Careers

Highest-Paying Jobs for College Graduates

Highest-Paying Jobs for College Graduates

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Search Colleges
TheBestSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

This list of the jobs that pay the most for workers with college degrees can help you become a high earner after graduation.

College graduates enjoy higher earnings than those with only a high school diploma, but which occupations offer the most lucrative prospects? This page explores how to get a high-paying job and lists 20 profitable careers for degree-holders. The list includes some of the highest-paying jobs in growing industries like healthcare, engineering, technology, and management.

Each career listed has at least 25,000 job openings with varying educational requirements. Some only call for a bachelor's degree, but more skilled or senior-level positions may require additional credentials. Our program ranking provides more information about the best degrees for these careers that make money.

Methodology

We used employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to rank the highest-paying jobs for college graduates in 2020.

What Are the Highest-Paying Jobs for College Graduates?

Anesthesiologists $261,730

This career tops current rankings of the highest-paying jobs, according to BLS data. Anesthesiologists assist physicians and surgeons in the operating room, providing care and pain relief to patients through anesthetics. They also monitor patients' vital signs throughout surgery, including blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.

Anesthesiologists work full-time in healthcare facilities, like hospitals and other inpatient treatment centers. They may work irregular hours, including nights and weekends. These professionals need strong precision and dexterity skills and must thrive under pressure. Education requirements include a bachelor's degree and completion of medical school.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $261,730
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 0%
Recommended Degree Doctorate

Surgeons $252,040

Surgeons treat injuries and diseases through operations, elective surgeries, and preventive procedures. They work alongside other medical doctors to determine appropriate treatments and use an array of instruments and tools to perform general and local surgeries. Many specialize in individual procedures, like cardiovascular, neurological, or reconstructive surgery.

All surgeons must complete medical school, including internship and residency requirements. They may also need additional training in a specialty or area of concentration. Because surgery is one of the more technical fields in medicine and healthcare, successful surgeons need patience and dexterity, as well as exceptional leadership and problem-solving skills.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $252,040
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 4%
Recommended Degree Doctorate

Psychiatrists $220,430

Psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental illnesses and cognitive disorders through a combination of group or individual psychotherapy and prescribed medication. They work to modify destructive patterns or behaviors in their patients by correcting chemical imbalances and exploring the social factors that contribute to stressors.

As one of the highest-paying jobs in mental health, this role requires a doctorate in medicine, state licensure, and professional certification. Like other medical professionals, psychiatrists usually work full time and often log irregular hours. Most work in hospitals or other mental health facilities, although some may have private practices.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $220,430
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 12%
Recommended Degree Doctorate

Family Medicine Physicians $213,270

These medical doctors provide primary care services to the general population, often focusing on family groups. They treat many different conditions, including sinus infections, the common cold, bone fractures, contusions, and other ailments. They also conduct physicals and may prescribe medications or antibiotics to address chronic issues like high blood pressure or viral infections.

Family medicine physicians work in private or group practice, although some assume roles in hospitals and treatment centers. They work full time and often must be available for on-call duties. These professionals may need to travel to meet patients. Family medicine physicians need strong interpersonal skills and must hold advanced medical degrees.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $213,270
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 6%
Recommended Degree Doctorate

Physicians $203,450

Like other high-paying jobs in healthcare, physicians work in hospitals, treatment centers, and private practice. They treat and monitor injuries and illnesses, examine patients, offer advice, and prescribe medications when necessary. They also record medical histories and conduct diagnostic tests. Some physicians may lead a team of medical professionals, working to interpret test results.

Most physicians hold bachelor's degrees and medical doctorates. Many also complete lengthy internships or residency programs focused on their interests and expertise. They must pass a national standardized exam and obtain state-level licensure to practice. They also need solid analytical problem-solving skills and a strong sense of patience and compassion.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $203,450
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 4%
Recommended Degree Doctorate

General Internal Medicine Physicians $201,440

Medical doctors with this specialty focus on diseases, injuries, and other issues that affect internal organ systems, offering non-surgical care in outpatient facilities alongside other healthcare professionals. Many internal medicine physicians specialize in sub-areas, like cardiology, gastroenterology, or oncology. They manage patient care and work to address chronic ailments.

Like other physicians, general internal medicine doctors must complete medical school and obtain state licensure before they can practice. Most work full time in hospitals or private practice, although some may work within large research centers. They need skills in deductive reasoning, management, and data analysis.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $201,440
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) -1%
Recommended Degree Doctorate

Chief Executives $184,460

Chief executives work for large businesses and corporations in one of the highest-paying roles outside medicine and healthcare. They develop strategies to help organizations achieve their goals. They consult with other executives, manage operations, and oversee their employer's financial health. They also monitor performance and make targeted efforts to increase efficiency and productivity.

These professionals need relevant bachelor's degrees, but most also hold master's degrees in business administration. Many also have significant management experience and clear leadership skills. Most chief executives work full time in office settings and often need to travel.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $184,460
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 4%
Recommended Degree Master's

General Pediatricians $184,410

General pediatricians offer medical care to infants, children, and adolescents. They deliver vaccinations, identify common health issues, and treat illnesses or minor injuries. Some specialize in problems specific to younger people, like autoimmune disorders and other chronic ailments. Additional specialty areas include neonatology, rheumatology, metabolism, and emergency care.

These medical doctors must complete medical school and earn appropriate licensure. Most begin within a general course of study and then move to specialize in pediatrics near the end of their programs. They need skills in manual dexterity and physical stamina. General pediatricians typically work full time in large hospitals and other facilities.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $184,410
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) -2%
Recommended Degree Doctorate

Nurse Anesthetists $174,790

Nurse anesthetists administer general or local anesthesia to patients in need. They provide care throughout therapeutic or diagnostic procedures and help reorient patients once they regain consciousness. They also monitor vital signs during surgical operations, assist surgeons and other physicians, and offer pain management techniques when necessary.

Most nurse anesthetists are also advanced practice registered nurses. This role requires a master's degree in nursing or a related specialty and state licensure following a standardized exam. Nurse anesthetists usually work full time during normal business hours, although the nature of the job may require irregular shifts.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $174,790
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 14%
Recommended Degree Master's

Dentists $159,200

Dentists help patients improve their oral hygiene and treat issues related to the teeth, gums, and other parts of the mouth. They perform regular cleanings, fill cavities, and repair or extract damaged teeth. At times, they may generate x-rays and make digital models for teeth that require extra care. They also give their patients dietary advice and demonstrate proper use of floss and other cleaning agents.

Most dentists work in private practice, although some entry-level roles may involve working for more seasoned professionals. A dentist needs a doctoral degree from an accredited program, along with an active license in the state where they work.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $159,200
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 3%
Recommended Degree Doctorate

Petroleum Engineers $137,720

Petroleum engineers generate sought-after energy resources, making this job both prominent and lucrative. Petroleum engineers implement and refine methods of extracting oil and gas from the earth, design equipment, develop drilling plans, and coordinate production evaluation.

Educational requirements for this role include a bachelor's degree in engineering and relevant professional experience. Many petroleum engineers work for large oil and gas businesses throughout the world. Because the work is often international, job responsibilities may include significant travel to drilling sites in remote locations.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $137,720
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 3%
Recommended Degree Bachelor's

Computer and Information Systems Managers $146,360

Among the highest-paying jobs in the technology sector, computer and information systems managers coordinate their employer's networking efforts, oversee all computing-related activities, and help determine new technology goals. They assess their organization's needs, monitor performance, and gather data for analysis. Managers in more senior roles often lead teams of technology professionals.

Computer and information systems managers need a relevant bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology. Although not required for most entry-level positions, many managers also hold graduate degrees and professional certifications in their areas of expertise. They work full time and need strong analytical skills.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $146,360
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 10%
Recommended Degree Master's

Architectural and Engineering Managers $144,830

These managers plan and direct activities in architectural and engineering companies. Most of the time, they work designing plans for new projects, but they may also train staff and determine new hires. They evaluate subordinates' work and lead research or development efforts ahead of new projects.

Architectural and engineering managers work full time in office, laboratory, and research settings. Most positions require a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, along with significant professional experience. Senior roles may call for a master's degree. Core capacities include math and analytical skills, with strong attention to detail.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $144,830
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 3%
Recommended Degree Master's

Marketing Managers $135,850

Marketing managers determine demand for individual projects or services and assess any competition for their employers. These managers also gather information, use it to identify new markets, and then target those markets through advertising campaigns. They coordinate pricing strategies to expand market shares and increase profits. Marketing managers often work alongside sales representatives to ensure customer satisfaction.

Most entry-level positions require a bachelor's degree in advertising, business, or marketing management. Additional experience in adjacent fields like sales, purchasing, or public relations also helps. Marketing managers work in office settings and may be required to travel to meet with staff. They need exceptional communication, creativity, and organizational skills.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $135,850
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 7%
Recommended Degree Bachelor's

Financial Managers $129,890

Financial managers generate reports, coordinate investment strategies, and oversee other monetary activities to support company goals. They work closely with other managers to interpret market trends and maximize profit. These managers also supervise staff, assess cost reduction potential, and monitor activity to ensure compliance with legal regulations.

Professionals in this role work full time alongside top executives in businesses and other organizations. A financial manager needs a relevant bachelor's degree and substantial work experience in finance or accounting. They also need technical knowledge of tax law and other legal statutes, along with strong skills in math and statistics.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $129,890
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 15%
Recommended Degree Master's

Natural Sciences Managers $129,100

Natural sciences managers usually specialize in disciplines like chemistry, physics, or biology. They oversee the work of the scientists under their supervision in order to direct research and development projects. They coordinate experimental tests, lab activities, and quality control measures. They also monitor progress and conduct evaluations.

Scientists normally assume this role after years of experience on the job. A qualified candidate generally holds a doctorate in their specialty or a closely related field. They also need strong analytical and critical thinking skills to supplement their broad-based technical knowledge. Natural sciences managers generally work full time in offices, field sites, or laboratory settings.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $129,100
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 5%
Recommended Degree Doctorate

Lawyers $122,960

One of several high-paying jobs in the legal field, lawyers offer legal advice to individuals or organizations and represent their clients in civil or criminal disputes. They conduct targeted research based on legal issues and interpret laws or regulations on behalf of their clients. They also prepare legal documents like appeals, contracts, and white papers.

Some lawyers work in private practice, but many find employment within large firms, corporations, or government agencies. They often work in high-pressure situations and regularly log more than 40 hours each week. A lawyer usually needs a juris doctorate and must pass the bar exam.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $122,960
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 4%
Recommended Degree Doctorate

Advertising and Promotions Managers $125,510

Advertising and promotions managers work to generate public interest in the goods or services offered by their employers. They analyze market trends, create advertising campaigns, and manage client accounts. They also use promotions to galvanize interest and increase sales.

A professional in this role needs a bachelor's degree in advertising, marketing, or a closely related area, like journalism or business. More senior or mid-level positions may also call for qualified work experience. Advertising and promotions managers need clear creative acumen, along with strong communication and analytical skills.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $125,510
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) -1%
Recommended Degree Bachelor's

Sales Managers $126,640

These managers coordinate sales efforts for their companies. They often manage a larger team tasked with conducting sales, monitoring trends, and ensuring customer satisfaction. Additional responsibilities include budget preparation, cold-calling potential clients, and implementing direct sales techniques. Sales managers also recruit and train new staff members.

A sales manager typically needs a relevant bachelor's degree and several years' experience as a sales representative. They also need communication and customer service skills, along with knowledge of their employer's industry. These professionals often work in high-stress situations that may include extended work hours.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $126,640
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 4%
Recommended Degree Bachelor's

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $116,180

Public relations and fundraising managers coordinate donation campaigns and manage efforts designed to enhance the public image of their organizations. They interact with key funding partners, solicit new ones, and craft effective fundraising strategies. On the public relations side, they develop their clients' brand identities and generate information for media consumption.

Some public relations and fundraising managers work as independent consultants, while others act as in-house experts for large businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations. Most positions require a bachelor's degree in public relations or communications and significant work experience interacting with clients. Some employers prefer candidates with relevant master's degrees.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $116,180
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029) 9%
Recommended Degree Master's

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Find a Job After College Graduation?

Building a robust professional network in college can help you broaden your prospects after graduation. Faculty, guidance counselors, and other mentors can make recommendations or point you in the right direction. Joining a professional organization while still in school can also give you an advantage. After graduation, use your network to begin applying to as many relevant positions as possible.

What's a Good Salary for a College Graduate?

A good salary depends on the field or industry you plan to enter. According to recent BLS projections, workers with bachelor's degrees bring home over $500 more per week than those with no college education. While the specific figure may vary between locations and industries, a good salary for a college graduate is one that allows them to live comfortably while still saving for the future.

Can You Be Successful Without College?

Yes, and you don't need to be a famous CEO like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates to do so. Many aspiring professionals earn alternative credentials that qualify them for careers that do not require college. BLS reports that more than 6 million such jobs open up each year.

Which Jobs Are Needed the Most?

In-demand positions tend to cluster around job sectors that require skilled workers with highly sought-after specialties. Thus, the healthcare, hospitality, and information technology industries see the most demand. Specific jobs include nurses, software developers, food service employees, and mental health professionals.

Header Image Credit: Klaus Vedfelt | Getty Images