15 Top Highest Paying Bachelors Degree Jobs & College Majors

Do you want to get started in a career that could possibly pay over $100,000 a year, but don't feel like going any further than earning a bachelor’s degree? You may be in luck. Listed below are the estimated 15 highest-paying jobs (excluding CEOs) that typically only require a bachelor’s degree as an entry-level education, according to 2011 annual mean national salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).


(Note: This does not include similarly high-paying jobs that only require an associate degree as a baseline education. Also, while many of these professions only require a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree potentially could provide a higher salary ceiling.


1. Petroleum Engineers:  $138,980; 2011 national mean annual salary

Generally speaking, petroleum engineers create and optimize methods of extracting oil and gas from underground deposits. Employment for petroleum engineers is expected to see up to a 17 percent increase between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012).

Aspiring petroleum engineers are usually required to hold a bachelor’s degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering and Professional Engineering exams, and have several years of work experience.

2. Architectural and Engineering Managers: $129,350; 2011 national mean annual salary

Architectural and engineering managers apply their leadership and management expertise to the fields of architecture and engineering. Responsibilities might include overseeing research and development; determining technical goals; ensuring projects are done accurately, under budget, and on time; and coordinating the efforts of large teams.

Most engineering managers have at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Architectural managers may require a professional degree in architecture. Employment in the profession is expected to grow up to nine percent nationally between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012).

3. Natural Sciences Managers: $128,230; 2011 national mean annual salary

Chemists, physicists, biologists, and other related personnel typically fall under the supervision of a natural science manager. Natural science managers may oversee research projects and aid others with scientific projects, in addition to conducting their own research.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates national employment growth of up to eight percent for this profession between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012). Multiple years of experience as a scientist are usually required before someone is able to assume a supervisory role as a natural science manager.

4. Marketing Managers: $126,190; 2011 national mean annual salary

Marketing managers assume leadership roles in developing a company or brand's marketing strategy. They often create new services and products based on market trends and demand, determine pricing models, and identify profitable new customer bases.

Marketing managers usually hold a bachelor's degree, and have taken management, economics, statistics, accounting and other related business courses, and might major in marketing. Expected national job growth between 2010 and 2020 is 14 percent, roughly equal to the national average for all occupations, according to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012).

5. Computer and Information Systems Managers: $125,660; 2011 national mean annual salary

Individuals in this role are often called Information Technology Managers or IT Managers for short. They help direct an organization’s computer-technology efforts. They may use their technical knowledge for tasks like recommending technology upgrades, negotiating with vendors and keeping computer networks secure.

An 18 percent national employment increase is projected by the BLS between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS (BLS.gov. 2012). To achieve a position as an IT manager, an individual usually needs an educational background in computers or science, as well as several years of work experience in the field.

6. Financial Managers: $120,450; 2011 national mean annual salary

Financial managers are responsible for maintaining a company's fiscal well-being. They may accomplish this by acting as financial advisors to senior management and by using skills like data analysis. Financial managers' expertise is often tied to the particular industry they work in.

A bachelor's degree in finance, economics, accounting or other business administration discipline is usually needed to become a financial manager, along with previous work experience as an accountant, financial analyst, or similar occupation. Job growth of up to nine percent nationally is expected to occur between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012).

7. Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers: $120,450; 2011 national mean annual salary  

Pilots navigate aircraft that safely carry passengers or cargo to a variety of destinations. Some pilots go on to work for major airlines, while others might fly emergency helicopters, firefighting planes or crop-dusters. A commercial pilot's license that includes 250 hours of logged flight experience is required for pilots seeking payment. Many other qualifications exist, such as instrument-rating and aircraft-specific certifications.

Pilots sometimes come from military backgrounds, but many are civilians who become trained or earn an aviation degree at an FAA-certified (Federal Aviation Administration) flight school. Many companies require pilots to possess an associate or bachelor's degree (BLS.gov, 2012).

8. Sales Managers: $116,860; 2011 national mean annual salary

Sales managers lead a company's sales force, setting sales goals, training sales representatives, and analyzing statistics to determine customer preference and inventory data. They often work closely with outside distributors along with in-house departments like marketing.

