Highest-Paying Jobs: Find an Online Degree That Pays Well

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Once upon a time, your father, grandfather, or great-grandfather just walked into a building that had a “Help Wanted” sign out front and took the job that he kept for 30 years, retired with a gold watch and a pension, and never needed to worry about a college degree. Whether it really happened or not, more people believe that story than believe in the moon landing.

Well, that’s not how it is – not anymore, and maybe not ever. Today, a professional career usually starts with a college degree, but the benefit of living in the 21st century is that obtaining that bachelor’s degree does not require you to quit your job or even live near a college campus. Just a few years ago, online degree programs were a big risk, and most employers didn’t trust the kinds of institutions that specialized in online degrees. That’s all changed; today, accredited and reputable colleges and universities all over the world have fully online degree programs, and many online degrees are designed specifically for the most sought-after careers in the job market today.

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If you started your career with a high school diploma, associate degree, or certification, the lack of a bachelor’s degree may be the only thing stopping you from high paying jobs making six figures. It can be hard to really know your options, though, which is why Value Colleges exist. Our mission is to provide prospective students, working adults, and anyone else with the information they need to make an informed, financially sound decision about their options for online programs.

What are the Best Kinds of Bachelor’s Degrees for Salary? 

The best kinds of bachelor’s degrees for earnings potential are found in all types of professions. It’s true that the highest paying jobs with bachelor degree are STEM and business administration, but students who don’t have the aptitude or skills for a STEM education, or the savvy for business administration, can find comparable compensation in other fields. The following is a look at the different highest-paying jobs with a degree that doesn’t require a master’s to maximize your earning potential.

The Highest-Paying Jobs With an Online Bachelor’s Degree listing isn’t meant to be a be-all, end-all guide – it’s a starting point, a way of giving you the hope that a better career is out there for you, and you’ve got what it takes to get there.

1. Financial Manager

Just about everyone saves money in one form or another and builds up assets over time. At some point, they need to diversify their assets and have someone keep an eye on their investments. That’s where a financial manager comes in. Financial management makes the wealthy wealthier and prepares middle-class people for retirement.

A financial manager provides investment guidance for their clients and helps them maximize the return on their investments. In turn, you get a fee and/or percentage of any profits realized from investments. The median annual salary for this job is $131,710, but you can earn more in certain areas of the country. 

Becoming a financial manager requires a bachelor’s degree in finance or business administration, and you can specialize in different areas to help increase your potential earnings. Financial management is more than giving advice. You’ll learn how to handle clients, manage their money, the ethics of handling other people’s money, understand how the markets work, make trades, and more. 

Median Salary: $131,710

2. Petroleum Engineer

The idea of becoming a petroleum engineer in an era where gasoline-powered vehicles are starting to get phased out may seem like a bad idea. The fact is, the use of petroleum will continue for some time after the last internal combustion engine rolls off the factory floors. Much of daily life is powered by petroleum products, and there is still a need for engineers to work in the fields and offices of petroleum companies. 

A petroleum engineer typically works at sites where drilling or well maintenance is ongoing. Their function is to design equipment that can extract oil and gas from deposits located underground in one of a number of sub-specializations. A petroleum engineer can work as a reservoir engineer, drilling engineer, production engineer, and more. The job is typically done in the field, but petroleum engineers also work in the office to meet with coworkers and discuss the latest progress or problems at the sites they’re assigned to work at. 

Pay for the role comes in at $130,850 a year on average, and job growth for the position is expected to stay around 8% through 2030. It’s a good time to get into the petroleum field because the knowledge you learn now will help you stay competitive in the future. You’ll also have knowledge that can be used to help you earn even more as institutional knowledge fades out over time and fewer people are around to explain how things work. 

Median Salary: $130,850

You may also be interested in engineering management, a similar field. Engineering management crosses engineering fields. 

3. Air Traffic Controller

It’s possible to start a career as an air traffic controller with an associate’s degree, but you’ll have a better career trajectory with a bachelor’s. In fact, this is one of the highest paying jobs with a bachelor’s degree with a median pay of $129,750 per year. After you get your bachelor’s degree and are hired by the FAA as an air traffic controller, you begin a long-term on-the-job training program to further develop your skills. 

The work that’s involved in being an air traffic controller consists of tracking flights in and out of an airport and ensuring that flights land in order. Controllers stay in contact with the pilots of the plane as they approach or depart to let them know if they’re clear for landing or take-off. Shifts are worked around the clock at larger airports, but air traffic controllers tend to start their careers at regional airports to learn their duties in a less-stressful environment. 

