10 of the Best Degrees to Graduate with in 2017 | Top Universities

10 of the Best Degrees to Graduate with in 2017

By Mathilde Frot

Updated April 5, 2021 Updated April 5, 2021

With 2016 finally out of the way, (going down in history as the year that robbed us of Leonard Cohen, David Bowie and Prince), it’s time to leave the past where it is and set out action plans for the future. So, what are some of the best degrees for salary potential and job satisfaction to graduate with in the brave new world of 2017? Read on for a roundup of 10 of the best degrees for a happy and lucrative career.  

1. Biomedical engineering 

Combining the engineering sciences with biomedicine and clinical practice, biomedical engineering is a fast-growing sector. In addition to enjoying high salaries ranging from US$62,700 to US$104,000, a high percentage of professionals in this field (75%) report deriving a high level of meaning from their occupation. And that’s not all. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the field are expected to grow by 72% by 2018! Not so surprising, given the mind-blowing research being carried out in this field, and increasing number of patents and commercial applications. 

2. Occupational therapy   

Want to help others? Occupational therapy is without doubt one of the best degrees to achieve that. Occupational therapists (“OTs”) help ill, injured and disabled patients to access the workplace and various other aspects of daily life. One important component of the job is to evaluate the patient’s workplace and home, identifying any health needs and possible improvements. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of occupational therapists will grow by 27% from 2014 to 2024, as the human population continues to age and baby boomers seek to maintain their independence later in life. Salaries may range between US$49,532 and US$84,970 in the US.  

3. Structural engineering  

Many of the best degrees for strong salary prospects are found in the engineering sector, including structural engineering. A sub-branch of civil engineering, structural engineering is concerned with the design and erection of large buildings and structures, and is an area of significant demand. An impressive 71% of working professionals in this field report a high level of meaning from their work, while salaries typically range between US$58,700 and US$104,000!  

4. Translation and/or interpretation 

According to this 2016 study, translation and interpretation services are expected to grow by 28% in the US by 2021, as businesses continue to expand overseas. Geography, skillset and experience can have a huge impact on your paycheck, with salaries ranging between US$24,000 and US$72,000. Skills that will boost your earning potential include localization (the process of adapting vocabulary or content to specific regions or markets), and fluency in an in-demand language.  

5. Physician assistant studies  

A physician assistant is a mid-level doctor who works under the supervision of an MD or DO. Duties include physical examinations, lab tests and follow-ups. With high salaries ranging between US$85,200 and US$103,000, 86% of physician assistants report a high level of meaning from their work. Featured in PayScale’s ranking of the highest-earning bachelor’s degrees, physician assistant studies is a happiness-inducing major with an impressive earning potential.  

6. Environmental engineering  

The branch of science concerned with protecting humans from the effects of climate change, environmental engineering involves improving recycling, the disposal of waste, health and reducing air, soil and water pollution. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 15% increase in environmental engineers from 2012 to 2022 in the US. Environmental engineers earn between US$53,900 and US$92,800, and 66% report deriving a high level of meaning from their job. 

7. Web development 

Unsurprisingly in today’s digital world, web development and related fields are amongst the best degrees for secure career prospects. Earning between US$37,800 and US$84,900 depending on location, employer and experience, web developers report a high level of job satisfaction on PayScale, rating their jobs on average five out of five stars. The number of roles available in this field is expected to grow by 27% from 2014 to 2024 in the US, as mobile and ecommerce continue to grow.  

8. Aeronautical engineering  

Working with cutting-edge technology in the design, construction and maintenance of aircraft, aeronautical engineers earn between US$63,000 and US$113,000, with 61% of professionals in the field saying they find a high level of meaning in their work. Like many engineering subjects, this is another of the best degrees for great salary prospects, career progression and ongoing development as the sector evolves. 

9. Computer science and mathematics 

There’s a great deal of opportunity in today’s economy for STEM students. Graduates with a BSc in computer science and mathematics, for instance, often go on to work in technical and data-based professions as software engineering, robotics programming, numerical analysis, bank credit management, applications programming – the list goes on! Employees with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics earn on average between US$63,500 and US$111,000. However, only 36% say they derive a lot of meaning from their job, so make sure this path really is for you before selecting your major! 

10. Nursing  

Earning between US$71,728 and US$113,050, nursing practitioners are registered nurses who also perform some of the duties typically carried out by physicians, such as medical prescription and diagnosis. Predicted job growth rate in the US is about 30% from 2014 to 2024, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

How optimistic do you feel about career prospects in your field? Comment below to share your story!

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This article was originally published in January 2017 . It was last updated in April 2021

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I'm originally French but I grew up in Casablanca, Kuala Lumpur and Geneva. When I'm not writing for QS, you'll usually find me sipping espresso(s) with a good paperback.

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