If you are planning to follow a career in some sort of science, you’ll be interested in the degrees that lead to the highest paying jobs. Specific majors range from various engineering degrees, to physics and chemistry, several biology-related degrees, and even geology and physics. Starting median or average pay can be as high as $64,800 a year, rising to anything from $72,600 to $108,000 annually and even more with increasing experience. Of course your personal interests and strengths will both impact the bachelor degree you choose, although many people have strengths in more than one field.
This list of the 10 best paying undergraduate degrees in science has been designed to help you choose the most appropriate and ultimately financially rewarding degree for you to study.
1. Chemical Engineering
An undergraduate degree in chemical engineering will get you the highest paid positions in the realm of science.
Broadly speaking, engineering is a profession that applies scientific principles to the design and construction of anything from buildings to cars and various types of engines. More specifically, chemical engineering links generic engineering to molecular science.
Fundamental subjects which you will study during a chemical engineering degree include chemistry , as well as biology, mathematics and physics. In addition, you will learn about engineering disciplines like materials and computer science, as well as mechanical, electrical and civil engineering. The resultant undergraduate degree offers enormous opportunities, particularly those linked to energy systems and fuel combustion. You will end up learning about advanced chemistry as well as everything that relates to material and energy balances as they apply to the range of chemical processes, thermodynamics, mass, and heat.
A bachelor degree in chemical engineering opens doors in a wide range of fields including advanced materials, biotechnology, various consumer products, environmental solutions, manufacturing, microelectronics, and medicine. Some people with this degree have even gone on to what might seem unlikely industries related to law and finance.
Whichever route you take, you can expect to earn a starting median pay (SMP) of around $64,800 a year, which increases to a mid-career median pay (MMP) of $108,000.
The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) has a useful online database that lists companies that frequently hire AIChE members. The Chemical Engineers in Action web site details job activities open to chemical engineers with undergraduate degrees.
2. Biomedical Engineering
Biomedical engineering comes a close second to chemical engineering. You can expect to get an SMP of about $54,800, increasing even more quickly than chemical engineering, to an MMP of $101,000 (only $7,000 a year less than what a chemical engineer can expect at this mid-career phase).
This degree is a solid 21st century qualification that enables you to interface engineering with molecular and cellular biology. Biomedical engineering is incredibly useful because it enables you to develop ground-breaking approaches to the full spectrum of biomedical technologies. As its name suggests, applications are applicable to both medicine and biology. Applications in the field include tissue engineering, bio-membrane proteins for sensors, and the development of whatever it takes to engineer musculoskeletal and cardiovascular tissue repair and regeneration.
An undergraduate degree in physics will also help you get to the top of the science pay charts.
Physics is essentially the science of the properties of matter and energy. An undergraduate curriculum at a good university gives you a deep conceptual but fundamental understanding of the subject. While many students continue post-graduate studies in physics, and therefore go on to study quite specialized subjects, an undergraduate degree is usually more flexible. While you won’t have the same career options as a fellow student aiming for a post-graduate qualification, a bachelor degree in physics can open doors and lead to hugely successful careers in business fields, law, medicine and engineering.
If you have achieved a physics undergraduate science degree, you can earn an SMP of about $50,700 and an MMP of about $99,600.
4. Environmental Engineering
Environmental engineering, which in many universities goes hand-in-hand with civil engineering, relates directly to the built environment. Both civil and environmental engineers are responsible for designing, overseeing the construction of, and then maintaining buildings and structures. Projects may range from huge bridges and tunnels to some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. If you created a useful structure, you can experience a sense of accomplishment.
If you achieve a bachelor degree in environmental engineering, you can expect to earn an SMP of about $51,000 rising to an MMP of around $85,500 once you get to your mid-career.
It is said that chemistry is the study of the “nanoworld” which incorporates atoms and molecules that span dimensions from just one to several thousand angstroms. While you won’t find these names in a regular English dictionary, chemistry students who study the architecture of the miniature nanoworld universe revel in exploring how chemical changes occur. They constantly devise new ways to make new materials and create new compounds.
A good undergraduate chemistry program gives you a thorough grounding in both good chemistry knowledge and the ability to create effective experiments. It will also prepare you for a career in a variety of different areas in chemistry. While many undergraduates do go on to study further, there are many opportunities for those with a bachelor degree. You can expect to earn an SMP of around $42,400 and an MMP of $83,700.
6. Molecular Biology
Molecular biology, which incorporates cell biology, is a undergraduate major that gives you the opportunity to enter a fascinating range of both science and health related professions. Generally, the curriculum includes not only the molecular biology subject, but also courses in biochemistry, cell and development biology, as well as genetics, genomics, immunology and neurobiology.
With this qualification under your belt you can expect to earn an SMP of at least $40,200 and an MMP of more than double this figure at $82,900.
Molecular biology is a field that is closely linked to microbiology, so be aware that biochemistry and microbiology courses may be offered in a slightly different format.
As earthquakes, tsunamis and tornadoes continue to wreak havoc across our world, geology has become an increasingly broad-based science that appeals to a growing number of students. What it provides is a solid understanding of physical science along with what might be considered to be a “quantitative emphasis.”
Geology is a versatile subject, which is not only good if you plan to enroll in more specific graduate studies, but the major also open doors in a wide range of industries from energy supply and mineral resources to mining and a huge range of both government and private industry companies in many fields.
As a geologist with an undergraduate degree you can expect to demand an SMP of about $44,600 and nearly double this amount to $82,200 once you get to the MMP phase of your career.
The study of biochemistry is popular with students who aim to move on to a doctorate. However even with just an undergraduate degree, you can still command salaries ranging from an SMP of about $39,800 to an MMP of $82,000.
Biochemistry is a fascinating field. You can choose from a diverse range of subjects and research opportunities including molecular and cell biology, plant and microbial biology, chemistry, environmental science, as well as nutritional sciences, chemistry and even public health. Courses and research often focus on the way chemistry and biochemistry find solutions to a range of problems relating to energy, the environment, and renewable resources.
While simplistically speaking biology is the study of living organisms, it has become one of the highest paying undergraduate science disciplines. The biology field is also considered to be at the frontier of research into biotechnology, engineering and even medicine. For example, after graduation, you could find yourself working on cancer and stem cells.
An undergraduate degree in biology provides the starting block to a career in many different professions including the biomedical sphere. There are, for instance, openings in research positions within academia and industry, as well as finance and management, the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, forensics, and even intellectual property law. Teaching posts are also offered at both high school and college level.
You can expect to start out with an SMP of around $38,400, escalating to an MMP of nearly double this at $72,800.
Microbiology is a largely understated science subject that involves learning about the effects of micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Upon graduation, you may find yourself sitting in a laboratory, finding out what microscopic creatures do to make people sick.
Within the broad subject of microbiology, you have the opportunity to focus on more specific subjects including immunology, which is how the human body is able to defend itself against those creatures.
With an undergraduate degree in microbiology, your expected yearly earnings are around $40,600. At MMP level, you can earn around $72,600.
If science is really in your veins, this article should convince you that there are opportunities at your finger tips, all of which will give you the chance to make a decent living in a variety of learning disciplines. But don’t be tempted to simply opt for the highest paying options. A scientist who is good at his or her job can exceed expectations, while someone aiming for a job simply for financial opportunity may not achieve either a well-paid or rewarding career. Also be sure to choose your learning institution carefully since most specialize and you will get a better education where the specialty meets your choice and needs.