From zero to hero: 10 degrees that lead to financial success

how to get rich fast
Programmer and blockchain entrepreneur Vignesh Sundaresan bought the world's most expensive NFT in 2021 for US$69.3 million. Source: AFP

You have debt, your parents invested their life savings in you and you’ve got dreams to achieve. Whether you’re at uni or at work, you’re asking “How to get rich fast?” 

There’s no one-size-fits-all quick answer to this — but there are certain steps that can help you turn that question “How to get rich fast” into this statement: “I got rich fast.”

But first, it’s important to understand why you want to do this — and whether you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Paying off debt is a good reason to accelerate your journey to becoming rich.

Many students and young workers are often in debt, and sometimes with unforgiving interest rates.

You may be one of them. Even if you don’t owe anything to a bank, you have an informal loan from your parents.

The cost of an undergraduate degree can go up to US$57,590 — and it gets more expensive if you’re pursuing a specialised subject like law, medicine, or engineering. 

As a student living in the US, upGradAbroad predicts you to spend up to US$28,000 annually on:

  • accommodation 
  • food
  • transport
  • utility bills
  • academic materials 

That’s on top of the country’s inflation rate of around 3% for 2023. 

If you’re overwhelmed by what you just read, that’s normal. You might even be well aware of this as someone who’s planning to, already is, or have studied in one of the most popular study abroad destinations. 

Regardless of which point of your journey you’re in, knowing which degrees are better at answering the question “how to get rich fast?” is important.

And it’s a much safer, reputable and fulfilling way to financial independence than dubious get-rich-quick schemes, such as:

  • Pyramid scheme: Someone will try to recruit you as an investor with promises of unrealistic returns from imaginary investments.
  • Ponzi scheme: By investing, you’ re promised high returns with little or no risk. Your money is then used to pay off old investors, so it looks like the scheme is working.
  • Fake investment opportunities:  Usually aggressively sold to you with seemingly genuine documents, you’re asked to invest in foreign currency, commodities, or even fake businesses.
  • Multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes.

Now that you know what to avoid, you can focus on what actually works in the journey of how to get rich fast: working hard and working smart.

Whether you’re planning to, already are, or have graduated, it’s important to know what are the best degrees to help you answer the question “how to get rich fast?” so you can make the right decisions.

Before we move on to the best degrees for you to succeed quickly, however, let’s debunk the elephant in the room. 

What is the fastest way to get rich as an international student?

Achieving your first million a few years after graduating is possible. 

The first step to learning how to get rich fast, however, is understanding that it’s going to take a lot of effort.

Many successful millionaires were at the right place and time in their lives. It involved:

  • learning the scale on which millionaires operate
  • having the patience to overcome many failures
  • practising good financial habits
  • being passionate about testing out new ideas

Learning to look at the journeys of successful people can be a crucial factor in mastering how to get rich fast. Going to the same university and choosing the same degree they did can put you at the right place and right time too.

That said, pursuing a degree solely for the purpose of getting rich fast may not be the best approach, as financial success is influenced by many factors beyond just one’s degree. 

Life, in the form of love, family and personal setbacks, can get in the way and are hard to avoid.

There are, however, specific degrees that lead to a higher earning potential and despite the usual challenges that are in store, fast-track your journey on how to get rich fast.

For this article, we’ll use data from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) and determine the best degrees you should pursue for quick financial success.

how to get rich fast

While it is valuable which degree can secure you a high earning potential, it’s equally important to know how to make the best of your time at uni. Source: AFP

How to get rich fast: 10 best degrees for quick success

1. Business Administration and Management

This is one of the most versatile and flexible fields to study, giving you access to many roles in many industries. If one role isn’t working, you can move to another — and this is possible thanks to 715,100 new jobs that are to be created from 2021 to 2031.

Being able to move from one high-paying job to another increases your chances of getting higher salaries.

The median annual wage was US$76,570 in May 2021 — higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of US$45,760.

2. Law

Lawyers, especially those specialising in corporate law, intellectual property, or litigation, charge by the hour — which means the sky’s the limit for those willing to put in the hard work to bill more.

In the US, overall employment in law is expected to grow 10% from 2021 to 2031, which will create 833,100 new jobs over the decade. 

The median annual wage was US$127,990 in May 2021.

With every profession, you stand to earn higher the more skilled and in-demand you are.

