If there were a most popular degree among post-secondary degrees, it would be the bachelor degree. Careers and earning power aside, the bachelor degree feels more prestigious than the associate’s degree but not as intimidating as master’s or doctorate degrees. By the numbers, bachelor degree-holders make $258 more on average per week and their unemployment rate is 1.9% lower than that of associate degree-holders. In short, a bachelor degree opens doors to opportunities that associate’s degree-holders just don’t have.

But not all bachelor degree programs are created equal. How do you know which ones will offer the most job security and the best pay after graduation? Luckily, lots of people keep track fo these numbers. Using data from a report by Economic Modeling Specialists International, which measured job growth and hourly salary for varying careers from 2009 to 2011, we forumlated a composite score for each career to create this list of the ten careers that offer the best combination of job growth and pay for bachelor degree-holders:

1. Petroleum Engineers

Total job growth: 2,860
% job growth: 11%
Med. hourly salary: $53.62

As seen on the graph above, petroleum engineers make a lot of money and their percentage of job growth is nothing to sniff at either. Both of these are enough to put this career at the top of our list. While you might not end up on a space shuttle tasked with drilling into a planet-killing asteroid, as a petroleum engineer you could expect to spend most of your time figuring out how to get oil and gas out of the earth so it can be used/sold by energy companies. This is big business and often takes workers out into remote areas, which is why companies are willing to pay so much.

If you want to be a petroleum engineer, you’ll want to get a bachelor degree in engineering (petroleum engineering, preferably). If you can find a program that let’s you get job experience while you learn, this kind of experience is very valuable once you graduate.

2. Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts

Total job growth: 28,360
% job growth: 13%
Med. hourly salary: $35.43

Most workplaces that have many computers need someone to build the system that ties them all together. Once that system is built, someone has to maintain it and keep it working. That’s where network and computer systems administrators come in. Like our number one, network systems and data communications analysts have a very comfortable job growth rate and a very nice salary. Typically, you need at least a bachelor degree to qualify for positions in this career field, but some positions might require additional certification.

You can learn more about degree programs in this career field at our Networking Engineering page.

3. Dietitians and Nutritionists

Total job growth: 16,567
% job growth: 38%
Med. hourly salary: $25.17

Ah, food. It’s right up there with air, water, shelter, and warmth. Although salaries in this field are only decent, it’s the eye-catching percentage of job growth (the biggest on this list) that launched this one to our number three spot. This means that, even though this hasn’t been a huge career field in the past, it’s going to blow up in the coming years.

As health and diet becomes a bigger issue through the rest of this decade, you can expect that dietitians and nutritionists (who help people and organizations learn how to eat food that will promote health and fight disease) will be on the front lines. A bachelor degree and supervised training is typically required and, in some states, a license. For starters, you might want to start taking classes in Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics.

If you’re curious and want to know more about degree programs in this field, skip over to our Nutrition Science page for more info.

4. Biomedical Engineers

Total job growth: 2,959
% job growth: 20%
Med. hourly salary: $38.05

With awesome pay and job growth, it’s not hard to see why this one made our top four. Like so many other careers on this list, biomedical engineers reside in the ever-growing healthcare industry, trying to figure out better gadgets and processes for serving patients. There are a few ways to get into this job field. You can get a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from an accredited school or you can get another engineering degree and then get a graduate degree or experience in biomedical engineering. To get a good start in this field, you’ll need to take classes in Mathematics, Biology, Design, and Engineering.

5. Computer Software Engineers, Applications

Total job growth: 25,164
% job growth: 5%
Med. hourly salary: $42.32

This a very well paid and often under-staffed career field. Even during the recession, computer software engineer jobs went un-filled because there just weren’t enough of these skilled engineers to go around. And while that job growth seems to be slowing, the pay is still very nice. Why are these guys so valuable to companies? Because companies of all sorts and sizes need someone to build their software and they need them to do it well and on time… or risk losing a lot of money.

To see a sampling of degree programs in this career, jump over to our Software Development degrees page.

6. Social Workers, All Other

Total job growth: 22,654
% job growth: 33%
Med. hourly salary: $23.51

If there were one job you wouldn’t expect to see on this kind of list, it might be social work. But the fact of the matter is, demand for these hard-working individuals has never been higher and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Tackling issues like poverty, abuse, and mental health, social workers make it their mission to make society better. Most organizations will require a bachelor degree to start working in this challenging field.

7. Computer Software Engineers, Systems Software

Total job growth: 14,502
% job growth: 4%
Med. hourly salary: $45.33

With awesome pay, but only moderate job growth, computer software engineers don’t create all the sexy apps and programs you usually think of, but they do build all the programs in the background that keep them running. Want to get in on this goodness? You’ll need to brush up on Math, Computer Programming, and Engineering. A bachelor degree isn’t required in this field. A few gifted individuals teach themselves on their home computers. But a bachelor degree program can be a good way to speed things up.

8. Training and Development Managers

Total job growth: 2,655
% job growth: 9%
Med. hourly salary: $42.66

This one surprised us. For training and development managers, pay is awesome and job growth is promising. And it makes complete sense. As companies fight to compete, they need their employees to perform better than before. To do that, they need someone figuring out how to train their employees with the necessary skills to improve. Bachelor, and sometimes masters, degrees are required in this field. To prepare for this field, you’ll want to take classes in Education, Human Resources, and Management.

9. Education Administrators, All Other

Total job growth: 2,707
% job growth: 10%
Med. hourly salary: $36.02

As elementary, secondary, and college education become more important, and as more people need to be educated, someone needs to run the show. And that someone is education administrators. With impressive job growth and salary, education administrators need to have a unique combination of knowledge in education and management. Bachelor degrees are required, of course (or they wouldn’t be on this list:).

10. Medical and Health Services Managers

Total job growth: 12,295
% job growth: 5%
Med. hourly salary: $39.69

Stellar pay and total job growth scooted medical and health services managers into the top ten. Along with the rest of the healthcare industry, these jobs will be going strong for the foreseeable future. You’ll need to a bachelor degree to get in on the action. A master degree is probably a good idea, too.

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