Credentials holders in computer-related fields, such as computer science, computer engineering and computer and information sciences, are the country’s most lucrative students early into their careers, according to Department of Education data compiled by The HEA Group and College Scorecard.
Bachelor’s degree holders in computer science from Harvard University have the highest mean earnings four years after graduation at $256,539. Computer science and those related make up eight of the top 10 most lucrative in the nation. The only three outside of this industry to make the ranking are finance and financial management services from the University of Pennsylvania and electrical, electronics and communications engineering from the University of California-Berkeley.
When averaging median income earnings across programs offered to at least 50 institutions, seven out of 10 of the highest earners are in engineering unrelated to computer technology. Still, computer engineering came in first at $97,302, followed by computer science at $94,192. University Business only considered degrees that serve more than 50 institutions to negate any niche credentials offered at a select group of institutions. For example, only five schools offer nuclear engineering, but that major brought the second-highest average median earnings at $116,531.
The HEA Group and scorecard considered over 36,000 academic programs from 22,404 bachelor’s, 8,071 associate’s and 5,621 certificate programs. Additionally, the data are limited to federal financial aid-receiving students, and some small programs’ earnings data are excluded to protect student privacy.
Earning a credential in one of these computer-tech-related programs seems reserved chiefly for bachelor’s degree earners. Associate degree earners are better off, earning $140,386 with a nuclear engineering degree, and certificate earners are best off as an electrical and power transmission installer certificate, making $109,483. However, a bachelor’s degree is still the most reliable undergraduate credential students can earn to ensure they make a livable salary. Almost half (48.48%) of all bachelor’s programs make at least $50,249 four years out of college. Less than 30% of associate degree earners make a livable salary, and only 13% of certificate earners are this well off.
Earnings are great, but are students interested?
The number of students graduating with a bachelor’s in any specific computer science-related program doesn’t compare well with its earning potential. For example, among academic programs offered to at least 50 institutions, the number of institutions providing computer science credentials ranked 25 out of 87. Similarly, the number of students in these graduating cohorts ranked at 27.
However, combining all programs—computer science, computer engineering, and computer and information sciences—paints a more promising picture. Institutions offer them at the fourth-highest rate, and they have the eighth-greatest number of students in graduating cohorts when combined.