Highest-paying jobs that require a bachelor's degree
While college and university tuition costs may be skyrocketing, many still believe a bachelor’s degree is essential to landing a well-paying job in the United States. Stacker mined 2019 data, released in 2020, from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and compiled a list of the highest-paying jobs that require a bachelor’s degree.
Many of the top-paying jobs are highly technical or scientific, calling for a sophisticated understanding of thermodynamics, nuclear power, or forensic chemistry. Others are engineering jobs with civil, industrial, environmental, mechanical, or biomedical specializations. Jobs for accountants, budget analysts, and financial managers need an understanding of the intricacies of finance and numbers. Computer skills feature in most of the well-paying jobs, particularly those of programmers, systems analysts, and software designers and developers.
While some positions require creativity and artistry, such as the producers and directors who create hit movies, television shows, theatrical productions, and successful commercials, most demand a combination of these valuable skills. Landscape architects must be creative and computer-savvy; technical writers are wordsmiths who interpret complex data, and animators use computer-generated imagery to bring their artistic visions to life. The highest-paying job on the list calls for a complex mix of “all of the above.” All the jobs require keeping up to date with the latest developments, whether in fashion trends, cybersecurity, or tax policy.
Stacker considered 166 jobs listed by the BLS Occupational Handbook, with a bachelor’s degree as the typical education needed for an entry-level position. Jobs are ranked by 2019 median annual income. Employment projections are also from the BLS. Jobs with “all other” in the name were excluded, as these were aggregates of several jobs, and the wage data was not accurate to one specific job.
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#75. Insurance underwriters
- Annual median wage: $70,020 (75.9% higher than U.S. median income)
- Employment: 100,050
- Projected change in employment 2018-2028: -4.9%
Insurance underwriters look at applications for insurance and decide whether coverage should be extended, at what cost, and with what conditions attached. They analyze risks and make recommendations on approving or rejecting client applications. They decide how much coverage should be offered and how much it should cost, and they tend to specialize in health, life, or property and casualty insurance.
#74. Environmental scientists and specialists, including health
- Annual median wage: $71,360 (79.3% higher than U.S. median income)
- Employment: 84,290
- Projected change in employment 2018-2028: +8.2%
Environmental scientists and specialists conduct research, compile data, and develop projects such as cleaning up contamination or reducing waste. Those who specialize in industrial ecology may determine potential dangers to the environment of proposed construction, while environmental restoration planners may work on reclaiming polluted areas, and environmental chemists may research the impact of chemicals on land, water, plants, and animals.
#73. Accountants and auditors
- Annual median wage: $71,550 (79.7% higher than U.S. median income)
- Employment: 1,280,700
- Projected change in employment 2018-2028: +6.4%
Accountants are experts in examining and analyzing financial records as well as tax regulations and preparation, and auditors specialize in monitoring for potential fiscal mismanagement or noncompliance. Job skills include being an analytical thinker, with an eye to detail and a knack for being organized. Depending upon their specialities and expertise, accountants and auditors might move on to become budget directors, controllers, treasurers, or chief financial officers.
#72. Technical writers
- Annual median wage: $72,850 (83.0% higher than U.S. median income)
- Employment: 50,760
- Projected change in employment 2018-2028: +8.5%
Technical writers specialize in interpreting and communicating complex information and content, producing instruction manuals, how-to and assembly guides, and other support documents. They work closely with computer hardware and software designers as well as professionals in product development, marketing, and customer relations. Along with having writing skills, they may have backgrounds in computer science, engineering, or other technology.
#71. Registered nurses
- Annual median wage: $73,300 (84.1% higher than U.S. median income)
- Employment: 2,982,280
- Projected change in employment 2018-2028: +12.1%
Registered nurses (RNs) care for patients, evaluating and recording their conditions, administering medication and treatment, operating medical equipment, and performing diagnostic tests. Specialty areas include critical care, neonatal care, or public health. The jobs require organization, quick thinking, stamina, compassion, and communication skills. Some become nursing directors or vice presidents of nursing, go to work for pharmaceutical or managed care companies, or move into advanced positions such as nurse anesthetists or nurse practitioners.
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#70. Credit analysts
- Annual median wage: $73,650 (85.0% higher than U.S. median income)
- Employment: 73,930
- Projected change in employment 2018-2028: +4.9%
Credit analysts evaluate and assess the financial health of people or companies applying for credit or loans to determine their ability to repay and the extent of the risk to the lender. Typically armed with degrees in finance, accounting, or business, credit analysts may start out in accounting or accounts receivable and could go on to jobs in financial services, real estate, insurance, banking, brokerages, or retail credit departments.
#69. Agents and business managers of artists, performers, and athletes
- Annual median wage: $73,740 (85.2% higher than U.S. median income)
- Employment: 17,060
- Projected change in employment 2018-2028: +10.4%
Agents for performers, artists, and athletes act as liaisons between their clients and potential employers, whether a sports team or music label. These workers may help with contract negotiation, collecting commissions, promotion, and scheduling.
#68. Fashion designers
- Annual median wage: $73,790 (85.4% higher than U.S. median income)
- Employment: 22,030
- Projected change in employment 2018-2028: +1.4%
Fashion designers—who envision and create apparel from evening gowns to lingerie, hats, shoes, and costumes—have technical and creative skills. They are up on fashion trends and consumer tastes and can translate a concept through production. Tending to the artistic, many use computer-aided design programs to create virtual looks and understand the properties of shape, colors, fabrics, and textiles. They may start out as interns or assistants.
#67. Occupational health and safety specialists
- Annual median wage: $74,100 (86.1% higher than U.S. median income)
- Employment: 92,780
- Projected change in employment 2018-2028: +6.2%
Occupational health and safety specialists inspect and assess workplaces and procedures for compliance with health, safety, and environmental standards. Some might focus on investigating on-the-job accidents or protective systems. They might have knowledge of ergonomics or accident prevention, and they are skilled in using advanced testing tools and technology, all while training, conveying instructions, and following government regulations and policies.
#66. Producers and directors
- Annual median wage: $74,420 (86.9% higher than U.S. median income)
- Employment: 129,210
- Projected change in employment 2018-2028: +4.8%
Producers and directors create movies, theater, television shows, commercials, and other performing arts productions. They tend to have experience as actors, film editors, or cinematographers, or have degrees in communications, theater, or arts management. Producers work on the business and financial end of productions: finding investors, raising money, hiring cast and crew, and setting and sticking to a budget. Directors’ responsibilities lie on the creative side, where they interpret scripts, oversee rehearsals, guide actors, and coordinate with cinematographers and set designers. Leadership, communication, and time-management skills are critical.
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