Contents

    20 Online degrees that pay well – and 10 you might want to avoid

    Jeremy Coppock
    Jeremy Coppock

    Jeremy is an education researcher, journalist, and editor for Degreechoices. He majored in Slavic languages and has a master’s degree in Eastern European studies.

    He has previous experience as a fraud analyst, in-house translator, teacher, and truck driver.

    20 Online degrees that pay well – and 10 you might want to avoid
    Contents

      The highest-paying online degrees are mostly in STEM – particularly engineering.

      The best online degree that isn’t science/math-related is Sales and Marketing Operations.

      The worst online degrees are Dance and Somatic Body Work.

      www.degreechoices.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.

      Propel your career from anywhere.

      Take our quiz to find the online degree that’s best for you. Compare hundreds of schools and apply to your dream college today.

      Gone are the days when you had to go to a college campus for 4 years to earn a respected degree. Online college is becoming increasingly popular – and many employers have no compunctions about hiring graduates of fully remote or hybrid programs.

      Lucrative careers for people with degrees you can get online include engineering, nursing, computer science, and countless business-related roles.

      On the other hand, there are many online degrees that aren’t worth your time and money. Thinking of getting an online degree in dance or “somatic bodywork”? Go ahead. Just don’t expect much of a return on your investment.

      In this article, we list 20 online degrees that pay well – ranked by earning potential – and tell you which online university is offering you the best deal in that field. We also list the worst online degrees out there.

      We understand that there’s more to life than your paycheck. People spend most of their waking lives at work, so finding a degree that interests you is just as important as economic considerations.

      Still, the average American is taking on a lot of debt to pay for college, which has major repercussions throughout life. And at Degreechoices, we’re all about the ROI of college degrees: we’re here to give you the facts on when college is worth it.

      The rest is up to you.

      The highest-paying online degrees

      At the bachelor’s level, the best online degree you can get is Electrical Engineering – people with an online Electrical Engineering degree go on to earn an average of $88,230 just 4 years after graduation.

      How do we know?

      We have combed through official government data from IPEDs and College Scorecard and compiled a user-friendly ranking of the best degrees you can get online as an undergrad student – according to earnings potential. The programs listed are based on IPED’s CIP codes (which is how the government categorizes college majors). We doubled-checked that all the programs are actually available online.

      We did not include programs that are labelled “other” in IPEDS (e.g. Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs, Other, as opposed to simply Journalism), because these categories represent miscellaneous grab bags that don’t reflect a single cohesive degree in the real world.

      Earnings data is measured 4 years after graduation from the online or hybrid program.

      Our transparent, innovative methodology helps us rank colleges by value for money, which is how we determine the best online/hybrid program in each field.

      5 out of the 10 highest paying online degrees are engineering, but we’ve listed them all together (with a breakdown by type of engineering) to bring you more diverse results. Still, most of the best online degrees are in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

      But don’t worry: even if you’re not great with numbers and science, we’ve got your back. We also list the best online degrees that aren’t STEM a little further down.


      1. Engineering

      Engineering is the art of problem-solving. Professional engineers apply scientific principles to design, create, and optimize structures, systems, and processes. They blend creativity with precision, using advanced tools and technologies to construct everything from towering skyscrapers to microscopic nanodevices.

      We have written a comprehensive guide to engineering degrees that explains the field in more detail.

      Below is a breakdown of how much different types of engineers with online degrees earn:

      Type of engineering Average earnings Top online program
      Electrical, Electronics, and Communications Engineering $88,230 Florida International University

      B.S. in Electrical Engineering (Online)

      Petroleum engineering $86,097 University of North Dakota

      B.S. in Petroleum Engineering (Hybrid)

      Chemical Engineering $82,460 University of Arizona

      B.S. in Chemical Engineering (Hybrid)

      Mechanical Engineering $81,414 University of Alabama

      B.S. in Manufacturing Systems Engineering (Online)

      Industrial Engineering $80,085 Mississippi State University

      B.S. in Industrial Engineering (Online)

      www.degreechoices.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.


      2. Materials Science

      Materials science is closely related to engineering, but it is a distinct field, although it is sometime taught in conjunction with engineering principles. Material scientists study the properties and behaviors of physical substances in order to find new applications and drive technological development.

      For instance, materials scientists may work to invent new alloys that help the aviation industry build more fuel-efficient aircraft.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $83,498 University of Arizona

      B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering (Hybrid)


      3. Construction Management

      Construction management is basically project management for builders; students learn how to plan, coordinate, and execute construction projects. During your degree program, you will learn more about construction materials and methods, the cost of labor, technology, budgeting, construction law, safety, environmental considerations, site management, and much more.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $83,272 Minnesota State University Moorhead

      B.S. in Construction Management (Online)


      4. Intelligence, Command Control, and Information Operations

      This CIP Code refers to degrees related to military intelligence. You will learn how to gather and analyze intelligence data, study systems and technologies to manage military operations, learn strategies for conducting information warfare, and more. Your degree program could also touch upon geopolitics, risk assessment, leadership, and military technology.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $80,707 Norwich University

      B.S. in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis (Hybrid)


      5. Computer Science

      Computer Science students learn about algorithms, data structures, and the principles behind computing systems. There is a focus on both practical and theoretical aspects of the field.

