10 Best Doctoral Degrees by Salary

Staff picture
Updated February 17, 2022

Doctoral Degrees by Salary

  • PhD in Statistics
  • PhD in Biomedical Engineering
  • PhD in Physics
  • PhD in Engineering
  • PhD in Physical Chemistry
  • PhD in Pharmacology
  • PhD Electrical Engineering
  • PhD in Computer Science
  • PhD in Organic Chemistry
  • PhD in Chemical Engineering

A doctoral degree (PhD) is the highest degree you can earn in a particular field, but obtaining it isn’t easy. On average, doctoral candidates dedicate seven to ten years of their life earning a doctorate after completing undergraduate work. However, the earning potential varies greatly depending on the discipline.

Some of the most lucrative PhDs offer six-figure early career salaries, while mid-career salaries (based on 10+ years of work experience in the field) exceed $130,000 per year.

To find out the best Phds with the greatest earning potential, we looked at PayScale’s College Salary Report, which included a list of the highest paying PhDs based on alumni salary. We listed the top 10 best PhDs in increasing order based on mid-career salaries. The degree in our #1 spot offers the highest salary potential based on ten or more years of experience working in the field.

Explore these promoted online degree programs.

These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online graduate degree programs. Figuring out where to apply? Consider one of these online Master’s or PhD programs.

What Are the Highest Paying Doctorate Degree Jobs?

#10 - PhD in Statistics

Early Career Salary: $105,000
Mid-Career Salary: $131,000

Statisticians help solve problems in businesses, healthcare industries, and organizations by collecting and analyzing data through statistical methods. Careers as statisticians require a master’s degree and beyond. Earning a doctoral degree in statistics sets you above the competition and offers a high earning potential. Also, the job outlook for statisticians is extremely favorable. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the projected growth rate is expected to increase by 33%, which is well above the national average. Industries employing statisticians include the federal government, financial institutions, and scientific research and development services. A PhD is required for most research positions.

#9 - PhD in Biomedical Engineering

Early Career Salary: $88,100
Mid-Career Salary: $133,000

Biomedical engineering has become a popular field of interdisciplinary research. This field is constantly evolving and requires experts well versed in life sciences, computational methods, and theory. Earning a PhD in biomedical engineering opens the door to research opportunities in a wide range of fields. Most biomedical engineers work in hospitals, manufacturing, research facilities, and universities. A doctoral degree is required for most research opportunities, especially at university settings. The job outlook is favorable. According to the BLS, the projected growth rate will increase by as much as 5% over the next seven years. Both early and mid-career salaries are also on the rise.

#8 - PhD in Physics

Early Career Salary: $93,700
Mid-Career Salary: $135,000

Physicists usually require a PhD for careers in academia and research. This high-paying doctoral degree leads to jobs as research advisors, lead physicists, or physics professors. After receiving a PhD, many degree candidates begin their careers in academia as postdoctoral researchers. Employment of physicists is projected to increase 7% between now and the year 2024, about as fast as the national average for all occupations. The BLS reports approximately 1,500 new jobs added to the 20,000 existing jobs over the next several years. This specialized doctoral degree offers one of the highest mid-career salaries on our list.

#7 - PhD in Engineering

Early Career Salary: $93,600
Mid-Career Salary: $137,000

A PhD in engineering is the highest degree offered in the field. While a doctoral degree is not required in many areas of engineering, research opportunities are only awarded to doctoral candidates and graduates. The degree offers several areas for independent research, such as chemical engineering, computer engineering, materials science, and mechanics. Some schools offer a general degree track instead of focusing on a particular specialty. Jobs for PhD candidates include director of engineering roles, engineering technicians, and project managers. On average, the expected growth rate for engineering jobs over the next seven years is 3%, according to the BLS.

Featured Online PhD Engineering Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

#6 - PhD in Physical Chemistry

Early Career Salary: $73,600
Mid-Career Salary: $138,000

According to the American Chemical Society, physical chemistry is the study of how matter behaves on both a molecular and atomic level. It is also the study of how chemical reactions occur. Most physical chemists work in laboratories and research facilities. These research opportunities require the highest degree possible in the field. Earning a PhD in physical chemistry provides ideal training for high-tech and materials science careers that pay extremely well. While the job growth is below average for physical chemists, the median annual wage puts this doctoral degree in the middle of our list of high-paying PhDs.

#5 - PhD in Pharmacology

Early Career Salary: $75,400
Mid-Career Salary: $141,000

A PhD in pharmacology lays the groundwork for a career as a researcher or pharmacist in various health organizations. PhD programs offer rigorous training in the study of drugs and chemicals on living organisms. These programs build on biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, neuroscience, and physiology disciplines, preparing degree candidates as experts in their research. While the mid-career salary is high, entry-level pay can be average depending on work location. For instance, grocery store pharmacists may earn a lower salary than an entry-level research pharmacist. According to the BLS, the job outlook for pharmacists is expected to be 3%, which is slower than the 7% average growth rate.

