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Science Degrees that Pay Well

Dec 21, 2017

If you're interested in pursuing an undergraduate degree in science, but aren't sure what program paths pay well, we've outlined important information regarding admissions, majors, and career suggestions for top-paying science degrees.

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Overview of Science Degrees that Pay Well

If you're fascinated by problem-solving and love to research, you may want to consider pursuing a bachelor's degree in science. Throughout the nation, tons of colleges offer science degree programs, so choosing one that is the right fit for you can seem challenging. As an undergraduate, majoring in a science field not only prepares you to one day go on to graduate school, but it also sets you up to choose from a variety of high-paying careers. Profiled below are five of the top-paying degrees in addition to admission guidelines.

Admissions Requirements for Science Programs

Admission into science degree programs can be competitive, so it's essential to boost your qualifications whenever possible. The vast majority of colleges require that you have graduated from an accredited high school or have completed a GED program. To set yourself apart from the rest, it's a good idea to get your GPA and standardized test scores, such as ACT/SAT, as high as possible. Many science departments also take a close look at the type of classes applicants have completed at the high school level, so studying four years of science courses is a good idea. Lastly, anticipate supplementing your application with personal essays and letters of recommendation as these items are often required or strongly suggested.

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Best-Paying Science Degree Majors

There are a ton of different programs and concentrations you can choose from after deciding that you are going to pursue a bachelor's degree in science. If selecting a major that has the possibility of earning you a decent amount of cash is important to you, here are a few different avenues to consider.

Computer Science

Computer science is an excellent option for anyone who is interested in working in the computing field. This degree cultivates thorough knowledge that can help you succeed in diverse, in-demand, and high-paying computer science jobs. It also prepares students to pursue graduate studies, and many institutions even offer this degree online. Potential career pathways with median salaries provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as of 2016 include:

  • Information Systems Manager: $135,800
  • Software Developer: $102,280
  • Computer Network Architect: $101,210
  • Information Security Analyst: $92,600
  • Computer Systems Analyst: $87,220

Commonly required core coursework for computer science majors typically includes an introduction to programming and topics in algorithmic foundations, cybersecurity, and database management.

Earth Science

Learning about the earth's systems and processes can set you up to work in a variety of lucrative careers. Specific majors in earth science departments include geology, geography, environmental science, and geoinformatics, among other possibilities. Career options range from weather forecasting, environmental policy management, farming, energy analytics, and many more.

If you end up choosing this path, you'll probably encounter classes such as geological structures, earth systems, field studies, and topics in climate change. Some coursework and specializations blend geological studies with technological applications, such as computerized mapping. Most careers allow some flexibility regarding the particular major within Earth science. As of 2016, the BLS reported that the national median salaries of relevant possible careers as follows:

  • Atmospheric scientist/meteorologist: $92,460
  • Geoscientist: $89,780
  • Hydrologist: $80,480
  • Geographer: $74,260
  • Cartographer/photogrammetrist: $62,750

Biology

An undergraduate degree in biology provides students with an understanding of the basic components and functions of all living organisms. Whether you're looking at cells under a microscope or in the field documenting information about a vast ecosystem, there are a variety of occupations you can pursue after acquiring a degree in biology. Typical coursework you'll likely come across includes genetics, ecology, and cellular biology. Not only is this major broad and fascinating, but it can be quite lucrative as well. In 2016, the BLS reported the following median salaries for jobs a biology degree holder can consider:

  • Environmental scientist/specialist: $68,910
  • Microbiologist: $66,850
  • Zoologist/wildlife biologist: $60,520
  • Forensic scientist: $56,750
  • Biological technician: $42,520

Chemistry

A degree in chemistry effectively prepares you for a variety of career options across the chemical, materials, and healthcare industries. Chemistry majors have the opportunity to participate in research initiatives and learn about the chemical reactions that are constantly going on in our physical world. If taking classes in organic chemistry, environmental chemistry, and biochemistry interests you, then a chemistry degree may be an excellent fit. Below, you'll find some high-paying occupations that you may consider after completing an accredited bachelor's degree in chemistry. National median wages have been reported by the BLS as of 2016, unless otherwise noted.

  • Natural sciences manager: $119,850
  • Materials scientist: $99,430
  • Medicinal chemist: $93,158 (Payscale.com, 2017)
  • Organic chemist: $63,977 (Payscale.com, 2017)
  • Analytical chemist: $54,871 (PayScale.com, 2017)

Food & Agricultural Science

Food science and agriculture degrees open up various well-paid career opportunities. Many graduates work in the education, government, and healthcare industries. Some choose to work as advisors who influence health safety regulations, and others may supervise food-manufacturing plants. Common coursework consists of an introduction to food microbiology, quality assurance, and nutrition. Some career options you may want to consider, along with their median salaries as reported by the BLS in 2016, are listed below:

  • Food scientist/technologist: $63,950
  • Soil and plant scientist: $62,300
  • Animal scientist: $60,330
  • Conservation scientist: $61,810

How to Choose a Science Degree Program

Exactly which program you choose to pursue will heavily depend on your specific areas of interest. Many traditional degrees are also offered fully or partly online, so it's important to consider what format best matches your learning style. Furthermore, as a science major, you'll probably be spending a ton of time collecting data and working in a lab, so it's a good idea to find a school that is researching areas you find interesting. Internships can play a vital role in helping you obtain employment after graduation, so review institution partnerships and internship assistance policies.

Career Options with a Science Degree

Whatever your specific major, there are a vast array of career possibilities that open up to you once you graduate with a bachelor's degree in science. Other occupations that graduates with a science degree can consider are listed below.

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