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Best degrees for the future

Best degrees for the future

Best degrees for the future

One day, not very long from now, when robots and other androids march into our offices, which jobs do you think they will take away first?

Already, accountants, bookkeepers, traders, data-entry operators, and even lawyers and medical service professionals are losing their places to machines.

Employees in many other sectors are anxiously waiting to see when, not whether, algorithms, automation, and artificial intelligence will make them redundant.

But there’s hope that jobs will survive and opportunities in many sectors and professions will continue to come.

In fact, a few of them will even thrive. But you may need to earn certain degrees as insurance for a well-lit career path.

So what are these “best degrees for the future”?

The answer lies in which degrees are most in demand in sectors and disciplines that are growing the fastest. And what are they?

No surprises here. The sectors/disciplines of the future are:

  • Engineering (the professionals involved are engineers including hardware and software engineers)
  • Information technology (developers to cyber security experts)
  • Finance and business (accountants, financial planners, economists)
  • Medicine and healthcare (nurses, therapists, healthcare managers)
  • Environment/sustainability (environment scientist/consultant)

What are the degrees that these fields require? They are, for example, degrees in computer programing, network management, and information science; business, statistics, finance, and math; nursing, therapy, and healthcare management; and environmental scientist/consultant, to name only very few.

Here we take a look at a few of the best degrees in a few top career fields. Salaries mentioned are figures available from 2017 to 2019 from various online sources such as Payscale and Indeed (some from indirect sources).

Where mentioned, salary range shows the range for the position achieved on the basis of the degree mentioned. Where figures are available, salary ranges for starting to midcareer positions are given.

List of the best degrees for the future


Engineering degree


Electrical engineering

What you learn: Improvement of decides, telecom systems, domestic appliances, computer hardware, maintenance of power grids, power transmission

Roles: Design, build, and improve electronic and electrical devices and appliances, assemble and manage power grids, innovate better transmission, improve telecom

Median annual salary, starting to midcareer: $70,000-$118,000

Computer engineering

What you learn: Create and install processors, circuit boards, other computer parts, design and utilize computer programs

Roles: While hardware engineers design, develop, and improve computer systems and components including circuit boards, routers, and networks, software engineers develop and implement software

Median salary, starting to midcareer: Hardware – $73,000-$120,000, software – $69,000-$109,000

Electrical and computer engineering

What you learn: How to develop future technologies, such as advanced medical equipment and environment-friendly power systems

Roles: Research and development of new technologies for a range of sectors

Median salary, mid-career: $114,000

Electronics and communication engineering

What you learn: Communication technologies, creation and maintenance of devices

Roles: Employment in computing, telecommunication, aerospace, electrical engineering industries

Median salary, starting to midcareer: $72,000-$127,000

Chemical engineering

What you learn: Manufacturing processes that transform organic materials into products such as artificial fiber and gas; other subjects include biology, mathematics, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, chemical kinetics, thermodynamics

Roles: Careers in nanotechnology, clothing, alternative energy and other industries

Median salary, starting to midcareer: $72,000-$127,000

Other engineering degrees

Degree Salary
Petroleum engineering starting-midcareer: $83,000-$184,000
Nuclear engineering starting-midcareer: $71,000-$122,000
Systems engineering median, midcareer: $121,000
Mechanical engineering starting-midcareer: $66,000-$109,000
Electrical and electronics engineering $96,000
Industrial engineering starting-midcareer: $66,000-$111,000
Biomedical engineering starting-midcareer: $66,000-$110,000
Civil engineering starting-midcareer: $60,000-$101,000
Aeronautics, aerospace, and
aviation technology/engineering
Architectural engineering starting-midcareer: $62,000-$96,000


Information technology degree


Computer science

What you learn: Functioning of computer hardware, coding languages, digital system design, artificial intelligence, program design

Roles: Computer systems analyst, web/app developer

Median salary, starting to midcareer: $69,000-$114,000

Computer science and engineering

What you learn: How to build your own computer software/hardware

Roles: Software/hardware developers, systems and program builders

Median salary (midcareer): $116,000

Computer science and mathematics

What you learn: How computer science and mathematics intersect, computer tech and mathematical equations on which this tech is based

Roles: Those focused on tech and math; statistician and programmer

Median salary (midcareer): $111,000

Computer science and artificial intelligence

What you learn: Understanding environments, commands, and responding appropriately using computer intelligence

Role: Implementation of AI in smart phones, computers, robotics, healthcare, manufacturing, transport

Median salary (midcareer): $111,000

Information technology

What you learn: Designing, implementation, and maintenance of computer systems, tech networks, information security

Roles: Network architects, support specialists, research scientists; designing, installation and management of computer systems, networks

Median salary (midcareer): $101,000

Management information systems

What you learn: Information networks, databases, sociology, psychology, Internet ethics, project management

Roles: Information systems manager, computer systems analyst, implement and use databases and systems such that they most fruitfully serve business and customers

Median annual salary (starting-midcareer): $60,000-$104,000

Other IT degrees: Data analytics and business intelligence ($82,000), app development ($104,000), IT and cyber security ($96,000), robotics and mechanical engineering ($86,000), drone training/piloting ($52,000), virtual reality ($83,000), mechatronics and electrical/mechanical engineering ($84,000-$96,000),

