While money isn’t everything when choosing a career, with the average total cost for a 4-year college degree reaching approximately $122,000, you certainly want to invest in a program that will increase your chances of landing a high-paying job after graduation and foster long-term success.
For many, a degree in information technology is probably your best bet. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard, bachelor’s degrees in computer science and engineering lead to the highest salaries. Mathematics and business rank among the top paying fields, too.
Computer and mathematical occupations are expected to grow 12.1 percent between 2019 and 2029 (much faster than the 3.7% growth rate for all occupations) according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And many companies are still hiring for entry-level roles in IT and computer tech, despite the pandemic.
Whether you are already working toward a degree or shopping around for colleges, read on to learn more about the top paying degrees you need to land your dream job in IT.
(Note: Unless otherwise stated, all salaries cited in this post were taken from sites that collect data anonymously from employees.)
Here are the top paying bachelor's degrees in information technology:
What’s more, computer science majors have the best 20-year net return on investment according to PayScale’s College ROI Report.
The salaries for computer science grads are impressive, too. For example, the starting salary for a software engineer is $75,000, but you can earn between $120,000 to $165,000 as you move up the ranks, and $200,000+ when you reach senior level.
If you believe that there’s job security in numbers, Slashdata noted that there were 18.9 million software developers in the world in 2019, projected to reach 45 million in 2030. According to the BLS's Occupational Employment Statistics, the median annual wage for software developers and mobile app developers is over $107,000.
If you’re creative or passionate about integrating applications and graphics, consider becoming a front or back-end web developer or go full-stack. The average salary for web developers is $78,000 but the top pros can earn $120,000 or more per year.
If you prefer to reside on the cutting edge of technology, why not customize the curriculum in your computer science bachelor’s program to align with a high-paying career as an artificial intelligence / machine learning (AI/ML) engineer ($114,121), cloud engineer ($124,353) or site reliability engineer ($127,373)?
Other jobs that align with a CS major and pay six-figures at mid-career include software development director ($157,000) security consultant ($111,000), DevOps engineer ($107,000), cybersecurity engineer ($106,000) and information systems security engineer ($102,000).
If these careers (and salaries) sound too good to pass up, here is a list of top-rated online degrees in computer science.
It’s no wonder that engineering was the #1 top-paying undergraduate degree in 2020, with a projected starting salary of $69,961, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
While computer engineering majors often pursue many of the same careers as computer science majors, graduates can also qualify for roles in hot fields such as data engineering (average base salary of $130,705), computer and research scientist ($122,840), and computer hardware engineer ($117,220). You can learn more about the differences between computer engineering and computer science in this article.
Ultimately, you can progress up the ladder and become a director of engineering or Chief Technology Officer. The average salary for a CTO is $161,138 but when you factor in bonuses, stock options and other perks, some make millions of dollars per year. Earning one of the highest paying degrees in this post can lead to these kinds of jobs and the big salary that comes with them.
However, with a degree in IS, you can also choose to enter fast-growing fields that offer higher pay such as information security analyst, which paid a median annual salary of $99,730 in 2019 and is projected to experience a whopping 31 percent job growth between 2019 and 2029. Other high-paying careers that you can grow into include computer network architect ($121,640) and information systems manager ($142,530).
Or, if the idea of breaking codes and protecting data from malicious hackers sounds intriguing, add a few computer science and security courses to your schedule and enter the resurging field of cryptography.
While some cryptographers specialize in cybersecurity and work for the Department of Defense, you can also work on encrypting transactions for financial institutions and other private sector companies. Once you get some experience under your belt, the average salary for an IT cryptographer is $99,157 while senior pros make $140,000 or more.
But is it possible to turn a hobby into a high-paying job? Your best bet is to major in computer science with a video game concentration or earn a degree in video game design, which will qualify you for a position as an engineer, developer, programmer, game designer or producer. The average salary for a game developer is $83,739, while engineers earn $92,046.
IT project management, digital marketing and product management are examples of other hybrid roles that pay between $55,000 and $130,000 per year on average.
Best of all, having a degree in business administration, outstanding leadership skills and executive demeanor can position you for a corner office and some of the top paying IT careers.
The national average salary for an IT director in the US is $129,334, while the average salary for a CIO is $175,126. Proving that with the right, high-paying degree, you can make some serious money in IT.