#4 - PhD Electrical Engineering

Early Career Salary: $103,000
Mid-Career Salary: $144,000

Advances in electrical engineering are seen in everyday life. One hundred years ago, the radio offered entertainment and fifty years later, the television replaced it. These innovations and advancements require electrical engineering. Earning a PhD in electrical engineering opens the door to research and invention career paths in fields that offer steady growth such as aviation, computing, manufacturing, and transportation. Career advancement often requires further education and training. Most team leaders holding supervisory positions have advanced degrees like a PhD in electrical engineering.

#3 - PhD in Computer Science

Early Career Salary: $118,000
Mid-Career Salary: $145,000

A PhD in computer science allows students to become experts within a technical subfield of computer science. Applicants to this type of doctoral degree program should have obtained a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or show evidence of preparation in related subjects. Most computer research scientist roles require a PhD. The BLS reports the job outlook for computer scientists is expected to increase by 15% through the year 2024 (8% faster than the national average). Both academic and non-academic careers are accessible to PhD graduates of computer science. Non-academic jobs include computer hardware engineers, information research scientists, or other specialists on multidisciplinary projects like data mining, programming, or robotics.

#2 - PhD in Organic Chemistry

Early Career Salary: $83,400
Mid-Career Salary: $146,000

The mid-career salary for a PhD in organic chemistry is tied with chemical engineering, although the early career salary is lower. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment change is steady, but the job outlook through 2024 is only 4% (slower than the 7% average). Most organic chemistry doctoral candidates pursue jobs in research and find themselves leading research teams, while some find teaching jobs in colleges and universities. Advanced research jobs require PhDs in organic chemistry from accredited institutions with programs approved by the American Chemical Society.

#1 - PhD in Chemical Engineering

Early Career Salary: $96,100
Mid-Career Salary: $146,000

Chemical engineering is a branch of engineering that combines physical sciences like chemistry and physics, life sciences like biochemistry and microbiology, and mathematics to solve problems in the use of chemicals, drugs, food, or fuel. Chemical engineering PhD programs are designed to equip engineering professionals with expert knowledge of the field's core fundamentals and current research practices and findings. In recent years, chemical engineering has been recognized as the best doctoral degree by salary-offering steady job growth and high early career and mid-career salaries. Chemical engineers often work in biotechnology and business services as researchers.

Everything You Should Know About the Highest Paying Doctorates

As you research and navigate which doctoral path will best direct you toward your chosen field, your decision process will involve other important factors for consideration. Doctoral programs differ tremendously from each other, one key difference being research versus professional doctoral programs. As you begin to review the programs you’re interested in, do your best to find out how well the program will fit with your lifestyle, learning style, and long-term goals. 

When is a good time to earn a Ph.D? 

Since there is no such thing as the perfect time to earn a doctorate degree, you’ll have to find the time frame that works best for you. Finding the right time for you to pursue your Ph.D. is important because it takes a long time to earn it — anywhere from 4-8 years. Some people choose to complete their higher education degrees all at once, however, this doesn’t work for everyone. Life’s circumstances get in the way or perhaps you wish to get some career experience first before you seek a Ph.D. 

How can I pay for my Ph.D? 

There are three common ways to pay for your Ph.D.

  • Pay for it yourself through federal financial aid, scholarships, loans, or out of pocket: This method can be a challenge to meet financially for many but, for some, it is doable. If you’re looking for financial assistance, you can apply for loans, scholarships, and federal financial aid in order to make that price tag a bit more affordable.
  • Teach at the university you’re attending: A common way for students to earn the financial support they need to earn their Ph.D. is to teach at the school they are attending. This can cut down on their costs for their education as well as put money toward it. Many graduate students land teaching assistant jobs that provide flexibility for their students, as enough compensation to cover a portion of their tuition.  
  • Ask your employer to pay for it: Many companies and organizations will offer financial support to their employees to pursue their higher education and offer tuition assistance. Whether you qualify for tuition assistance, however, may depend on the type of degree you are pursuing.

Can I do my Ph.D. online? 

There are not many Ph.D. programs that are offered online, but this depends on the type of degree you are pursuing. Creating an online Ph.D. program isn’t impossible, however, doctorate degrees are contoured to individual students and often require taking in-person exams or labs in-person at some point.

Explore these promoted online degree programs.

These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online graduate degree programs. Figuring out where to apply? Consider one of these online Master’s or PhD programs.

This concludes our listing of the 10 Best Doctoral Degrees by Salary.

Latest Posts