This position usually requires one to five years of work experience in sales, as well as a bachelor's degree. Employment growth of up to 12 percent nationally is expected between 2010 and 2010, according to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012).  

9. Human Resources Managers: $108,600; 2011 national mean annual salary

HR managers are the leaders of a company's administrative-services department. They work in many different areas to ensure the workplace runs smoothly. In addition to often overseeing the hiring and recruitment process, they also typically handle any issues concerning company policy and benefits, as well as help higher management identify new ways to optimize work efficiency.

An educational background in business could be helpful in gaining any type of HR job. Employment for HR managers is predicted to increase by up to 13 percent nationally between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. (BLS.gov, 2012).

10. Public Relations and Fundraising Managers: $105,690; 2011 national mean annual salary

Public relations managers are in charge of nurturing a company's public image so it remains positive. They accomplish this by maintaining relationships with media through tools like press releases, interviews and speeches. Fundraising managers fill a similar role, but specialize in soliciting funds for special projects or nonprofits.

Aspiring public relations managers usually need a bachelor's degree in journalism or communications as well as moderate work experience under their belt. Expected national job growth from 2010 to 2020 is higher than average—up to 21 percent between 2010 and 2020 (BLS.gov, 2012).

11. Nuclear Engineers: $105,160; 2011 national mean annual salary

These nuclear energy experts help make beneficial use out of radioactive material. Job duties might include designing nuclear-powered devices, ensuring safe nuclear waste disposal, or studying past nuclear accidents to prevent future incidents, just to name a few.

Aspiring nuclear engineers must possess a bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering, and it can help to have a strong academic background in mathematics and science. While a license isn't required to work in a nuclear power plant, becoming licensed as a professional engineer (which involves passing several exams) is typically recommended. Growth in this job sector is expected to grow by up to ten percent nationally between 2010 and 2010, according to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012).   

12. Aerospace Engineers: $103,870; 2011 national mean annual salary

Aerospace engineers design aircraft and spacecraft, and the technologies they rely upon. Aerospace engineers usually specialize in aeronautics (aircraft) or astronautics (spacecraft). Their skills can be used for many applications, such as the design of defense systems, guidance systems, or unmanned drones.

Students wishing to achieve an entry-level position in this field usually need to complete a bachelor's degree in engineering. There are no mandatory licenses for entry-level aerospace engineers, but more experienced professionals are usually required to become certified as a professional engineer. National employment in the aerospace engineering field is expected to increase by up to five percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012).

13. Advertising and Promotions Managers: $103,350; 2011 national mean annual salary

Advertising managers are in charge of creating multi-faceted advertising campaigns across a variety of media outlets, from traditional standbys like television and print magazines to modern tactics like social media and online advertising. Promotions managers specialize in creating buying incentives for consumers through contests, coupons and other promotion materials.

Advertising and promotions managers often have a bachelor's degree in journalism or advertising, and usually work at ad agencies or within a company's marketing division. National job growth from 2010 to 2020 could reach up to 13 percent, according to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012).

14. Purchasing Managers: $103,110; 2011 national mean annual salary

Purchasing managers are in charge of product acquisition. They often negotiate contracts with suppliers and attempt to procure the highest quality products at the best possible price for their company. They often attend trade shows and conferences in order to research suppliers in addition to studying pricing data so they can make a good deal.

Education requirements vary, but a bachelor's degree a common requirement. Five years of work experience as a buyer or purchasing agent is usually required to move into a management position. There are many optional certifications, including the Certified Purchasing Professional and Certified Purchasing Professional Manager from the American Purchasing Society (BLS.gov, 2012).

15. Actuaries: $103,000; 2011 national mean annual salary

An actuary is a business professional who specializes in risk assessment, analyzing statistical data to calculate the probability of different outcomes and forecast risk. A bachelor's degree combining mathematics and business courses may offer the best preparation for actuarial work. Actuaries often work for insurance companies.

A bachelor's degree in statistics, corporate finance, economics, or business may also offer appropriate career training. Twenty seven percent national growth rates are predicted in this industry between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS.(BLS.gov, 2012).

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