We’ve identified the 20 best degrees to get in 2021 at the bachelor’s level. See what majors are on top and what career opportunities they hold.
Studies show that those with a bachelor’s degree make $1 million more throughout their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma. Some degrees, however, will bring much more. Scan the list below and weigh your options in salary and expected job growth.
What Are the Best Degrees to Get?
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- Management Information Systems
- Computer Science
- Business Management
- Information Technologies
- Systems Engineering
- Human Resources
- Communication Studies
- Science Technologies
Our rankings for the following best degrees for the future are based on average annual salary and expected job growth for each sector.
Management Information Systems
- Average annual salary: $135,800
- Expected growth: 15%
If you’re good with computers, you probably know your way around networks, databases, servers, and software. All of these things are critical components of Management Information Systems (MIS).
Information systems are what businesses run on, and they require a lot of work to keep them going.
As a Management Information Systems major, you’ll learn how to handle things like cloud computing, data management, and web application development, and you’ll be able to put your skills to work in a variety of technological fields.
As you can see, the rewards can be quite lucrative. You can enjoy a six-figure salary and a certain amount of job security. There’s always a demand for computer specialists within big, global companies, so Management Information Systems is one of the best college degrees for employment.
- Average annual salary: $131,180
- Expected growth: 9%
The core of a marketing degree is learning how to promote things. Whether it’s products for sale or services being offered by a company or charity, marketing is the art of persuasion.
As you might expect, the most common jobs for marketing majors are things like sales reps, market analysts, promotions managers, product managers, and creative directors.
However, you can get other jobs with a marketing degree as well. You can become an event planner or public relations specialist; you can work in recruitment, human resources, mass media, or business management.
The sky is the limit with a marketing degree. It’s a wide-ranging field with many potential career paths, so if you’re the type of person who likes options, it’s a degree to consider.
- Average annual salary: $114,870
- Expected growth: 8%
Physics is another field with a large number of specialties. Most students seeking their degree have a concentrated area of study, such as astrophysics, geophysics, molecular physics, or nuclear physics.
Physicists can enjoy many job opportunities depending on their field. For example, an astrophysics major might become an astronomer or aerospace engineer; an atomic physics major might become a research associate or laser technology scientist.
You’ll need an extended amount of schooling to become a physicist, but if you have the intelligence and the drive, you can make six figures annually.
- Average annual salary: $111,840
- Expected growth: 12%
Computer science revolves around the development and application of various types of technology. Computers are the beating heart of the field, of course, but you might also study computing systems in relation to things like robotics and artificial intelligence.
Jobs in computer science are usually quite technical. Depending on your areas of interest, you might find employment as a programmer, software developer, database administrator, computer hardware engineer, or information security analyst.
You can also explore different industries as a computer science major. Everyone needs tech support, including fun and creative companies, so you might just find yourself working as a video game developer or digital marketer for a candy shop.
The variety of potential career opportunities is what makes this degree one of the most popular majors in college.
- Average annual salary: $100,610
- Expected growth: 28%
If you’re good with numbers, this is the career for you. Not only can mathematicians make as much as $138,000 per year in big cities like Seattle and Washington D.C., but demand is incredibly high. The entire field is expected to grow by 28 % in the next decade.
How do mathematicians spend their time? It depends on their industry. Mathematicians can work in academia, pharmaceuticals, statistics, engineering, and more. Their colleagues might include everyone from economic professors to automobile designers.
You’ll need a high level of education to become a mathematician. While bachelor’s degrees are available, most jobs will require a master’s degree as a matter of course. Even entry-level jobs can be quite competitive in terms of educational and professional requirements.
- Average annual salary: $101,050
- Expected growth: 6%
Economics is a complex field. It looks at the creation, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, and it often intersects with other industries such as law, business, finance, and social sciences.
If you’re good with data, an economics degree can result in a big payday. The average salary is a little more than $100,000 per year, but the top earners can take home as much as $182,000 per year.
The trade-off is that you’ll be expected to have top-tier credentials. A bachelor’s degree in economics will only qualify you for entry-level jobs. If you’re dreaming of a high position in a bank, financial firm, insurance company, or government agency, you’ll need to get a master’s degree or even a PhD.
- Average annual salary: $97,230
- Expected growth: 6%
A business management degree can prepare you for work in many different fields, including sales, finance, marketing, accounting, and supply chain operations.
It doesn’t carry the same prestige as an MBA, but it will qualify you for mid- to upper-tier jobs within companies and corporations, and you can use it as a foundation for further qualifications like a master’s degree.
What is business management? It’s the art of keeping a business in good shape. It could involve everything from overseeing employees to handling the paperwork of accounts, products, and services.
Business management majors should be intelligent, detail-oriented students with a strong work ethic. You won’t be able to snooze your way through business courses. You should be ready to put in long hours, get your degree, and work your way up the corporate ladder.