      Piques your interest? We’ve written a special guide to computer science degrees and careers.

      As a computer science student, you may learn about programming languages, software development, operating systems, database management, cybersecurity, software engineering, app development, and much more. You will also probably need to take math classes.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $80,158 University of Illinois Springfield

      B.S. in Computer Science (Hybrid)


      6. Fire Protection

      While the traditional route to becoming a firefighter has involved joining a fire academy right out of high school, times are changing. People who major in fire protection get more insights into the technical side of fires – why they happen, how they spread, and how to prevent them.

      Besides firefighters, fire protection majors can go on to fire inspectors, arson investigators, emergency management specialists, or public safety educators.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $78,280 Fayetteville State University

      B.S. in Fire and Emergency Services Administration (Online)


      7. Information Science

      Catalogued in IPEDs as Information Science/Studies, these majors encompass a wide variety of fields relating to the organization, storage, and retrieval of information. Coursework may touch on IT and information systems, data analysis, digital archives, user experience (UX), and more. Graduates will be equipped to become data scientists, UX designers, information security analysts, or digital content managers.


      8. Registered Nursing

      It may surprise you, but online programs are increasingly popular among nurses-in-training. These usually have a hybrid format, meaning that while instruction is largely online, there is a hands-on component as well. This ensures that nurses get the practical training they need to care for patients while still preserving some the flexibility of online learning.

      You can learn more in our guide to nursing degrees.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $76,055 CUNY Lehman College

      B.S. in Nursing (Hybrid)


      9. Energy Systems Technologies

      Energy systems technicians learn how to install, operate, and maintain energy systems – which are vital for our country to run. As renewable energy becomes increasingly important to the American economy, demand for energy systems technicians will grow.

      Most energy systems technologists work at power plants or with solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectric energy, or geothermal energy.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $74,933 Ferris State University

      B.S. in HVACR Engineering Technology and Energy Management (Hybrid)


      10. Quality Control & Safety Technology

      Quality control and safety specialists ensure you work in a safe environment. In this major, you will learn how to keep workplaces healthy, safe, and productive. You will also study environmental and regulatory compliance.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $74,032 University of Wisconsin, Whitewater

      B.S. in Occupational Safety (Online)

      Hints on finding an online degree

      Many online colleges offer stellar degrees that are prized on the job market. However, some online colleges are better than others.

      What are the best online colleges?

      See our rankings of the best online colleges in America

      See here arrow-right

      To determine whether an online college is legit, the first thing you should do is check its accreditation. A good online college should be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Both organizations’ websites have searchable databases that allow you to check if a university is accredited.

      Alternatively, you can take our short quiz to find an accredited online college that suits your needs.

      Find the online degree that’s perfect for you

      www.degreechoices.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.

      You will also want to check if a program is fully online or hybrid. Hybrid programs involve some form of hands-on training or physical presence, making them unsuitable for some learners.

      Most lucrative online degrees that aren’t STEM

      Generally speaking, people who major in a STEM subject go on to earn above-average salaries. This is also true for online degrees, as reflected in our rankings above.

      But not everyone is a math and science type. If you want a decent salary after graduation, but you can’t see yourself studying engineering or computer science, we’ve put together a list of the best online degrees that aren’t STEM, ranked by average earnings 4 years after graduation.

      Degree programs are categorized according to IPED’s CIP codes, and the top program is the one with the best Economic Score, according to our signature methodology.

      While some of these degrees are designated as bachelor of science, their primary focus is not on hard science or math.

      » Read: The difference between a B.A. and a B.S.

      Note that we did not include non-STEM majors that already appear on the first list, like construction management and fire protection.


      1. Sales and marketing operations

      This major, referred to in IPEDs as General Sales, Merchandising and Related Marketing Operations, gives students a comprehensive understanding of how to get potential clients to buy a company’s product or service. It is a subset of marketing.

      You will learn how to make a sales pitch, plan promotional activities, and present services. Coursework could also touch on pricing or display design.

      » Read: The 27 best accredited online marketing degrees

      Average earnings Top online program
      $71,346 Bellevue University

      B.S. in Marketing (Online)


      2. Educational media design

      Are you interested in helping others learn, but not so sure you want to become a teacher? Educational media design could be for you. Educational media design students learn to create engaging educational content using multimedia tools and new technologies.

      You will gain expertise in designing digital learning environments, interactive simulations, and online courses, preparing you for roles in instructional design, e-learning development, and educational technology.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $64,574 University of Arizona Global Campus

      B.A. in Instructional Design (Online)


      3. Homeland security

      This major teaches the fundamentals of national and international security measures, emphasizing the protection of critical infrastructures and how to respond to various threats. Students study counterterrorism strategies, border security, and crisis management.

