Highest Paying Jobs for Recent College Grads

May is fast approaching, leading many soon-to-be college graduates to ask the question, “What next?” As you ponder whether you should enter the workforce right away, take a year off or continue on to graduate school, consider these five highest-paying jobs for college graduates.

All of these jobs require only a bachelor’s degree, not an advanced degree. They’ve also been chosen with higher-than-average starting salaries in mind. Under each of these five jobs, you will see the median wage as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These median wages represent roughly what you can expect to earn within this occupation after gaining a few years’ experience.

5. Mechanical Engineer

Median wage: $78,160

According to a Forbes article from February 2013, students with a degree in mechanical engineering have an average starting salary of $62,900. Mechanical engineers work in a wide variety of work environments, from working with architectural and engineering firms to design buildings to working for NASA designing satellites.

4. Chemical Engineer

Median wage: $90,300

Chemical engineering is another college major that lends itself to a high starting salary. In fact, their starting salaries tend to be even higher than mechanical engineers; chemical engineering jobs usually start around $66,000.

3. Software Developer

Median wage: $90,530

You may notice that software development is the only occupation on this list that does not require a degree in engineering. A creative, resourceful computer science major who is not an engineer can find a job as a software developer that starts at around $64,400.

2. Aerospace Engineer

Median wage: $97,480

Aerospace engineers are the people who design, manufacture and/or test planes, jets, space shuttles and their related components. They often work for companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing; they also work for the U.S. military or another “wing” of the federal government. Entry-level jobs for aerospace engineers start at around $64,000.

1. Computer Hardware Engineer

Median wage: $98,800

Computer hardware engineers develop the hardware that makes everything from cell phones to supercomputers run. Most computer hardware engineers work for private companies like Intel; some hardware engineers work in scientific research; a small percentage work for the government. The starting salary for a computer engineering major is typically just over $70,400.

Conclusion: Beware, These Jobs Include Stiff Competition

Before you rush to switch your major to computer engineering, you should be aware that almost all of these jobs have very stiff competition. According to BLS, four out of the five of these jobs are expected to grow at a rate “slower than average” over the next decade. In essence, that means that they are such desirable jobs that there are more people qualified for them than there are positions available.

The one exception on this list is software development. The BLS projects that this occupation will grow by 30 percent over the next decade, a rate it calls “much faster than average.” The slowest-growing of these occupations is aerospace engineering, which will grow by only 5 percent between 2010 and 2020.