10 of the best degrees to get right now

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Looking for the best degrees to get right now? These 10 college majors can lead to a well-paying and meaningful career. (Shutterstock)

Choosing a college major can be difficult. You may have no idea what kind of career you want to pursue or you may feel overwhelmed by all the options available. Either way, it’s important to choose your major carefully, especially since college is very expensive.

Your major should be something that you are genuinely interested in and looking forward to studying. With that in mind, here are some of the best degrees to get right now, and other factors to consider when choosing a major.

Figuring out how to pay for your degree can also be a challenge. But Credible makes it easy to compare private student loan rates to help you finance your education.

What are the best degrees to get right now?

Once you’ve figured out which major you’re interested in, consider a few other key factors, including the median salary for that career, future employment prospects, and what the job will mean to you. The majors in this guide have a high return on investment, depending on Payscale’s 2021 College Salary Report.

petroleum engineering

  • Median starting salary: $93,200
  • Median mid-career salary: $187,300

As a petroleum engineering major, you will study geology, mathematics, drilling engineering, chemistry, oilfield operations, and more. With this degree, you can get a job as a reservoir engineer, completion engineer, or production or drilling engineer. Petroleum engineers typically develop plans for extracting oil and gas from the earth, design drilling equipment, and evaluate well production.

Petroleum engineering job openings are expected to increase by 8% from 2020 to 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A large number of graduates with this degree – 67% – say their work makes the world a better place, according to Payscale’s report.

Industrial engineer

  • Median starting salary: $84,800
  • Median mid-career salary: $170,400

If you choose this major, which shares some overlap with mechanical engineering, you will study a combination of systems theory, computer engineering, economics, and mathematics. Upon completion of the program, you can obtain employment in several sectors, such as finance, technology, and manufacturing.

As an industrial engineer, you will, among other things, help organizations design industrial production management systems.

The BLS expects industrial engineering jobs to grow 14% from 2020 to 2030, and 28% of graduates say their work makes the world a better place.

Electrical and computer engineering

  • Median starting salary: $108,500
  • Median mid-career salary: $159,300

As an electrical engineering specialist, you will learn to use science, math, and engineering to design electronic components or solve electrical problems. A computer science major, on the other hand, will teach you how to develop and test software systems and solve computer problems in many areas, such as business and healthcare.

You can use your electrical engineering degree to gain employment in the design, development, testing, and manufacturing management of electrical equipment.

With a computer science degree, you can get a number of jobs. For example, you can manage an organization’s computer systems as a system administrator, manage a database as a database administrator, or create and maintain networks as a computer network architect.

The BLS projects electrical and electronics engineering jobs to grow 7%, and computer and information technology jobs to grow 13%, from 2020 to 2030.

Nearly half of electrical engineering and computer science graduates surveyed (46%) believe their work makes the world a better place.

Interaction design

  • Median starting salary: $68,300
  • Median mid-career salary: $155,800

When you study interaction design, you’ll learn how to design technology products (like mobile phones and virtual reality headsets) with users in mind. You will take courses in programming and user design to graduate. Once you graduate, you can get a variety of jobs, including (but not limited to) web developer, product designer, mobile designer, and user experience (UX) designer.

The BLS doesn’t have statistics on job growth in interaction design, but more than half of all interaction design graduates (55%) say their work makes the world a better place.

Public accounting

  • Median starting salary: $59,800
  • Median mid-career salary: $147,700

As a specialist in public accounting, you will study auditing, taxation, accounting systems, and different types of accounting. Armed with this knowledge, you will understand how to prepare and analyze the financial records of individuals and businesses.

You can get a variety of jobs after completing your Bachelor of Accounting program. For example, you can become an internal auditor, staff accountant or financial analyst.

The BLS expects accounting jobs to grow by 7% between 2020 and 2030. Nearly half of graduates surveyed (47%) believe their work has a positive impact on the world.

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Operational research

  • Median starting salary: $83,500
  • Median mid-career salary: $147,400

Do you enjoy solving complex problems using math? In this degree program, you will learn to use models, statistics, mathematics, and other tools to determine how to solve problems in an organization. Once you graduate, you can get a job as an operations research analyst, mathematician, or statistician.

The BLS projects that operations research analyst jobs will grow 25% from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster than average. More than half of graduates surveyed (54%) say their work makes the world a better place.

Applied Economics and Management

  • Median starting salary: $66,100
  • Median mid-career salary: $146,400

As an applied economics and management major, you’ll study how economic theory works in the real world and in business management. With this degree, you could become a financial analyst or chief financial officer (CFO).

As a financial analyst, you analyze assets such as stocks and bonds to help individuals and businesses make decisions about how to spend money to make a profit. And as a CFO, you would oversee a company’s finances.

Jobs for economists are expected to grow 13% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS. Most graduates in this field (67%) say their work has a significant impact on the world.

Business computing

  • Median starting salary: $73,000
  • Median mid-career salary: $143,600

With a business informatics degree, you will study business and computer science, which will prepare you for several types of business and computer jobs after graduation. For example, you could become a business data analyst to help companies make better decisions by performing business analysis.

The BLS expects computer and information technology jobs to grow 13% from 2020 to 2030. Meanwhile, the bureau projects business and finance jobs to grow 8% during the same period.

Actuarial Mathematics

  • Median starting salary: $64,300
  • Median mid-career salary: $143,400

As an Actuarial Mathematics major, you will study statistics, mathematics, and financial theory to assess the financial costs associated with certain risks. With this degree, you can get a job as an actuary with an insurance company, government entity, or private company.

For example, if you choose to work for an insurance company, you will price insurance policies to ensure maximum profitability. Or you could work as a pensions and retirement benefits actuary, where part of your job is to design pension plans to ensure that a company has enough money to pay all of its retirees.

The BLS predicts that actuary job openings will increase by 24% from 2020 to 2030. Just over half of actuaries (51%) say their work has a positive impact on the world.

Aeronautics and Astronautics

  • Median starting salary: $77,000
  • Median mid-career salary: $139,600

In this degree program, you will learn the fundamental principles of engineering, mathematics, and physics used to design, test, and operate space vehicles and aircraft. Upon graduation, you can get a job as an Aeronautical Engineer or Astronautical Engineer. Aeronautical engineers design and test airplanes that fly in the Earth’s atmosphere (think helicopters and airplanes). Astronautical engineers, on the other hand, design and test spacecraft such as satellites and spacecraft.

Aerospace engineering jobs are expected to grow 8% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS. More than half of graduates surveyed (56%) say their work makes the world a better place.

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