- Average annual salary: $80,500
- Expected growth: 34%
Despite what you may think, statisticians don’t just stare at numbers all day. It’s true that a large part of their job involves organizing and analyzing data, but their work can be diverse, dynamic, and downright fun.
For example, sports statisticians monitor things like batting averages and seasonal scores. Biostatisticians can collect information on deadly viruses and diseases.
There are also jobs that you can get with a statistics degree that aren’t necessarily about statistics. If you become an actuary or accountant, you can work within a company and help them crunch their numbers, manage their financial records, and make risk assessments for their goals.
Don’t be put off by the stereotypes surrounding STEM jobs. They can be quite lucrative for the open-minded student.
- Average annual salary: $82,860
- Expected growth: 12%
Are you good with computers? Do you have a knack for creative thinking and problem-solving? Do you like working with people as well as machines?
Information technology (IT) is a wide-ranging field with many different jobs. Even better, you can get started with nothing more than an associate degree; you don’t have to spend years in school before you’re qualified to work as an IT specialist.
If you do want to get higher education in information technology, your pay and prospects will improve along with your degree level. The top earners in the field can reach more than $100,000 annually, so it might be worth getting a bachelor’s or master’s degree if you’re interested in the big bucks.
Consider enrolling in an IT program if you enjoy technical, specialized work with a human element. Since IT so often intersects with customer service and cooperative problem solving, it’s a field where multi-talented workers can really shine.
- Average annual salary: $81,760
- Expected growth: 12%
A finance degree is one of the best degrees to get for the future. It can take you into many professions, including financial advisor, budget analyst, credit analyst, venture capitalist, investment banker, and hedge fund manager.
You might be wondering about the difference between finance and economics. While they’re interconnected in many ways, they’re two distinct disciplines, and there are big differences in everything from their coursework to their job prospects.
Both fields share similarities with accounting as well, but they’re all separate areas of study.
You might enjoy a job in finance if you’re good with numbers and eager to explore the possibilities of such a wide-ranging degree. You can go to a lot of different places with a foundation in finance.
- Average annual salary: $83,540
- Expected growth: 4%
Engineering is another field with a lot of specializations. There are four main branches comprised of mechanical, chemical, civil, and electrical engineering, and there are dozens of sub-branches that include everything from aerospace engineering to petroleum engineering.
Your first step as an engineering student will be determining where your interests lie. If you like the ocean, you might like marine engineering. If you’re looking for the best degrees to make money, you might be attracted to nuclear engineering and its $60,000 – $131,000 salary.
Just make sure that you’re prepared to spend awhile in school. While you can get your foot in the door with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, you’ll need a master’s degree or higher for the most profitable, in-demand jobs.
- Average annual salary: $74,170
- Expected growth: 2%
Systems engineering is a field that combines business, engineering, and computer science. It deals with various systems within an organization: how they work and how they can be improved.
There are system engineers in just about every industry, including oil, software, electronics, medicine, and technology.
They can work in banks, firms, or government agencies, or they can find employment in the private sector with companies and corporations. They can even work in “think tanks” devoted to different areas of research.
First-year system engineers make around $71,306 annually. With time and experience, however, their pay increases dramatically. System engineers who have been in the game for 20 years or more can pull $122,000 annually.
- Average annual salary: $68,450
- Expected growth: 16%
Nurses are a vital part of the healthcare system, and their duties can range from changing IVs and taking vital signs to operating complex medical equipment and counseling patients about their options.
There are several “levels” of nurses, and your skills will grow with each new certification. For example, you can go from a licensed practical nurse (LPN) to a registered nurse (RN) to an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).
One of the best things about a nursing career is that its job outlook is phenomenal. Industry experts are predicting a nursing shortage in the next decade, so there will be a demand for qualified nurses in the near future.
If you like to help people and are interested in a career with a lot of growth opportunities, consider nursing.
- Average annual salary: $68,150
- Expected growth: 11%
Accountants are responsible for financial records. If you’re interested in this line of work, you could become everything from a government tax auditor to a sports accountant who works with NFL stars to manage their money.
There are several subsets of accounting work. For example, there’s forensic accounting to deal with fraud and white-collar crime, and there’s management accounting to keep a company profitable.
A nice thing about accounting degrees is that they’re available at every level. Even with just an associate degree in accounting, you could become a payroll clerk or entry-level bookkeeper.
You don’t have to stay in school for years and years before you’re qualified to join the workforce. You can get started quickly.
- Average annual salary: $59,180
- Expected growth: 5-9% depending on specialization
Human resources is a field that focuses on the recruitment, compensation, benefits, training, and protection of a company’s employees. If someone has a complaint about a discriminatory co-worker, they go to human resources. If they have issues with their paycheck, they go to human resources.
