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Best Paid STEM Degrees for US International Students in 2023 

 June 20, 2023

By  Chuky Ofoegbu

In this article, you will learn about the best paid STEM degrees for US international students in 2023. Where STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics.

Now I have written this blog post specifically for the US international student audience, going beyond what one could find from salary survey websites.

Given that US international students face unique sets of challenges in the US job market, the career advice given to a typical US domestic student is not always applicable to an international student. 

Therefore, when choosing a US degree to pursue as an international student, special considerations need to be made.

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Everything you must know as a prospective international student, from choosing your school to your first day of classes!

Why Pursue a STEM Degree as a US International Student

As a US international student, here are some benefits of pursuing a STEM degree. 

3 Year Work Authorization After Obtaining Your STEM Degree 

STEM degrees are very attractive to international students because they provide an opportunity - particularly for students on an F1 visa - to work in the US for up to 3 years after the completion of the degree. 

This work authorization is given in the form of post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) for up to 12 months, after which an F1 visa student could obtain an additional 24 months of work authorization, called the STEM OPT Extension. 

A Stable and Growing Industry

It is no surprise that with rapid technological advancements in many US industries, there is a high demand for graduates with degrees in the STEM field, and international students are included. 

Higher Starting Salaries

Year after year, STEM degrees top the charts for college degrees with the highest salaries, especially at the undergraduate level. 

Many graduates with graduate-level degrees in non-STEM fields receive average starting salaries that are much lower than those of graduates with 4-year Bachelor's degrees in STEM fields. 

Do All STEM Degrees Pay High Salaries?

A major myth about STEM degrees is that all STEM degrees pay high starting salaries.

But nothing could be farther from the truth!

The truth is that only Technology and Engineering degrees pay high starting salaries over a narrow range, while the degrees in Science and Mathematics have starting salary ranges that are very wide. 

For example, a graduate with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Chemistry earns a median starting salary of $40,000 , which is significantly less than half of the starting salary of the top engineering Bachelor degrees. 

This discrepancy between the salaries in Technology and Engineering degrees compared to those in Science and Mathematics is because many graduates with degrees in Science and Mathematics go on to pursue careers in education while graduates with degrees in Technology and Engineering generally pursue careers in industry, which pays more. 

How We Determined the Best Paid STEM Degrees for US International Students

Here, we have analyzed 2020 median salary reports from several US universities across the United States, and interpreted the results considering the real world job market that an international student would face with each STEM degree.

After several days of number crunching, we have come up with a list of the STEM majors with the highest starting salaries, tailored for the US international student community.

In other words, we have done the work for you, so you don't have to!

As a former international student, I would have found this information extremely invaluable prior to starting my international education in the US.

I strongly believe that this information will enable you to make the right decisions when choosing your future career track and would help in maximizing the returns on your US international education investment.

10 Best Paid STEM Degrees for US International Students

These are the 10 best paid STEM majors for US international students in 2023, ranked according to the highest median starting salary with a Bachelor’s degree.

A median salary means that 50% of the reported salaries are above this number and 50% are below this number.

Generally, graduates with Master's and PhD degrees in these STEM fields can expect median starting salaries that are $10,000 or higher.

#10 - Actuarial Science at $66,000

Actuarial science makes the list of the top 10  best paid STEM majors for international students as one of the few non-Engineering majors

Have you ever wondered how your motor insurance quote was determined? That's from predictive analysis automated by an Actuary.

The actuarial profession is one of the least understood profession by the general public.  But what actuaries do has a profound impact on all of our daily lives.

Graduates with Bachelor’s degrees in actuarial science typically work for insurance companies, where they use their knowledge of math, probability and statistics to analyze and manage the financial costs of risks and uncertainty. 

Becoming a certified actuary in the US requires several years of experience beyond the Bachelor’s degree in addition to passing several certification exams, upon which one could command annual salaries easily over $100K. 

#9 - Biomedical Engineering at $66,500

Biomedical engineers design medical equipment ranging in size from MRI machines to nanorobots used in fighting cancer

Biomedical engineers work in the healthcare industry, creating products that can range from full-body imaging equipment such as MRI machines to nanorobots.

Top companies recruiting international students with degrees in biomedical engineering are GE Healthcare, Philips & Johnson & Johnson.  

Grab Our Free Guide - Roadmap to Studying in the USA

Everything you must know as a prospective international student, from choosing your school to your first day of classes!

#8 - Statistics and Data Science at $67,000

In the age where industries seek to maximize profits using big data, graduates with degrees in data science and statistics are needed in just about any industry.

As an international student with a degree in statistics and data science, you could start a career as a big data analyst or a big data scientist, which are in high demand by tech Giants such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google. 

Outside of the booming tech industry, international students with degrees in data science could start a career in just about any type of industry. 

With more years of experience as a data scientist, you can expect annual salaries well over $100,000.  

#7 - Aerospace Engineering at $67,500

Securing a job in the aerospace sector is quite challenging for international students due to strict US regulations

Pursuing an aerospace engineering degree as an international student in the US should be done with caution.

Of all STEM-related industries international students and professionals could start a career in, the US aerospace industry makes the list of the toughest industries/sectors for foreign nationals. 

This is due to the strict US government regulations the industry operates under.

Nevertheless, a degree in aerospace engineering could also be applied outside the aerospace industry such as the automotive industry. 

#6 - Industrial/Systems Engineering at $69,000

Industrial engineers are one of the most versatile in the engineering profession, as they can work in any industry.

A career as an industrial/systems engineer is well suited for people who like engineering just enough but don’t want to be stuck in the technical side of engineering for too long.

Most industrial engineers quickly move on to management positions across a wide variety of industries in their career. 

#5 - Mechanical Engineering at $70,000

Mechanical engineering makes our list of the top 5 best paid STEM Degrees for international students given the versatility and job stability of mechanical engieers.

Mechanical engineering makes the list of the top 10 majors international students pursue in the US.

Given the broad applications of mechanical engineering, international students with a degree in mechanical engineering can pursue careers in several industries, such as the automotive, semiconductor manufacturing, and tech industries - all of which are very friendly industries for international students and foreign professionals. 

Grab Our Free Guide - Roadmap to Studying in the USA

Everything you must know as a prospective international student, from choosing your school to your first day of classes!

#4 - Chemical Engineering at $74,500

Chemical engineering makes our list of the top 5 best paid STEM Degrees for international students given the stability of the industry.

Chemical engineering makes our list of the top 5 best paid STEM Degrees for international students given the stability of the industry. 

Chemical engineers work across several industries from food production, healthcare to chemical manufacturing. 

#3 - Electrical and Electronics Engineering at $75,000 

Top companies hiring international students with electrical and electronics engineering degrees are; Apple, IBM, HP.

Electrical and Electronics Engineering makes the list of the top 5 majors international students pursue in the US.

Similar to mechanical engineers, electrical and electronics engineers could pursue careers in a wide variety of industries.

Top companies hiring international students with electrical and electronics engineering degrees are; Apple, IBM, HP. 

#2 - Computer Science at $85,500

Computer science degrees are one of the best paid STEM Degrees for international students

It’s no surprise that computer science degrees are the #1 STEM degree international students pursue in the US. Many international students come to the US with the dream of starting a career with tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple.

Computer science degrees are the most in-demand degrees in STEM.

Thus, it’s no surprise that it is the #1 STEM degree international students pursue in the US.

It’s the dream of most international students to get careers with the tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple - all of which aggressively compete for tech talent. 

#1 - Petroleum Engineering at $96,000

International students pursuing petroleum engineering degrees in the US need to be aware of the cyclic employment nature of the industry.

Petroleum engineering is the most specialized major on this list, with less than 25 university programs offering degrees in the US. 

Across the oil and gas industry, petroleum engineers mostly work as drilling and production engineers, while the minority work as reservoir engineers, and command a much higher pay. 

While Petroleum engineers might rank #1 on the list, the employment prospects of graduates with petroleum engineering degrees depend strongly on oil prices.

Since the crash in oil prices in 2014, there have been fewer job opportunities for petroleum engineers, and all US universities have seen a steep decline in the number of students enrolling in Petroleum Engineering degree programs.

Graph showing decline in petroleum engineering enrollment since 2014

Steady decline in petroleum engineering enrollment at US universities since 2015 (from https://energyfuse.org/petroleum-engineering-enrollment-is-in-decline-should-industry-worry/)

Interestingly, the oil and gas industry is largely dominated by mechanical engineers and chemical engineers.

So international students who strongly wish to pursue careers in the US oil and gas industry might want to consider studying mechanical engineering or chemical engineering as a back up to the cyclic employment nature of the oil and gas industry. 

Conclusion

While obtaining a degree with a high starting salary is an important consideration, salaries alone are not the end all be all when choosing a career.

A rewarding and fulfilling career can only be attained when your passion is in alignment with your occupation. 

To get started on your journey to study in the United States, grab your FREE copy of the International Student's RoadMap to the USA.

Grab Our Free Guide - Roadmap to Studying in the USA

Everything you must know as a prospective international student, from choosing your school to your first day of classes!

Chuky Ofoegbu


With almost a decade of experience pursuing higher education in the United States, I fully understand the pain points foreign students endure. I created this website to help foreign students successfully navigate their way through the challenges they will face while living in the United States.

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