The working hours of the job itself are designed to be low stress in order to enable controllers to perform at their best. Guiding aircraft into tight airspace and runways requires the ability to remain calm under pressure. In turn, controllers are taught how to handle themselves without losing their cool when tensions run high. That’s on top of learning the technical skills of guiding aircraft via radar and other tracking systems. These aspects are why the job is paid well and doesn’t require a degree past a bachelor’s. 

Median Salary: $129,750

4. Sales Manager

Sales as a career can be lucrative, especially if you have strong self-motivation. Stepping up to the role of a sales manager greatly expands your earning potential because you take on sales team management and other office responsibilities along with going from site to site to meet with potential and existing customers. The median salary for a sales manager is $127,490, but you can earn a lot more, making this one of the highest paying jobs with a bachelor’s degree. 

The role of sales manager combines various business skills with the management of a sales team. You need to be able to handle various software suites related to  business, become proficient in using management systems such as Agile or Scrum, create forecasts for future sales based on past performance, and communicate this to superiors. You can find a school that offers a business administration degree that focuses on sales and management, but you can also enter this career with a degree in business management, economics, statistics, or marketing.   

As you consider the available business administration bachelor degree programs that lead to this career, keep in mind that they enable you to shift onto a different career path. If you find yourself unhappy in the field, the skills you learn along with your education can help you find a job in a field that uses your experience and pays just as well if not more. 

Median Salary: $127,490

5. Actuary

An actuary uses statistics and other inputs to help determine the likelihood an event is going to happen in the future. A majority of actuaries work for insurance companies, but can also work in other industries that need accurate forecasts. The work of an actuary is used to help set premiums for all types of insurance policies. It’s one of the highest paying bachelor degree jobs with a median salary of $105,900. No wonder it’s one of the highest paying online degrees. 

Insurance companies need to be able to predict the potential outcome of an event, such as health conditions in a given population or auto accidents. They employ actuaries to collect and review information and data, then apply mathematic formulas to come to a near-accurate prediction regarding the odds that a specific event will happen.  

The education of an actuary is complex and involved, but it’s a career that will always have demand from employers. An actuary can also find work as a data analyst, although the average pay is lower. However, the field of data analytics is young and someone who prefers to work in data analytics may find that it’s an excellent alternative with different challenges that satisfy. 

Median Salary: $105,900

6. Software Developer

We’ve already said that the world runs on computers, but Software Developers are the people who make the computers run. Computer programmers do the nitty-gritty of writing code and solving technical issues, but the Developer is the person who guides the whole process. It’s the Software Developer who analyzes data and decides what kinds of programs are needed, figures out what the user is going to expect the tools to do, designs the overall schema for a software project, and organizes and manages the team that makes it all happen. At some big tech companies, multiple developers may collaborate on a major software development project, taking on small pieces, but in other settings, a single Software Developer may see a product through the whole process, even testing and doing maintenance. 

There’s a large and growing job market for experienced Software Developers; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 17% growth between 2014 and 2024. In some specialized areas – mobile apps, for instance – the expected growth is even faster. With so much demand for software to control and automate virtually every aspect of the economy, the people who have the know-how to lead are going to be worth their weight in gold and paid accordingly. You can find online software development programs at virtually any college. You can become a Software Developer with only a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and online BS programs have grown exponentially, with just about every reputable computer science department developing an offering that helps working professionals earn their place in a job that pays a median salary of over $100,000.

Median Salary: $100,690

7. Financial Advisor

It’s likely that you think of Financial Advisors as being for the very, very wealthy. After all, who else needs someone to tell them how to handle their money, but someone who has so much of its they can’t keep up with it themselves? But if you think that, you may be missing out on the opportunity to enter one of the fastest-growing careers in the nation. There’s more demand for financial advisors than ever, and a big reason why is the growth of high paying jobs that don’t fall into traditional “jobs.” Self-employment has increased tremendously, from small-business entrepreneurs to independent contractors, and all of those people need the kind of help that Human Resources would provide in a traditional job: retirement, estate planning, mortgage, college savings, and more.

That’s why the BLS sees the career of Financial Advisor booming: they predict 30% growth in the 2014-24 decade. Some of those people will be providing services for the very rich, of course, as they always have, but Financial Advisors are increasingly needed for ordinary people who need advice handling self-employment taxes and making sure they will have a home and income in their old age. Between retiring Baby Boomers, Generation Xers entering middle age, and Millenials hitting an unstable job market, there’s never been more need for Financial Advisors, and they’re getting paid – a median of nearly $90,000, in fact. If you’re good with numbers and have the people skills to help clients, you can become a Financial Advisor with only a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and colleges and universities all over the country have developed online programs that can make it happen.

