There's no doubt about it: a college degree can really help add to your earning power. And some degrees pack more of a punch in that respect than others. If you're looking for a degree with a tangible financial return, one of these four bachelor's degrees might be just the backup you want in your corner.
Bachelor's Degree Blockbusters
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's figures in 2010, bachelor's degree graduates earn nearly twice as much in a lifetime as high school graduates: 2.1 million compared to 1.2 million. Class of 2010 college graduates are earning an average salary of $48,351 right out of the gates, reports the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). This is already a healthy boost over the estimated first-year earnings of high school graduates. And the picture is even rosier for graduates of certain bachelor's degree programs, whose average starting salaries are doubling and in some cases even tripling the high-school-level benchmark.
Average starting salaries for all four of the following careers clock in at over $50k. Take a look at these high performers:
1. BS in Engineering
According to the NACE survey on college recruitment for the Class of 2010, 12 of the 15 highest-paying degrees in 2010 are engineering degrees. The NACE report calls out petroleum engineering as the highest earner, with chemical engineers not far behind. Petroleum engineers landed in the job market just a promotion shy of six figures: the average starting salary, according to NACE, was $86,220. Chemical engineers commanded $65,142 to start.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms continued good fortune for graduates of bachelor's degree programs in engineering. The salary average for all U.S. petroleum engineers stood at $119,960 in 2009. Chemical engineers can expect average earnings of $91,670.
2. BS in Computer Science
The digital revolution is still in full effect, as networked systems and portable electronic devices reshape the high-tech market. These developments and more are keeping computer science bachelor's degrees in high demand. Your BS in computer science, computer engineering, or software development could translate into a lucrative career as a software developer, testing engineer, hardware engineer, or research scientist.
NACE reports an average starting salary of $61,205 for computer scientists in 2010. Overall, computer scientists earned $105,370 in 2009, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data.
Learn how to manage money and financial risk, and you could find yourself with a fortune of your own. Actuarial science and accounting teach applied financial practices that businesses rely on to turn a profit or accumulate investment gains. About half of all actuaries work for insurance carriers; the remainder work in financial services and consulting. Accountants are in demand throughout the private and public sector, in areas such as financial planning, compliance, and regulatory investigation.
Actuaries started at an average salary of $56,320 in 2010, reports NACE. The BLS estimates 2009 average salary of $97,450 for actuaries.
4. BS in Information Sciences & Systems
The bachelor's degree in information sciences or information systems is a springboard to IT careers. The college credential allows you to skip over the support and service desk roles and head straight into lucrative analyst and manager roles. A BS in management information systems (MIS) explicitly aims at management careers with a combined technical and business curriculum.
A bachelor's degree in information sciences & systems earns you an average salary of $54,038. Advance into a management role, and watch this figure double. Computer and information systems managers earned an average salary of $120,640 in 2009.