Mysterious Money: 4 Degrees that can be Surprisingly Lucrative

College has long been considered the surest path to financial success, and the facts back up this belief. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people with bachelor’s degrees earn nearly 70 percent more than those with high school diplomas alone. However, some degrees pay more than others.

When looking at a list of today’s top paying degrees, you’ll notice math, science, and engineering degrees holding many of the top spots, but not everyone has dreams of working for an oil company or being a network engineer. The good news is if you want a lucrative salary doing something you love, there are plenty of degree and career paths with surprisingly high salaries. In fact, here’s a look at four interesting degree options with salaries reaching upwards of six figures or more.

Mining Engineering

Do you love “Gold Rush” and have dreams of excavators, dynamite, and working in the mining industry? If so, mining engineering may be the degree path for you. Many mine engineers work directly for large mining companies and provide operational planning and support. As such, they’re responsible for equipment selection, mining construction estimates, and ensuring the mine is following OSHA and MSHA regulations.

Mine engineers must be able to work in team environments and independently with little to no supervision. Many also attend relevant workshops, conferences, and classes to further their education and stay up-to-date in an ever-changing field. On the downside, mine engineers must be flexible, travel frequently, and be comfortable working in tight spaces underground. Some may also need to work away from home for extended periods of time. If you’re willing to make these sacrifices, however, you’ll enjoy a hefty average starting salary of $71,500 and an average mid-career salary of $109,000.

Graphic Arts

Are you artistic and interested in design? Then getting a degree in graphic arts or design will pay off dividends. Graphic artists and designers are employed in several industries. From advertising and web design to the entertainment industry, the opportunities for graphic artists are endless in today’s modern world.

Experienced graphic designers can earn upwards of $72,000 or more per year, all the while being able to use their creativity to develop new Web, advertising, and product designs. If you’re artistic and hope to dispel of the “starving artist” stereotype, a degree in graphic arts or design is the way to go.


Very few people aspire to be physicists, but mastery in this science and mathematics field can land you a high paying job almost anywhere. Physicists work for a variety of organizations. From the military and other branches of government to laboratories and car manufacturers, a physics degree will open several lucrative doors.

According to, the median starting salary for someone with a four-year physics degree is $55,500, while the average mid-career salary is $106,000. However, nearly 70 percent of physics majors pursue graduate degrees.

Packaging Science

Ever hear of packaging science? Not many have, but the ones who pursue a degree in this little known field are rewarded for their out of the box thinking. No pun intended. Packaging engineers use an array of software applications and other tools to develop packaging models fitting within project requirements. Among other things, they’re responsible for analyzing and testing materials and packaging components in order to increase efficiency and quality for the end user.

Individuals with a degree in packaging science earn a tidy starting salary of $61,500. Meanwhile, mid-career salaries average $88,100. As you can see, you don’t need a degree in medicine, law, business, or rocket science in order to enjoy a financially rewarding career. There are plenty of other degree options offering lucrative salaries for experienced workers and people fresh out of college alike. Whether or not one of the four lesser known financially rewarding careers above are for you, at least you now know the road less traveled can lead to financial freedom as well.

Kara Masterson | Guest Blogger on JLV College Counseling Blog

Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max. Find Kara on Facebook.



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