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5 courses that lead to the highest paying jobs

Do well in maths and you'll get to work with the likes of Tesla. Source: Chandan Khanna/AFP

Those who graduate with a bachelor’s degree tend to do so with purpose. According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the median usual weekly wage for full-time employees who have obtained a degree was US$1,525 in the first quarter of 2022, compared to US$827 for those with only a high school diploma and no college. This means that the highest paying jobs are usually possible with a degree qualification.

While the pursuit of knowledge should be the main purpose, stagnant growth in income is a persisting issue, especially since the costs of living are continuously rising. It is understandable then, that many would-be university students are on the lookout for college degrees that offer the best starting salaries for fresh graduates. 

Look no further, here is a list of courses that will lead to the highest paying jobs using the survey data provided by Payscale’s Online Salary Survey:

highest paying jobs

The computer engineering graduates responsible for the mobile and software applications we use on a daily basis are, unsurprisingly, bringing home the big bucks. Source: James Brooks/AFP

Highest paying jobs for fresh graduates

Computer engineering

Median starting salary: US$80,300

Computer engineering students use principles from computer science and electrical engineering to create hardware and firmware. These are then used in several areas such as aircraft,  self-driving cars like Tesla, medical devices, communication systems, consumer electronics, and more. 

If you plan to study in the US, keep in mind that some schools do give you the chance to double major in computer science and engineering. It is, however, even more challenging than taking a single major.

Those who study computer engineering graduate and go on to fulfilling careers as:

  • Computer engineer
  • Computer architecture developer 
  • Systems engineer 
  • Network engineer 
  • Firmware engineer 
  • Mobile device engineer 
  • Quality control (QC) engineer
highest paying jobs

Participants from 90 countries take part in the 34th International Olympiad in Informatics, the most prestigious competition for computer science graduates. Source: Devi Rahman/AFP

Computer science

Median starting salary: US$77,300

The study of computer science, as the name suggests, revolves around computers and computational systems. A degree in this subject explores hardware and software, data structures, the theory of computation, algorithms, and networks. It is important to note that computer science overlaps with other academic disciplines, like mathematics, statistics, engineering, and electronics.

Examples of the main topics you will tackle when you study computer science are Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Engineering, Cloud and Network Infrastructure, Cyber Security, Software Engineering, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and so forth. Should you choose to take a general Computer Science degree, expect to buff up your mathematics skills in classes like calculus and linear algebra as well. 

Students who graduate with a computer sciences degree pursue lucrative careers as a:

  • Game developer
  • Software engineer
  • Software developer
  • IT consultant
  • Database administrator
  • UX designer
  • Mobile app developer
  • Project manager
  • Information security analyst
  • Systems architect
  • AI engineer
highest paying jobs

All smiles for software developer Bruno Ribeiro, who was recently hired by Disney. Source: Frederic Brown/AFP

Software engineering

Median starting salary: US$75,900

Software engineering focuses on analysing the needs and requirements of users to design, deploy, and test new software. In order to develop applications, software engineers will need to master programming languages like SQL, JavaScript, Java, C#, Python, and PHP.

Why are they so sought after? That’s because technology and applications are essential in almost every industry — there is a demand for more complex software and a need to develop secure applications.

Steer clear if you can’t work in teams, though. Software engineers must work on projects together, especially if you’re interested in developing video games or making applications for businesses. Topics covered in university include computer programming, security and usability, algorithms, data structures, web development,  operating systems, software project management, and human-computer interaction.

Those who graduate find work as:

  • Application developers
  • Database administrators
  • Game developers
  • Software testers
  • Web designers
  • Software engineers
highest paying jobs

Electrical engineer Germain Kasereka demonstrates how a self made automatic hand washing robot works to assist in the fight against Ebola. Source: John Wessels/AFP

Electrical engineering

Median starting salary: US$75,700

This discipline focuses on electricity and electrical technology. Students who opt to major in electrical engineering can dive deep into the worlds of circuit theory and analysis, amplifiers, semiconductors, and reverse engineering. If you’d like to explore further, you can choose one of these subfields: lighting design, energy engineering, power and measurement, smart electrical networks and systems, and electronics.

Electrical engineering courses are interdisciplinary — you can study principles from a wide range of subjects such as physics, mathematics, computer science, and even electromagnetism. Here, you will learn how systems and devices work, how to take them apart, and how to fix them. 

After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering, you will be equipped with technical, analytical and problem-solving skills. All of this will be important in the careers listed below:  

  • Acoustic consultant 
  • Broadcast engineer
  • CAD technician
  • Electrical engineer
  • Network engineer
  • System analyst
highest paying jobs

Working at NASA will give you access to some of the highest paying jobs in 2022, but also allow you to fulfill your dream of working with spacecraft. Source: Jim Watson/AFP

Aerospace engineering

Median starting salary: US$75,300

The term “rocket science” exists for a reason. Aerospace engineering is not easy to take on and is perhaps the most challenging degree on this list. It is worth it, though. You get to build, develop, and test aircraft, hers, helicopters, submarines, or spacecraft. This degree is split into two sub-fields: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. While some prefer to help others fly in the air and reach new depths in the ocean, others prefer to launch astronauts into space safely.

In order to study aerospace engineering, you will need to have a solid understanding of physics, mathematics, and engineering principles, all of which are necessary for research and development. Students leave aerospace engineering schools with the ability to: offer advice on function, mechanics, and aircraft design, structural design, mechanical integrity, and address alternative fuels to tackle environmental challenges.

Those who graduate in this field find themselves in these jobs:

  • Maintenance engineers
  • Operation technicians
  • Aircraft developers
  • Spacecraft developers