Median Salary: $89,160

8. Computer Systems Analyst

In this day and age, a company or agency is only as good as its computer network. Poor performance means lost time, lost revenue and lost trust from customers and clients. When an organization’s administrators discover that their computer systems aren’t working effectively for their needs, they call a Computer Systems Analyst. Analysts may work as independent consultants, for a firm that is hired by companies, or, in the case of very large corporations, for the corporation itself. They analyze data to determine weaknesses in a computer system, keep track of the most current technology, and devise solutions to an organization’s network-related problems. They are the fixers, and top-notch problem-solving skills, creative and critical thinking, are their tools.

You might be surprised to find, then, that the minimum education necessary to become a Computer Systems Analyst is just a computer science bachelor’s degree, and that the education needed to get there is readily available in an online format from a plethora of colleges and universities. You’re not likely to have any trouble finding a job – with job growth at 21%, according to the BLS, you might just be fielding more offers than you can handle before the diploma is even in your hand. There are so many new technologies in computer science, and so much growth in the business sector, that keeping up your education is essential, but a median income of nearly $86,000 should make it seem well worth your while – especially when you don’t have to leave your current job to obtain it.

Median Salary: $85,800

9. Mechanical Engineer

Not a day goes by without some new technological wonder in the news – not just in the high-tech field, where smaller and faster and smarter gadgets are the norm, but in areas, we may think humanity has already perfected, whether it’s bridge-building or household appliances. And while all the praise tends to get heaped upon the visionaries who dream up all of the machines that change our life daily, the media never quite gets to the real people on the ground who make all those visions into reality: the Mechanical Engineers. They are the technicians who make sure that the machines and structures imagined by civil engineers, aerospace engineers, and every other kind of engineer, actually work – designing tools, building prototypes, and testing their creations.

For modern society to keep progressing technologically, Mechanical Engineers are essential, and the job market is growing steadily according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS finds the field on an upward trajectory, increasing 5% in the years between 2014 and 2024, and while that’s just around average for the American job market, there’s no reason to believe it could decline. If anything, as manufacturing becomes more mechanized and machines take on more roles in our society, the need for people to design and build them can only increase. Engineering schools across the US are putting together top-notch online Mechanical Engineering programs to meet the need for qualified professional experts, and a median salary of $83,590 should ensure that there will continue to be capable people to fill them. That makes engineering one of the highest paying online degrees. 

Median Salary: $83,590

10. Information Systems Manager

actuary job descriptionAn information systems manager, also known as an IT administrator (admin) keeps an organization’s intranet functioning smoothly. They work with computer hardware, software, and interact with users to solve issues. An admin also deploys new buildouts, runs wiring and cables, sets up and onboards new users. The median pay for an IT admin is $80,600 per year, and there’s potential for advancement into other areas of IT administration, including IT security. 

Organizations of all types and sizes need an IT admin on staff to handle an intranet and access to the internet. This offers a computer science graduate the opportunity to gain skills after graduation by working for a large organization, then eventually go into consulting for smaller businesses that need an IT admin, but don’t have enough work for a full-time admin. 

Median Salary: $80,600

11. Registered Nurse

masters science nursing salaryLinkedIn has shown that the healthcare sector is one of the most promising areas in the American job market, and that is certainly the case for Registered Nurses. With the healthcare industry in an unprecedented boom, nurses are finding themselves in demand and in a position to make demands – higher pay, better benefits, and more manageable hours, among them. That’s because the healthcare system absolutely grinds to a halt without them. Nurses work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, primary care offices, and every other place people receive healthcare, making them the engines that power the whole machine. Performing direct care, diagnosing symptoms, educating patients and the general public – it all happens because of a nurse.

And Nurses, fortunately, are increasingly well-compensated for all their work and expertise. The median salary, according to the BLS, is around $67,500, a considerable income for a position that does not require a master’s degree. While entry-level positions in nursing can be had with a certification or an associate’s degree, most RNs today will find themselves needing a bachelor’s degree to be hired. In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing strongly recommends making the Bachelor of Science in Nursing the standard education level for practicing nurses. Fortunately, hundreds of nursing schools around the US have recognized the need for qualified nurses in a job market that is growing by 16%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and have made online BSN programs one of the most common online degrees around. Today it is easier than ever to earn a reputable BSN online.

Most nurses start their career by getting their associate’s degree in nursing, or ADN. It enables them to start their career, and nurses oftentimes earn excellent salaries with a two-year degree. Going back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree of science in nursing (BSN) increases salary and job satisfaction alike.

