Higher Education for Higher Pay

It’s a given that people who work in certain professions have the potential for earning significantly higher salaries than others. But many of the highest paying professions require degrees higher than the bachelor’s level.

There are quite a few people who are perfectly happy with a bachelor’s degree and they do not want to spend additional years at school earning a master’s degree, a law degree, a medical degree, or a doctoral degree. And some are happy with a 2-year associate’s degree!

The consensus, according to an article posted on financial expert Clark Howard’s website, is that having a degree – no matter what type – will allow you to earn a much higher salary throughout your lifetime than you would potentially earn if you only had a high school diploma.

The Right Type of Degree Matters!

It used to be that earning any type of college degree would put you in a unique category and classify you as someone with a higher earning potential than a non-degree earner – which is still true to some extent. But, there are many college degrees that are offered at schools throughout the United States that will not radically help your earning potential. Not all college degrees are created equal! Some degrees are designed to provide graduates with the skills necessary to enter professions that are in high demand around the world. Other degrees are notorious for being referred to as inconsequential.

Degree Levels

There are four types of college degrees that can be earned:

• Associate’s Degree

• Bachelor’s Degree

• Master’s Degree

• Doctoral Degree

If enrolled full time in the programs listed above, an associate’s degree should take two years to complete, a bachelor’s degree should take four years to complete, a master’s degree should take two or three years to complete (after a bachelor’s degree is earned), and a doctoral degree should take four of five years to complete (after a bachelor’s degree is earned). However, actual years can vary depending on the exact degree. For example, some bachelor’s degree programs take five years to complete if the major requires a multitude of prerequisite classes. Also, some schools offer a combination of a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree or a combination of a master’s degree and a doctoral degree. These programs also take longer. Earning a law degree, a medical degree or a dental degree also requires a varied number of years depending on the specialty and focus.

According to the website WoldWideLearn.com, the top 17 degrees (of various levels) for making money are:

1. Medicine

2. Dentistry

3. Law

4. Pharmacy

5. Physician Assistant

6. Software Engineer

7. MBA

8. Education Administration

9. Construction Management

10. Veterinary Science

11. Finance

12. Art Direction

13. Computer Systems Analysis

14. Civil Engineering

15. Industrial Engineering

16. Computer Programming

17. Sales Management

The website Education.Yahoo.net published a different list based on Payscale.com’s 2010-2011 College Salary Report, and lists the top eight degrees for high-income careers:

1. Business Administration

2. Health Care Administration

3. Finance

4. Information Systems

5. Paralegal Studies

6. Criminal Justice

7. Accounting

8. Information Technology

No matter the specific degree or major, the website Askdeb.com lists the top ten median graduate salaries by college/university. Why is this important information? It is important because the majority of schools on the following list are quite a bit more expensive to attend than state or “public” universities. However, the high level of tuition that must be paid to attend these schools dictates an excellent return on investment.

Top 10 Schools with the Highest Median Starting Salary:

1. Dartmouth College – $129,000

2. MIT – $126,000

3. Harvard University – $126,000

4. Harvey Mudd College – $125,000

5. Stanford University – $124,000

6. Princeton University – $124,000

7. Colgate University – $122,000

8. University of Notre Dame – $121,000

9. Yale University – $120,000

10. University of Pennsylvania – $118,000

Degrees are Investments

College degrees cost money… a LOT of money. The higher level the degree, the more money it will cost you. If you are lucky you will either be granted a college scholarship or you will have parents who wisely began saving for your education when you were born. And, unless you are independently wealthy, you will mostly likely have to take out student loans to fund your education. Regardless, you absolutely must make a good choice of college majors so that you are guaranteed to have invested wisely in your education and your potential to earn a respectable salary. Also read "A Higher Education Can Help Advance Your Career" to find out how a degree or certification can also help you gain an edge when competing for a job promotion.  While you may not be overly concerned with how much money you will earn after you obtain your degree, you should consider the likelihood of finding gainful employment after your degree has been achieved. If you choose a college major that does not increase your chances of finding employment, you may have to start over and attend college again!

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Written by Melanie Fischer, Career & Job Expert who has been writing professionally for over 10 years.