“There are plenty of very well-off lawyers, but that’s really just the top layer of the profession. Most lawyers earn more of a solid middle-class income,” says Amanda Devereux, a partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP.

how to get rich fast

An air traffic controller at Heathrow, London. Source: AFP

3. Air traffic control

To become an air traffic controller, you need an associate or bachelor’s degree from an Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) programme in the US, or similar authority in your home country.

This will prepare you to become responsible for the safe and efficient movement of aircraft in the air.

It’s a job that’s harder than it looks as you need excellent critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to stay calm under pressure.

In 2021, an air traffic controller makes an annual median salary of US$129,750. There are about 2,400 openings for air traffic controllers projected each year from 2021 to 2031.

4. Computer science 

The demand for skilled computer scientists is higher than ever — especially in an age where tech companies compete to launch the best social media app.

Overall employment in computer science is expected to grow 15% from 2021 to 2031. 

This increase should bring about 682,800 new jobs over the decade, much higher than other jobs on our list. 

The median annual wage for this field was US$97,430 in May 2021.

how to get rich fast

Love balancing budgets or crunching numbers? Consider pursuing a degree in finance. Source: AFP

5. Finance 

For those of you who have a knack for balancing budgets and crunching numbers, a degree in finance holds a fair bit of promise.

As financial analysts guide, you can guide businesses and individuals to make smart financial decisions.

The best part? BLS recorded the median pay for this role to be US$95,570 in 2021. 

Overall employment in business and finance is expected to grow 7% from 2021 to 2031. 

This increase should bring about 715,100 new jobs over the decade, much higher than other jobs on our list.

6. Dentistry 

Pursuing a specialised medical career can be tough, but the reward is worth the effort. 

To become a dentist, for example, you’ll need to complete a five-year degree in dentistry approved by the General Dental Council, followed by one to two years of postgraduate dental training.

In some cases, you are required to complete a Dental Admission Test to be admitted into dental schools in the US and Canada. 

That’s not including the dental equipment you’ll handle at uni, the cost of clinical rotations, or your cost of living as an international student. 

The median annual wage for this role, however, is US$163,220 in 2021. 

Overall employment in healthcare is expected to grow by 13% from 2021 to 2031, which should bring about two million new jobs over the decade. 

how to get rich fast

Work in logistics and coordinate large-scale projects to fast-track your “how to get rich fast” journey. Source: AFP

7. Supply chain management 

A degree in supply chain management is ideal for someone who enjoys coordinating large-scale projects and understands the need for rigorous quality control parameters. 

It’s even better if you love the industry in which these projects take place. 

You could also contribute to making supply chains more sustainable and play your part in combating climate change. 

Overall employment in logistics is expected to grow by 28% from 2021 to 2021. 

The median annual wage for logisticians (a term for someone working in supply chain management) was US$77,030 in May 2021.

8. Management information systems

Big data has been the biggest talking point within the tech space in recent years. 

Taking on jobs such as an information technology project manager, business systems analyst, or even a specialised software developer are opportunities rife with potential.

BLS predicts that employment for computer and information systems managers will grow by 16% from 2021 to 2031. 

The median annual wage for computer and information systems managers was US$159,010 in May 2021.

how to get rich fast

Build bridges and transform lives as a civil engineer. Source: AFP

9. Engineering 

An aspect of engineering you can consider is civil engineering.

Engineers in this field are essential in designing and overseeing the construction of infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges, and buildings.

This field offers ample opportunities for high-paying jobs (around US$88,050 per year in 2021) — especially in sectors like construction, transportation, and urban planning.

Employment of civil engineers is expected to grow by 7% from 2021 to 2031. 

Civil engineers who excel in their careers can advance to managerial positions, leading to increased earning potential.

Some engineering graduates end up changing to other industries (regardless of the type of engineering), which is possible because of the many transferable skills you gain.

In the long run, most engineering degrees will stand the test of time because of this.

how to get rich fast

Almost all companies now need cybersecurity experts. Source: AFP

10. Cybersecurity

As jobs in computer science and management information systems continue to flourish, it’s not surprising to see strong demand for cybersecurity professionals.

Take working as an information security analyst, for example. 

As a specialist, you’ll stay updated with the latest security trends, vulnerabilities, and countermeasures. 

You’ll also perform risk assessments and identify vulnerabilities within an organisation’s infrastructure, networks, or applications. 

Employment of information security analysts is expected to grow by 35% from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than the average for all occupations listed on BLS. 

The median annual wage for information security analysts was US$102,600 in May 2021.