The job of a nurse is to take care of patient needs, track vital signs, work with physicians, and provide patient education. Returning to school to earn a BSN allows a nurse to specialize in a specific area of healthcare or administration. Entering into a nursing specialization, especially one that’s in high demand, can result in higher pay than the median, which is $77,600 annually. 

A large number of colleges offer what’s known as a fast-track RN-to-BSN program online, and are designed to accommodate a nurse’s work schedule. An RN can earn their BSN in less than two years, maintain their income, and increase their earning potential. 

Median Salary: $77,600

12. Human Resources Management

The job of human resources is one that combines managing employee and employer expectations, understanding employment law, handling payroll and benefits, and making sure that everything is applied in an equitable fashion. You also have to be able to make good judgment calls that don’t imperil the company or the employee. It’s not one of the highest paying bachelor’s degree jobs with an annual median salary of $62,290, but there is a solid upward career trajectory in the field with the potential for higher pay over time. That makes human resource management one of the highest paying online degrees. 

A bachelor’s degree in human resources management requires learning knowledge from different disciplines, including finance, psychology, business administration, and the law.That means a human resources degree program can be complex and challenging. However, it’s a field that will always have a need for qualified individuals with bachelor’s degrees. A master’s degree in human resources can help improve earnings and employment options, but it’s not absolutely necessary to have for a lifelong career. 

Median Salary: $62,290

What is the Easiest Online Degree?

It may be stating the obvious, but according to LinkedIn, almost all of the most promising high-paying jobs – the ones with the best pay, best job prospects, and best future opportunity – are in technology (computer science), finance, and healthcare. It’s simply a reflection of our times. We have a rapidly aging population, making healthcare a priority like never before, and when you put together the retirement of the largest generation in American history (the Baby Boomers) with the maturity of the second-largest (the Millennials) in an uncertain and complicated economy, there’s plenty of reason the financial industry would be expanding. And technology – forget it. If we have to explain why the technology job market is busting at the seams, it’s already too late for you. There are online degrees for all of them!

The easiest online degree is one that fits your aptitudes, skills, and innate abilities. For example, you may not be proficient in math, but you’re more than capable of working with computers, finding problems, creating solutions, and designing IT architecture. If you enter into an IT administration degree, you’ll find the school work easy, understandable, and present you with challenges that you’ll enjoy solving. Maybe you like science, but don’t want to work as an engineer. Engineering management could be an easier path. That’s why it’s impossible to name the easiest online degree, because what one person finds easy, another will find hard.

The best method of figuring out which of the highest-paying online degrees is going to be easy for you is to ask questions and take aptitude tests. Aptitude tests help you find your way forward in a career as they help you determine where your skills and talents best align. Online forums are a great place to talk with people who are already employed in a given field, and tests help you evaluate the ease with which you understand the material. You’ll also get honest feedback from people with experience as to how well you’re suited to work in the field. 

When you find an area of study that suits you well, you’ll find the work easy to comprehend and execute. You’ll also look for challenges to further your knowledge, provide solutions, and create more opportunities for yourself. With a little effort, it is possible to combine an easy education with the highest paying jobs with a bachelor’s degree. 

For example, a degree in project management can apply to nearly any field. Whether you’re in business or education, project management experience is highly in demand. There is need for project management anywhere there are projects! 

Will Employers Respect My Online Degree?

The short answer is, yes. Employers will respect your online degree. Online degree programs were gaining traction and becoming normalized before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic accelerated the offering and acceptance of hybrid and fully-online bachelor degree programs. Prior to that, employers were already accepting online degrees because online education had very little variation from in-person classes due to accreditation and a desire for legitimacy from major and minor educational institutions. Simply put, the best online degree programs are just as good as a campus program. 

Another aspect to consider when looking for online degree programs that pays well is the fact that your diploma won’t say “online degree”. Instead, online programs will look the same as a degree that’s been earned through traditional means. A prospective employer won’t know that you took your courses and eared your degree online unless you told them. The gap between online degrees and in-person education for high-paying jobs with a bachelor’s degree is just about closed. 

If there are on-campus or hands-on requirements for the degree, you can always find a way to satisfy them in an online degree. Many online programs often work with students to help them find ways to fulfill the requirements for graduation. Meanwhile, you can show a prospective employer that you have real-time experience as part of your education. 

Ultimately, employers are willing to pay for talent and knowledge. It’s a fact that you’ll start out at the lower end of the salary scale in most professions regardless of whether you earned your degree online. It’s also a fact that salaries scale as you acquire more knowledge and skills that help a company succeed.  

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Aya Andrews


Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.

Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.

In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.

With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.

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ValueColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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