Now that you've gotten into college, you have to choose a major. And while money shouldn't be the only reason to pick a career, knowing that a particular job pays well can be icing on the cake.
To help you know where to look, PayScale has crunched the pay-by-degree data, so that you can now consider the top paying degrees in America. Read on to learn whether one of these careers is right for you.
1. Petroleum engineer, master's degree -- mid-career salary $187,600
Are you interested in getting your hands dirty while you help America achieve energy independence? Can you stomach a job market acutely tied to the pop and drop nature of commodity prices? If so, then this could be the career for you.
Petroleum engineers are tasked with designing and developing methods to get more oil and gas out of the ground. Thanks to the shale boom, demand for talented professionals with graduate degrees surged higher over the past 10 years.
However, a recent drop in oil prices has dampened demand for oil & gas industry workers, resulting in 150,000 industry lay-offs, according to Swift Worldwide Resources.
Although no one knows when oil prices could rebound and kick-start hiring again, the complexity of this industry and the potential for global growth pushing energy demand higher could still make this a career worth pursuing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth rate for this occupation through 2022 remains 26%. Only time will tell if that projection proves to be correct, but if so, then having this degree could pay off handsomely.
2. Anesthesia nurse, master's degree -- mid-career salary $162,800
Unafraid of holding people's lives in your hands? Want to make a difference in people's health? Anesthesia nurses are some of the most sought-after professionals in health care.
Students interested in pursuing this career will need a nursing degree, a license as a registered nurse, one year of acute-care nursing experience, and a certification that takes between 24 and 36 months to complete.
3. Computer engineers & electrical computer engineers, doctorate degree -- mid-career salary $145,100 to $150,000
Do you know your way around a circuit board, and can you code like a Silicon Valley pro? Computer engineers blend knowledge of electrical engineering and software to create hardware and software solutions that work seamlessly. If this excites you, then prepare for intensive study and long hours.
4. Strategy, or general and strategic manager, MBA degree -- mid-career salary $140,700 to $145,000
Are you a problem solver? Can you expertly break down complex subjects and convey them simply and effectively? Then a career in strategy may provide the career path you're looking for. To maximize earnings, candidates should plan on earning an MBA, and while many majors can prepare you for that, it can't hurt to have a background in accounting, marketing, and organizational behavior.
5. Electrical engineer, doctorate degree -- mid-career salary $141,400
If you like the sound of electrical engineering but aren't interested in working on computers, there are plenty of other industries that will require your services, too.
For example, electrical engineers can find work designing, developing, testing, and supervising the manufacturing of electrical equipment for use in commercial, industrial, and military settings.
6. Computer sciences, doctorate degree -- mid-career salary $140,600
Big-picture thinkers may want to solve complex computer and software problems that stretch beyond the circuit board. If you're one of them, then becoming a computer scientist may make sense.
Computer scientists develop innovative theories and models that can advance technology, and they often work hand-in-hand with computing engineers. Moreover, computer scientists are responsible for crafting new computing languages, so if you think you're ready to revolutionize technology, then this could be your opportunity to do it.
7. Chemical engineer, doctorate degree -- mid-career salary $139,300
Electrical engineers aren't the only engineers earning six-figure salaries; chemical engineers can earn that much, too.
Chemical engineers leverage the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to create everything from household items to medicine. However, demand for chemical engineers is expected to grow more slowly than other industries over the coming years, so interested students should prepare early on to earn their doctorate degree if they hope to maximize the likelihood of landing their dream job.
8. Lawyer, juris doctorate degree -- mid-career salary $139,000
If you're a big fan of the Constitution and fine print, then pursuing a career as a lawyer might be a good option. Juris doctorates, or J.D.s, are awarded to those who complete law school, and lawyers can choose to specialize in a variety of subjects, ranging from criminal law to tort law to family law. Top-shelf lawyers are also always in demand at big corporations, too.
Tying it together
If none of these jobs excites you, don't worry. There are plenty of great-paying careers to choose from, and just because a career isn't high paying doesn't mean that those working in those jobs can't be both happy and financially successful. At the end of the day, pursuing a career that's of interest to you could be a better route than pursuing a career solely based on a paycheck.