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10 bachelor's degree jobs that pay well

With the costs of a college degree rising every year, many students are searching for the career that provides the best return on their investment. And it makes perfect sense. With students potentially committing several years of their lives and tens of thousands of dollars to higher education, it's certainly wise to determine whether their dream career is likely to pay off. The good news is, there are plenty of bachelor's degree jobs that pay well in a wide range of industries, such as engineering and management. The following list shows the 10 highest-paying careers that begin with a bachelor's degree, based on average annual salaries from May 2013, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2013.

1. Chief Executives: $178,400. It takes a lot to rise to the top of the ranks within any company or organization, but the rewards are plentiful for those who do. And while it's true that many CEOs have MBAs or other advanced degrees, it's not a necessity. The CEOs of Royal Dutch Shell, Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil all have bachelor's degrees but no higher credentials, according to a 2013 article from Forbes.

2. Petroleum Engineers: $149,180. These engineers design and develop strategies to extract oil and gas from below the earth's surface. In addition to a high average salary, they also have the highest average starting salary for new graduates, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). See the chart below for more information.

3. Architectural and Engineering Managers: $136,540. These professionals plan and direct the day-to-day activities of architectural and engineering firms.

4. Computer and Information Systems Managers: $132,570. Also called IT managers, these high-tech workers plan, coordinate, and direct all technology-related activities of their organizations.

5. Marketing Managers: $133,700. Marketing managers oversee the process of creating advertising, promotion or marketing plans for a product or service.

6. Natural Sciences Managers: $132,850. There is a lot of variety in the type of science this job can cover, as these managers can oversee the work of chemists, physicists and biologists, among others.

7. Airline Pilots, Copilots and Flight Engineers: $129,600. Commercial pilots tend to make less than corporate pilots, and while the wages can eventually be quite high, the BLS notes that the starting salary can be as low as $20,000 annually or less.

8. Financial Managers: $126,660. These managers use their experience and expertise to promote the financial health of their organization. Tasks can include producing reports, directing investments and creating long-term strategies.

9. Sales Managers: $123,150. Sales managers are in charge of directing sales teams and ensuring that company quotas and goals are met.

10. Computer Hardware Engineers: $106,930. These professionals typically work in laboratories, where they research, design, develop and test computer components and systems. While the growth for this career is slower than the average for all occupations, it is still a growing job, according to the BLS.

Bachelor's degree jobs with the best starting salaries

NACE publishes salary information for new graduates three times a year, and among their data is information about the college majors that garner the highest starting salaries. These jobs don't necessarily have the highest earning potential long-term, but there is some overlap between the data for the Class of 2014 and the list above of the highest-paying bachelor's degree jobs.

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How to find job information for your state

Many bachelor's degrees offer a surprising income potential. This list serves as a testament to just how far this kind of degree can take a person willing to put in the time and effort. It's important to note that the average wages a job pays can vary widely based on location. Anyone interested in conducting more research on high-paying industries, average wages and labor trends, can do so on the BLS website. The Occupational Employment Statistics include data on average hourly and annual wages for specific jobs, among other information.

Similarly, the U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop and O*NET OnLine also offer a diverse array of search functions that can help students find out more about specific careers. For example, the "Find Occupations" function on their site allows anyone to search for career data based on factors such as job zone, type of job, career outlook or industry. O*NET also has a function which allows individuals to search for the highest-paying occupations based on their level of education, which is extremely helpful for those searching specifically for potentially high-paying careers.

Sources:

"The Universities That Produce the Most CEOs," Susan Adams, Forbes, Sept. 25, 2013,
http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/09/25/the-universities-that-produce-the-most-ceos/

State Profile, CareerOneStop,
http://www.careerinfonet.org/select_state.asp?id=11&nodeid=12&next=state1

"Salary Survey: Top-Paid Majors for the Class of 2014," National Association of Colleges and Employers, April 16, 2014,
http://naceweb.org/s04162014/top-paid-majors-class-of-2014.aspx

Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central,
http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcst.htm

"Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/

Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm