The university degrees with the highest salaries

Not all university degrees are created equal when it comes to earning potential. These are the degrees with the highest salaries.

Undergraduates with technology-related degrees continue to earn the highest salaries, according to a recent report. Something to keep in mind, if you’re just starting school, or thinking about going back.

The research comes from an American institution, the US National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), but the Canadian employment landscape is often comparable and, with the workforce expanding globally so that people can work from anywhere, the information is still valuable.

NACE found that starting salaries for new university graduates earning bachelor’s degrees rose in 2020 despite the pandemic and that, overall, the average starting salary for the college Class of 2020 was $55,260. This new average is 2.5% above the starting salary of $53,889 for the Class of 2019 and a gain of 8.5% from the Class of 2018’s starting salary of $50,944.

It will shock no one to learn that technical majors were the highest paid among Class of 2020 bachelor’s degree graduates. The list of the 10 majors with the highest average starting salary is dominated technical degrees with the top three earners being petroleum engineering, computer programming, and computer engineering.

“In some cases, salary increases most likely reflect these unique times,” says Shawn VanDerziel, NACE executive director. “For example, the increased demand for nurses as frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic may have fueled the 2.1% increase in the average starting salary for registered nursing majors, from $57,416 for these graduates from the Class of 2019 to $58,626 for Class of 2020 registered nursing graduates.”

Here are the 10 university degrees with the highest starting salaries — and their starting salaries — among the Class of 2020 graduates earning bachelor’s degrees.  

  • Petroleum engineering – $87,989
  • Computer programming – $86,098
  • Computer engineering – $85,996
  • Computer science – $85,766
  • Electrical, electronics, and communications engineering – $80,819
  • Operations research – $80,166
  • Computer and information science – $78,603
  • Statistics – $75,916
  • Applied mathematics – $73,558
  • Chemical engineering – $72,713

The top paying master’s degrees

While those numbers focus on undergraduate degrees, a separate report from Northeastern University looked at the highest paying master’s degrees and found that science majors topped the list.

The top eight highest-paying master’s degrees, according to Northeastern are:

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Science in Nursing
  • Master of Engineering Management
  • Master of Science in Petroleum Engineering
  • Master of Science in Finance
  • Master of Arts in Political Science
  • Master of Science in Computer Science
  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
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