The Highest Starting Salaries by College Degree

Highest Starting Salaries

With the cost of college being what it is today - $40,000 for a four-year degree based on in-state tuition at a public university – many students want to know what kind of financial payoff will accompany their diplomas.

It’s an even more important question for working adults who are weighing life disruptions in addition to the monetary investment it will take to earn an online degree.

While there’s never any guarantee of financial success with a particular major, there are some degrees that hold more promise than others. Various engineering degrees top most lists – occupying five of the first six slots in a Forbes survey. Nursing degrees perennially have great earning potential, too, particularly now that medical facilities are looking to nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists to fill provider gaps in underserved locations.

Beyond those two areas, there are several professions showing up on today’s lists of lucrative college degrees that might surprise you. Here are a few:

Information Systems Management

This major is usually the first non-engineering or non-nursing degree on most top-paying lists. Businesses of all sizes are discovering that, while it’s easy to find qualified coders or systems administrators, it’s more difficult to hire someone who can work across departments to create systems that consider the needs of the entire business. Mastering the technical and business skills required to do so may lead to a big financial payoff.

Public Health

Health care reform, with its emphasis on preventive care, has created new demand in this historically low-paying field. These days, a bachelor’s in health and wellness will help you land a job in hospitals, clinics, and nonprofits all around the country. Health care administration degrees are also in growing demand.


Many Fortune 500 companies now have corporate social responsibility officers, and even those that don’t are factoring environmental and community impact into their decisions. Traditional environmental degrees or retooled sustainability management programs can help launch careers in these new positions.


Professionals in this field are in such short supply that even top universities can’t find enough graduates to fill their research assistant openings. These jobs require proficiency at statistical analysis, computer database, and data management. It’s a diverse skill set. No wonder qualified professionals are in such high demand. The demand for employees who can handle data is high in specific fields, too. Health information management is one example. This growing field requires finance and information technology skills as well as knowledge of the law as it applies to patient privacy.


This traditional meat-and-potatoes business degree may lead to a lucrative career in banking or finance. That’s because businesses today are looking for employees who can analyze possible courses of action and their impact on the bottom line. The same goes for finance majors.

Other important online college degree factors

It’s important to factor in more than finances when deciding a college major. Another question to ask: Could the online degree lead to a rewarding as well as lucrative career? Talk to professionals already working in the field for insights as to what their jobs entail. College student services offices also can help, as can faculty experts in the discipline.

Written by Ashford University staff

Questions? Talk with an Advisor

Are you currently a licensed RN?

This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.

Let us help.

Fill out this form to talk with an advisor.

Are you currently a licensed RN?

This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.