Human resources jobs can vary. There are several specializations, so you could become a benefits manager that handles bonuses and vacations or a placement specialist that recruits new employees.
A bachelor’s degree in human resources is usually enough to get you started in the field, so if you’re looking for a quick turnaround from student to working professional, this might be the degree for you.
- Average annual salary: $60,000+
- Expected growth: 6%
Biology is the study of living things. It can involve people, plants, animals, microorganisms, and other kinds of life.
Since it’s such a diverse field of study, many biologists choose to concentrate on something specific. If they like animals, for instance, they might find a job in zoology or marine biology; if they’re interested in healthcare, they could become geneticists or physiologists.
It’s hard to pin down the exact salary range of biology majors since their careers can be so very different. Generally speaking, however, they enjoy an annual income of $60,000 or more, and their occupational outlook has a growth rate of 6%.
This translates into thousands of biology jobs opening up in the next decade.
- Average annual salary: $61,240
- Expected growth: 2%
English degrees involve more than just reading and writing. They’re multi-faceted degrees that can teach you everything from linguistics to literary analysis, and they’re ideal for students who are interested in understanding how people talk, debate, tell stories and engage with each other.
Jobs for English majors can include teacher, author, editor, librarian, and historian. The degree can also be combined or concentrated on things like film and theater, so there is a wide range of careers for English degree holders.
You can also use a bachelor’s degree in English as a springboard for something like a master’s degree in education or journalism.
If you love the arts, consider majoring in English. It can set you up for many different jobs in the creative sector, and it’ll broaden your horizons as a human being to boot.
- Average annual salary: $57,210
- Expected growth: 4%
Also known as “communications,” communication studies can encompass everything from mass media to politics and public relations. It examines the way that people share information, and it often utilizes that knowledge to sell products, reach agreements, and manage relationships between different parties.
There’s a lot that you can do with a communications degree. Jobs can range from marketing directors to public health educators.
You can also combine a communications degree with other fields of study. For example, you can get a dual degree in communication studies and political science if you’re interested in cross-cultural exchange.
You can major in communication studies and minor in journalism if you want to become a writer or reporter.
Communications is a broad field, so its employment options are broad as well. It’s a good degree if you like to have options.
- Average annual salary: $55,490
- Expected growth: 6%
Education is a noble calling, but the good news is that it can also be a profitable one. While it’s true that public school teachers tend to be underpaid, the salaries for legal and medical professors can reach between $100,000 – $200,000 per year.
STEM subjects pay more than the humanities, and teachers in big cities like Chicago earn more than teachers in smaller towns like Memphis. Experience can also play a role in salary. Tenured professors tend to be high earners in their fields.
If you think that you’d do well in front of a classroom, a degree in education is the first step. You can find them for every level of elementary, middle and high school, and they’re available as bachelor’s, master’s and doctorates.
It’s also common for teachers to major in their field of interest and obtain a master’s degree in education to qualify them as an instructor of it.
The world always needs good teachers. If you’re willing to fulfill it, a degree in education is the way to go.
- Average annual salary: $42,520
- Expected growth: 5%
Science technology is another broad field. In fact, it’s so broad that it’s classified in many different ways, and you might have to poke around your chosen school to see how they offer it.
The California Institute of Technology will let you enroll in an Interdisciplinary Studies Program (ISP) that can combine various science and tech courses.
Science technology is a highly complex area of study, and finding the right degree program for you is half of the battle. If you’re interested in the crossroads between science and tech, however, it might be a path worth taking.
What Are the Best Degrees to Get Online?
The best degrees to get online vary depending on your field of study. Some degree programs are better suited to a classroom than a digital learning environment. On the flip side, there are plenty of online programs that are just as vigorous as the ones on campus. How can you tell which is which? Here are a few factors to consider.
- Labs: If you’re majoring in something like biology, chemistry, or astronomy, lab work will be an essential part of the learning process. How is this handled with the online program?
- Fieldwork: In the same vein as the above, some degrees will ask for fieldwork before you can graduate. Teachers will need classroom experience; psychologists and social workers will need to make rounds. Will the online program allow you to satisfy these requirements locally?
- Academics: Are the same things taught in the online classes as the real-world ones? Do they have the same professors and use the same books? Will you learn what you need to know to become employable?
- Support: Does the school offer web-based resources for learning? Do they have special platforms and systems for submitting online assignments? Is there tech support? Can you get in touch with your professors even without campus office hours?
There’s a lot more to getting an online degree than just taking quizzes digitally. Do your research to make sure that you’re choosing a convenient, accessible program.
Bachelor’s Degree Salary
What are the best paying bachelor degrees? You might be surprised to learn that you can make six figures per year with nothing more than a BA or BS.
