PhD Degrees that Earn the Highest Salaries

Administration January 2023 PREMIUM
Thanks to the efforts of numerous persons, more Hispanics than ever before are attending college.

Although the dropout rate is still too high, hundreds of thousands have graduated. More should be encouraged to attend and graduate. The future belongs to college-trained individuals.

Time to sharpen our goal   

Without diminishing the primary goal, we should also work to encourage more Hispanics to earn a PhD, the pinnacle of American higher education. It is the mandatory requirement for many leadership positions. To secure tenure at quality universities the PhD is an absolute prerequisite. The private sector and governments offer suitable employment to PhD graduates as well.

Obtaining a doctorate requires an enormous amount of work and dedication. It also entails a substantial financial investment. High tuition and lost income for several years are the price paid by many. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth the effort. More Hispanics should be encouraged to enter the rarified community of scholars.

Which specialty offers the highest potential salary? 

One should not pick a career or pursue a PhD based solely on income potential. But it is good  to know that comfortable financial rewards exist for most PhDs. The STEM professions - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics - lead the way. PhDs in those fields pay the most, and serious financial assistance is readily available.

But STEM PhDs aren’t the only well-paying professions. A PhD in economics also nets a high salary, approximately $151,000 per year by the mid-point in one’s career. Electrical and computer engineering are among America's most lucrative PhDs, with early career pay at approximately $119,000, which could increase to $168,000 by one’s career mid-point.

The important goal is to earn a PhD in a field that really interests one and offers a variety of employment opportunities. The intellectual stimulation is thrilling, and career options expand exponentially for those who earn a doctorate.

Show me the money!

According to Grad School Hub’s article “10 Best Doctoral Degrees by Salary”, February 17, 2022 (see and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics , the 8 best doctoral degrees by salary are:

8 – PhD in Physics

Early Career Salary: $105,000

Mid-Career Salary: $158,000

More PhD Physicists are needed in academia and research. They work as professors, research advisors or lead physicists. Many begin their careers in academia as postdoctoral researchers and professors. Positions are projected to increase 9 percent by the year 2030. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, reports this specialized doctoral degree offers one of the highest mid-career salaries.

7 – PhD in Engineering

Early Career Salary: 103,600

Mid-Career Salary: $157,000

A PhD in engineering offers opportunities for independent research in chemical engineering, computer engineering, materials science, and mechanics. Some universities offer a general degree track instead of focusing on a particular specialty. Employment opportunities include director of engineering roles, engineering specialists, and project managers. The expected growth rate for engineering positions over the next decade is 7 percent, according to the BLS.

6 – PhD in Physical Chemistry

Early Career Salary: $87,600

Mid-Career Salary: $158,000

Physical chemistry studies chemical reactions and how matter behaves on both a molecular and atomic level. Most physical chemists with a PhD degree work in laboratories and research facilities, and are well prepared for careers dealing with high-tech and materials science. Although there is below-average job growth in this field, the median annual wage for physical chemists is in the middle of high-paying PhDs.

5 – PhD in Pharmacology

Early Career Salary: $88,400

Mid-Career Salary: $159,000

A PhD in pharmacology involves the study of drugs and chemicals on living organisms, and prepares professionals who will work as researchers or pharmacists in health organizations.  By building on a variety of disciplines - biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, neuroscience, and physiology - a PhD in pharmacology indicates a high level of expertise.

4 – PhD in Electrical Engineering

Early Career Salary: $123,000

Mid-Career Salary: $167,000

One hundred years ago, radio offered entertainment; fifty years later, television replaced it; today, personal computers and robotics are changing our world. These innovations and advancements required electrical engineering. Today, most team leaders in supervisory positions have a PhD in electrical engineering. PhDs in electrical engineering facilitate research and invention career paths in fields that offer steady growth, such as aviation, computing, manufacturing, and transportation.

3 – PhD in Computer Science

Early Career Salary: $138,000

Mid-Career Salary: $165,000

Most leadership roles in computer science require a PhD.  According to the BLS, the job outlook for computer scientists is expected to increase by 17 percent through the year 2030 (10 percent faster than the national average).  Computer science PhDs can work in both academic and non-academic areas. Non-academic jobs include computer hardware engineers, information research scientists, and specialists on multidisciplinary projects like data mining, programming, or robotics.

2 – PhD in Organic Chemistry

Early Career Salary: $94,400

Mid-Career Salary: $174,000

The mid-career salary for a PhD in organic chemistry is tied with chemical engineering, although the early career salary is lower. The BLS predicts steady employment through 2034. Organic chemistry majors are needed to lead research teams, and at universities.

1 – PhD in Chemical Engineering

Early Career Salary: $110,100

Mid-Career Salary: $176,500

Chemical engineering solves problems by drawing upon physical sciences, life sciences and mathematics. PhD programs provide students with expert knowledge in the use of chemicals, drugs, food, and fuel.

For several years, chemical engineering has been ranked as the top doctoral degree because it offers steady job growth and high early career and mid-career salaries.

Bottom line

Some Hispanics have already earned PhDs. More should be encouraged to follow them.

Income should not be the primary motivator. But it is okay as your secondary reason.

Rigorous academic programs are invigorating and liberating. A variety of interesting options present themselves upon graduation.

A PhD can lead to exciting and well-paying leadership positions in academia, government, the private sector and as an entrepreneur.

More than ever, many fellowships and financial aid programs exist, particularly for STEM majors. Employers frequently assist with doctoral expenditures. Exciting research projects as a student will enhance your employment possibilities.

Times are changing; many universities offer doctoral programs on a part-time schedule for working adults.

Discover your passion. Study your options. Follow your brain. Do It! 

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