Finance / business degree



What you learn: Corporate/individual finance and investment topics such as venture capital and private equity, accounting, management, and economics

Roles: Finance and investment manager and consultant, financial analyst, personal financial advisor

Median salary, starting to midcareer: $56,000-$97,000


What you learn: Management of funds nationally, internationally, how individuals and businesses manage money, the factors that influence the economy

Roles: Economist, financial manager, financial consultant, risk analyst, expert providing insights into economic models and plans

Median salary, starting to midcareer: $57,000-$106,000


What you learn: Keeping track of income and expenditure of businesses and individuals, allocating employee salary, checking sales figures

Roles: Accountant, auditor, budget analyst, risk assessor

Median salary, midcareer: $67,000

International business/finance

What you learn: International finance regulations and tax laws, traditional areas of business and finance degree courses

Roles: Business analytics manager, management analyst, logistics manager, banking manager, marketing manager

Median salary, starting to midcareer: $96,000-$130,000

Business administration

What you learn: Sales, finance, marketing, operations, HR

Roles: Manager/consultant in a variety of business areas

Median salary, starting to midcareer: $80,000-$150,000

Finance and economics

What you learn: Theoretical overview of trade in money, economic models, marketing and management skills

Roles: Employment in banking and insurance sectors, financial analysts

Median salary, midcareer: $82,000


What you learn: Marketing, accounting, negotiation, entrepreneurship

Roles: Various careers in marketing, sales, financial services

Median salary, midcareer: $186,000

Other finance/business degrees: Business administration (starting-midcareer: $49,000-$79,000), actuarial science (starting-midcareer: $63,000-$124,000), behavioral economics ($62,000 for market research analysts)

Medicine / healthcare degree



What you learn: Drugs and their interactions

Roles: Positions in pharmaceutical laboratories, pharmacies, hospitals

Median salary, midcareer: $105,000

Physical therapy

What you learn: Biology, anatomy, other areas of health sciences

Roles: Careers in hospitals, rehabilitation centers

Median salary, midcareer: $60,000


What you learn: Anatomy, biology, microbiology, nutrition, chemistry, nursing practice and theory

Roles: Careers in hospitals and clinics, treating the sick, offering emotional support to patients and their families, paperwork, helping doctors diagnose patients, providing advice and follow-up care

Median salary, starting to midcareer: $61,000-$78,000

Medical technology

What you learn: Biology, chemistry, clinical laboratory functions

Roles: Jobs in hospitals and laboratories

Median salary, midcareer: $71,000

Industrial/organizational psychology

What you learn: Psychology and human behavior in work environments

Roles: Specialized psychologists in industrial houses, coaching employees, identifying development needs, optimizing work life, developing criteria for performance evaluation

Median salary, midcareer: $103,000

Environment degree


Sustainability and renewable energy

What you learn: Conserving energy, developing alternative energy sources, recycling, reducing pollution, energy-saving buildings, manufacturing, sustainable transport

Roles: Clean-car engineers, sustainability professionals/builders, renewable project engineers, energy engineer, turbine technicians

Median salary: $85,000

Environmental Science

What you learn: Ways to enhance energy efficiency, implement alternative energy sources, deal with environmental pollution

Roles: Roles in developing and implementing sustainable business practices, water quality scientist, environmental engineer/consultant, marine biologist, nature conservation officer, landscape architect, toxicologist

Median salary: $49,000-$53,000 (of environmental scientist/specialist)

Other degrees for the future

Degree Salary
Physics starting-midcareer: $61,000-$110,000
Chemistry starting-midcareer: $48,000-$91,000
Material science starting-midcareer: $$68,000-$106,000
Mathematics $96,000
Physics and mathematics $110,000
Food science starting-midcareer: $50,000-$86,000
Statistics $98,000
Applied mathematics $110,000
Game design and art $71,000
Operations research $81,000
Computational linguistics $91,000
Classics, liberal arts starting-midcareer: $47,000-$85,000
Construction management starting-midcareer: $59,000-$100,000
Educational instructional design $70,000


Future-proof degrees: reality or myth?

Degrees in law, media and advertising, human resources, and education, not just those in STEM, can also lay stable career paths well into the future. The much-disparaged degrees in arts, humanities, and social sciences may survive, too.

No less a resource than Harvard Business Review has pointed out that to solve the biggest social and technological challenges, “we need to think critically about their human context, something that humanities graduates happen to be well trained to do.”

Surveys have found that though the arts, humanities, and social sciences are often thought of as less practical education choices for the future, this is only a misconception.

For example, humanities, it appears from studies, prepare students to become CEOs better than the usual degree choices. The arts teach us to think in the human context, which is worth its weight in gold in today’s tech-focused world.

So, no industrial sector or career field can afford to neglect any of these “finer” and “more creative” subjects or let them decline and die.

This would suggest that all degrees are, or ought to be, “future-proof,” as all sectors will need all of these subjects, and that it is a myth that only certain degrees or majors are “future-proof.”

Job prospects will continue to depend on your academic performance, the school where you graduate, and the city where you work.

The best insurance for your future career is to research the best degrees in your field according to potential and your interests, earn a degree, and work hard to be the best professional you can possibly be.

But yes, it might pay to keep an eye on those humanoids and make sure they are not looking your way.

Also read:
Liberal arts degree worth it or useless?
Is a college degree worth the cost or not?
Resources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13