10 College Degrees with Awesome ROI for 2017-2018

10 College Degrees with Awesome ROI for 2017-2018

July 7, 2017

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Despite the growing costs of higher education, a college degree is usually the best way to get ahead. With a degree in an in-demand and profitable industry, workers can get their foot in the door, climb the career ladder, and continue improving their skills.

But, that doesn’t mean all college degrees are equal – not by a long shot. While some degrees require years of effort and lead to meager or average wages at best, other degree programs require less work and a lot less commitment for higher pay.

If you’re considering college and don’t know what field of study to pursue, it’s smart to know which degrees culminate in profitable careers – and which degrees flounder. Fortunately, we did all the research for you to come up with this list of college degrees that offer great value in terms of time spent and expected pay.

Here are some of the best value college degrees for 2017-2018, per the U.S. Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

#1: Occupational Therapy Assistant

  • Annual Mean Wage in 2016: $59,530
  • Degree Required: Associate Degree
  • Highest-Paying States: Nevada ($75,000), Texas ($68,340), and California ($66,020)

Occupational therapy assistants help patients recover from injury or illness by assisting them as they re-learn skills required for daily living. They often do so under the supervision of a licensed occupational therapist.

While the subject matter isn’t easy since it’s loaded with math and science, most people can get started in this career with just two years of full-time study including clinicals or on-the-job-training. That’s pretty sweet considering the national annual mean wage for this career is nearly $60,000.

#2: Physical Therapy Assistant

  • Annual Mean Wage in 2016: $56,850
  • Degree Required: Associate Degree
  • Highest-Paying States: Texas ($71,780), New Jersey ($64,230), and California ($63,680)

Physical therapy assistants work under the supervision of a physical therapist in order to help patients improve their flexibility and physical movement. They help them regain their flexibility and use exercise to minimize physical pain. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapy assistants need an associate degree from an accredited program to find entry-level work. Fortunately, those two years in school can lead to an annual salary of $50,000+ just a few short years later, as evidenced by the national annual mean wage for this career.

#3: Operations Research

  • Annual Mean Wage in 2016: $84,340
  • Degree Required: Bachelor’s
  • Highest-Paying States: Virginia ($106,490), New York ($106,260), and Alabama ($97,080)

Operations research analysts use math and science to investigate complex issues and help their clients solve important problems. Because of the depth of knowledge required for positions in this industry, applicants typically need experience in math, analytics, statistics, and science.

Becoming an operations research analyst may require a bachelor’s degree, but this degree still comes with a huge ROI (return on investment) considering the fact the annual mean wage for this profession was $84,340 in 2016.

#4: Finance

  • Annual Mean Wage in 2016: $123,100
  • Degree Required: Bachelor’s
  • Highest-Paying States: New York ($154,900), California ($143,570), and Maine ($142,200)

A bachelor’s degree in finance can lead to several highly-paid careers, including personal financial advisors. These professionals work with clients to help them plan their financial goals including retirement. They typically have an in-depth understanding of the stock market, as well as experience with investing and economics.

It’s crazy to think that a bachelor’s degree can lead to a six-figure career yet, in this case, it’s true. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, the top 25 percent of financial advisors earned more than $160,490 in 2016.

#5: Web Development

  • Annual Mean Wage in 2016: $72,150
  • Degree Required: Associate
  • Highest-Paying States: Washington ($90,260), California ($82,930), and New York ($81,140)

A degree in web development can help you learn valuable skills that translate into an online career. Web developers help individuals and businesses develop websites for personal or professional reasons. They may design the site, including special features such as eCommerce. Web developers tend to work with their clients to dream up the physical presentation of their websites as well, making sure the site is both functional and attractive.

Fortunately, you can start this career with as little as an associate degree. Better yet, you could be earning as much as $72,150 within a few years.

#6: Diagnostic Medical Sonography

  • Annual Mean Wage in 2016: $71,750
  • Degree Required: Associate
  • Highest-Paying States: California ($84,220), Oregon ($81,010), and Washington ($79,980)

A two-year degree in diagnostic medical sonography can help you begin a career taking X-rays that help doctors diagnose and treat illnesses and ailments. Fortunately, this degree can lead to a high-paying career, as diagnostic medical sonographers earned an annual mean wage of $71,750 nationally in 2016.

If you’re interested in this field of study, you can find two-year programs at community colleges and hospitals. In addition to classroom material, you’ll also need to complete some hands-on instruction or clinicals.

#7: Biomedical Engineering

  • Annual Mean Wage in 2016: $89,970
  • Degree Required: Bachelor’s
  • Highest-Paying States: Minnesota ($101,710), Colorado ($101,490), and New Mexico ($100,950)

Biomedical engineers use their knowledge of medicine and science to create new products for the healthcare industry. They research common ailments and visualize products that could fix them, then create prototypes of medical devices that may (eventually) be marketed to hospitals, doctors and consumers.

While this degree does take four years to complete, it can lead to an incredibly profitable and high-demand career as a biomedical engineer.

#8: Dental Hygiene

  • Annual Mean Wage in 2016: $73,440
  • Degree Required: Associate
  • Highest-Paying States: Alaska ($102,890), California ($94,640), and New Mexico ($91,080)

Dental hygienists are the workers you see most at the dentist. They clean your teeth, offer advice on how to improve oral health, and prepare your chart – and your mouth – for your visit with the dentist.

While it may not seem like dental hygienists would be paid much, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite the fact only two years of higher education is required for this career, the annual mean wage for dental hygienists was a whopping $73,440 nationally in 2016.

#9: Wind Energy Technology

  • Annual Mean Wage in 2016: $54,360
  • Degree Required: Associate Degree or Certificate
  • Highest-Paying States: Pennsylvania ($60,790), Iowa ($60,380), and North Dakota ($60,110)

Students who pursue a degree or certificate in wind energy technology can work their way toward a profitable and high-demand career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for wind turbine service technicians are expected to grow 108 percent in the decade leading up to 2024.

These workers install and repair wind turbines that create clean energy. Fortunately, they are paid handsomely for their expertise, with a reported annual mean wage of $54,360 nationally in 2016.

#10: Radiation Therapy

  • Annual Mean Wage in 2016: $84,980
  • Degree Required: Associate
  • Highest-Paying States: California ($113,710), New Jersey ($104,700), and Oregon ($99,350)

Another healthcare career rounding out our list of best value college degrees is radiation therapy. This two-year degree leads to a career as a radiation therapist. These specially-trained workers administer cancer treatments and operate diagnostic and therapeutic medical instruments that help patients achieve a better quality of life.

Despite what one might think, this degree program takes only two years to complete. Once you graduate, you could be earning as much as $84,980 within a few years – or more depending on where you live.