- Petroleum Engineer ($137,170)
- Advertising, Promotions or Marketing Manager ($132,620)
- Financial Manager ($127,990)
- Airline or Commercial Pilot ($115,670)
- Aerospace Engineer ($115,220)
- Human Resources Manager ($113,300)
- Computer Network Architect ($109,020)
- Software Developer ($106,860)
- Industrial Production Manager ($103,380)
- Actuary ($102,880)
The best degrees are the ones that will return the cost of your education. Everyone assumes that they’ll be able to make up the money that they spent on tuition, but only some degree programs offer a good return on investment. Rather than salary alone, look for a job that will deliver a good ROI.
Jobs that Require a Bachelor’s Degree in Anything
Specialized jobs are usually worth a pretty penny. But what about jobs that you can get with a bachelor’s degree in any subject? What are the highest-paying careers that will accept any major?
- Software Developer ($70,921)
- FBI Agent ($64,803)
- Market Research Analyst ($63,120)
- Human Resources Specialist ($60,870)
- Fundraiser ($51,139)
- Marketing Associate ($46,210)
- Retail Manager ($46,191)
- Community Outreach Coordinator ($44,828)
- Journalist ($44,700)
- ESL Teacher ($44,413)
- High School Sports Coach ($43,870)
In addition to their high salaries, these jobs are also nice for career changes. You don’t have to start all over when you decide to switch occupations or industries. You can apply as long as you have a bachelor’s degree.
Accreditation for Bachelor’s Degree
Accreditation can help you determine the quality of a school and its degree programs. When a school is accredited, it undergoes a review process by objective, third-party organizations, and they ensure that the school meets certain standards for education.
Colleges in the U.S. are accredited by six regional institutions:
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
There are also special accrediting boards for various subjects. For example, journalism programs can be vetted by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, and accounting programs can be vetted by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
Another important thing about accreditation is that the government requires schools to be accredited in order to receive federal financial aid. This includes FAFSA and all of its grants and loans. If you’re applying for FAFSA, make sure that you’re enrolling in an accredited college.
Financial Aid for Bachelor’s Students
If you can’t afford to pay for your degree on your own, you’ll have several options for financial aid.
The most prominent is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Not only does it offer grants and both subsidized and unsubsidized loans, but it’s also a prerequisite for certain scholarships. They’ll ask you to apply for FAFSA before you’re eligible for their assistance.
As for the scholarships themselves, you can apply for “need-based” awards if you’re under a certain income bracket, or you can try for “merit-based” awards if you’re an honor roll student.
There are also special scholarships for women, minorities, veterans, and first-generation college students. You can even find scholarships based on your particular major.
Last but not least, if you’re already employed, check with their human resources department and see if they offer tuition reimbursement. Some companies will foot the bill for your college degree.
Questions Related to Choosing a Bachelor’s Degree
Here are our answers to a few more questions you might have.
What Majors are Most in Demand?
There are a few careers that are expected to grow substantially in the next decade:
- Medicine: The nursing industry will experience a shortage in the next decade, and other jobs like physician’s assistant and physical therapist have projected growth rates between 20 – 30 %. It’s a good time to go into medicine.
- Mathematics: There’s a huge demand for mathematicians since it’s such a highly specialized field with a limited number of people who qualify for the work. You’ll need to stay in school for a long time to become a mathematician, but the payoff will be worth it.
- Computer Science: As the world grows increasingly digital, computer science specialists are needed for everything from cybersecurity to web development. As a bonus, the highest-paying jobs in computer science can top $100,000 per year.
The best bachelor’s degrees for these subjects will vary. For example, you can become a nurse with a health or science background, or you can major in mathematics, statistics, or even economics to have a math-focused career.
What Degree Has the Most Job Opportunities?
The degrees with the most job opportunities are usually non-vocational ones. This means that they don’t train you for a particular job; they give you a general, all-around education that can be applied to many different jobs.
Here are a few examples of non-vocational degrees:
These degrees won’t prepare you for a specific career. Instead, they’ll prepare you for the industry in general.
What Is the Most Useful Degree?
Everyone has their own definition of the “best” or “most useful” degree, but the truth is that it depends on where you want to work and what you want to accomplish. You’re the only person who can determine your own job satisfaction.
You should also think about your priorities as a future member of the workforce. Are you looking for the highest salary or the highest growth rate? Do you want to finish school as quickly as possible, or are you willing to get an advanced degree to increase your job prospects?
Is a Bachelor’s Degree Worth It?
Yes, a bachelor’s degree is worth it, both for the increased job satisfaction you’ll have and the higher salary.
If you’re on the fence about getting a bachelor’s degree, you should hop off on the side that contains a college campus. Degree holders make much more money than high school graduates alone, and having good credentials in a specialized, in-demand field can put you on the fast track for a six-figure salary.
It’s definitely worth going to school and getting your bachelor’s degree.