      A homeland security degree will prepare you for a career in federal agencies, law enforcement, cybersecurity firms, and emergency management organizations.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $61,892 Grand Canyon University

      B.S. in Homeland Security and Emergency Management (Online)


      4. Corporate communications

      Corporate communications is all about finding effective communication strategies within the corporate environment. Students develop skills in written, verbal, and digital communication to convey messages that align with organizational goals.

      They learn to manage public relations, crisis communication, and internal communications, making them invaluable assets in corporate communication departments, public relations firms, and marketing agencies.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $58,018 Walsh University

      B.A. in Corporate Communication (Online)


      5. Business and commerce

      This broad major provides a foundational understanding of key business concepts, encompassing areas such as accounting, finance, marketing, and management.

      Students gain insight into the global business landscape, learning to analyze market trends, manage financial resources, and make strategic business decisions. Graduates are well-prepared for diverse roles in management, entrepreneurship, consulting, and various industry sectors.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $57,908 University of Houston, Clear Lake

      B.S. in General Business (Online)


      6. International/global studies

      Global studies majors gain a comprehensive understanding of global affairs, including political, economic, cultural, and social dimensions. Students may explore international relations, global economics, and regional studies to analyze complex global issues.

      Many international studies majors also learn foreign languages and intercultural communication, preparing them for careers in diplomacy, international development, global business, or NGO work.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $57,447 University of Central Florida

      B.A. in International and Global Studies (Online)


      7. Legal research

      This undergraduate-level major prepares students to work in legal settings. You can’t become a lawyer with a bachelor’s degree in legal research or jurisprudence, but you can become a paralegal, a legal assistant, or a court system support professional. This major will also help you out if you decide to go on to law school eventually.

      Students will learn about legal databases, precedent analysis, and conducting comprehensive legal research. You will develop expertise in legal writing and analysis, making you an invaluable asset in law firms, legal research organizations, or governmental agencies.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $57,055 PennWest California

      B.A. in Jurisprudence (Online)


      8. Urban planning

      With most of the world’s population living in cities, many local governments and development companies are eager to make urban environments as convenient and pleasant as possible.

      Students learn to analyze urban landscapes, assess community needs, and formulate comprehensive city plans. They study zoning regulations, transportation systems, and environmental policies, preparing them for careers in city planning departments, real estate development, and urban policy analysis.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $56,740 University of Arizona

      B.S. in Urban and Regional Development (Hybrid)


      9. Agricultural Business and Management

      Students of agricultural business and management learn how to run a farm or ranch. This major is multidisciplinary, and it usually involves a little bit of business, finance, marketing, farm management, and biology.

      Besides running an agricultural business, graduates could also work in the insurance sector or as analysts or managers in agriculture-related business

      Average earnings Top online program
      $56,674 Utah State University

      B.S. in Agribusiness (Online)


      10. Business Administration and Management

      While the quintessential business degree is the MBA – which is a master’s level program – more and more people are studying business administration at the bachelor’s level.

      Business administration and management majors learn the principles of management, finance, marketing, business ethics, some fundamentals of economics, project management, human resources, and other important business skills.

      You can learn more about studying business in our comprehensive guide.

      Average earnings Top online program
      $55,901 St. Petersburg College

      B.S. in Business Administration (Online)

      www.degreechoices.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.

      Searching for a non-STEM degree online

      Inspired by our list and ready to start your studies online? Take our quiz to find a convenient online degree that suits your needs.

      The worst online degrees

      Now that we’ve listed some online degrees that pay well, we should probably issue a fair warning and list the online degrees that pay the worst.

      The worst online degree you can get is dance, with average salaries of just $25,240 4 years after graduation. Don’t ask us how you’re supposed to study dance remotely.

      In terms of earnings, dance is also the worst major you can get period, whether you study online or on campus. If you’re passionate about dancing – or the fine arts in general – consider pursuing these interests outside the framework of college. Chasing your dreams is great, but not if it leaves you in debt for most of your adult life.

      » Also read: 21 useless degrees and what you can study instead

      The 2nd worst online degree is “somatic bodywork”, which refers to a form of therapy that involves the mind-body connection. It is sometimes used to treat PTSD. While this may be a very rewarding line of work, don’t expect a big paycheck at the end of the month.

      Salary information for the worst online degrees listed below comes from IPEDS and College Scorecard.

      Online degree Average salaries
      1. Dance $25,240
      2. Somatic Bodywork $25,670
      3. Botany $26,293
      4. Wildlife and Wildlands Science and Management $26,353
      5. Library Science $26,925
      6. Teaching English as a Foreign Language $26,974
      7. Missionary Studies $28,644
      8. Fine and Studio Arts $28,684
      9. Audiovisual Communications Technologies $29,338
      10. Zoology $29,357

      Final thoughts

      Getting a college degree from the comfort of your home has never been easier – or less risky: online degree holders going on to earn comparable salaries to people who attended college on campus.

      Whether you want to become a nurse, engineer, or even a dancer (don’t say we didn’t warn you), there are online or hybrid-learning options out there for you.

      www.degreechoices.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.

      Propel your career from anywhere.

      Take our quiz to find the online degree that’s best for you. Compare hundreds of schools and apply to your dream college today.

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