu­late the risks of cov­er­age to increase prof­its. They’ve passed SOA exams to do sta­tis­ti­cal mod­el­ing, pin­point prob­a­bil­i­ty, make charts, and design policies.

Aver­age Salary: $114,850

Top Schools: But­ler, Mur­ray State, Otter­bein, Rut­gers, and SUNY Albany

18. Chemical Engineer

Chem­i­cal engi­neers are solu­tion savants who mix ele­ments to pro­duce organ­ic or syn­thet­ic com­pounds for large-scale use. They devel­op man­u­fac­tur­ing process­es, set safe­ty pro­to­col, con­duct research, and improve equipment.

Aver­age Salary: $112,430

Top Schools: North­west­ern, UM-Twin Cities, Yale, Ari­zona, and Clarkson

19. Systems Software Developer

Sys­tems soft­ware devel­op­ers are hard dri­ve inno­va­tors who con­struct the inter­faces on which com­put­ers oper­ate. Their tasks include iden­ti­fy­ing users’ needs, craft­ing dig­i­tal mod­els, pro­gram­ming code, and doing maintenance.

Aver­age Salary: $111,780

Top Schools: San Jose State, RIT, Drex­el, Brigham Young, and Champlain

20. Health Administrator

Health admin­is­tra­tors are clin­i­cal con­duc­tors who ensure med­ical wards work togeth­er in con­cert for high-qual­i­ty patient care. They man­age physi­cians, over­see billing, coor­di­nate records sys­tems, and test legal compliance.

Aver­age Salary: $111,680

Top Schools: East­ern Ken­tucky, Howard, UConn, James Madi­son, and Weber State

21. Industrial Production Manager

Indus­tri­al pro­duc­tion man­agers are fac­to­ry exec­u­tives who stream­line the assem­bly of goods from cars to phones. They’re great at oper­at­ing machin­ery, writ­ing plant reports, super­vis­ing work­ers, and fix­ing man­u­fac­ture errors.

Aver­age Salary: $110,580

Top Schools: Dav­en­port, Good­win, Tar­leton State, Cin­cy, and Fer­ris State

22. Nuclear Engineer

Nuclear engi­neers are ener­gy pro­duc­ers who for­mu­late the meth­ods for safe­ly using radioac­tive mate­ri­als. Their ABET-accred­it­ed train­ing helps design reac­tor cores, devel­op cyclotrons, dis­pose nuclear waste, and pre­vent crises.

Aver­age Salary: $108,910

Top Schools: NC State, New Mex­i­co, Ida­ho State, West Point, and UIUC

23. Network Architect

Net­work archi­tects are cable con­nec­tors who skill­ful­ly unite work­ers with com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems called LANs or WANs. They present lay­out plans, pick apt routers, install adap­tors, erect secu­ri­ty fire­walls, and troubleshoot.

Aver­age Salary: $107,870

Top Schools: Dako­ta State, Miles Col­lege, Herz­ing, Pierce, and Alfred State

24. Sales Engineer

Sales engi­neers are per­sua­sive pitch­ers who mar­ket com­plex sci­en­tif­ic tools to solve tech­ni­cal prob­lems busi­ness­es have. They’re active explain­ing prod­uct specs, giv­ing machine sug­ges­tions, secur­ing orders, and plan­ning delivery.

Aver­age Salary: $106,950

Top Schools: Colum­bia, Kansas, Brown, Coop­er Union, and Dartmouth

25. Mining Engineer

Min­ing engi­neers are geo­log­i­cal col­liers who invent effec­tive means to remove min­er­als like coal or salt from the Earth. They’re often PE licensed to study ore deposits, inspect mines, over­see tun­nel­ing, and address hazards.

Aver­age Salary: $103,710

Top Schools: West Vir­ginia, South­ern Illi­nois, Ken­tucky, UAF, and Mon­tana Tech


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