5 doctorate degree fields that could lead to a six-figure paycheck

Japanese immunologist and co-laureate of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Tasuku Honjo, receives his Nobel Prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

By Shekinah Kannan 

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Are you looking for a qualification that could position you for career advancement? You might want to consider pursuing a doctorate degree. Apart from demonstrating the ability to draft a 80,000 word document, this qualification shows employers a candidate’s ability to conduct and analyse research.

Doctorate degree holders have an arsenal of skills — apart from research, these graduates are equipped with solid writing skills, strong public speaking skills, critical thinking, and project management, among others.

Little wonder why PhD holders boast of a strong ROI. Did you know that those with a doctorate earn an average of 63% more than others with a bachelor’s degree?

If you are interested in reaping these rewards, here’s a closer look at the top five highest-paying doctorate degrees for 2021:



In light of COVID-19, the field of immunology has been booming. A branch of medicine that deals with disease immunity, research scientists or specialists with a PhD in immunology study, analyse, or treat diseases keep the human body protected.

These professionals dedicate their expertise exploring diseases that affect natural immunity such as allergies, sinus inflations, pneumonia, and abscesses that pop up despite treatment. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), they take home an annual median salary of 206,500 US dollars.


Are you interested in the science of drugs? Individuals with a PhD in pharmacology are qualified to explore several different career paths. Most will involve laboratory work and/or research. However, they could also branch into education or management. 

Graduates could explore careers as a medical scientist, biochemist, medical writer, pharmaceutical sales representative, pharmaceutical lab scientist, medical liaison and more. The BLS projects that salaries in the field could go up to US$162,900.


For aspiring physicists interested in careers in academia and research, a PhD is typically a prerequisite. Acquiring the qualification entails spending plenty of time in classroom lectures and research laboratories. 

Graduates step into the workforce with a strong knowledge of the materials our universe is made up of. They are also equipped to effectively explain their findings to others. The median annual wage for physicists was US$129,850 in May 2020.

Data Science

It goes without saying that data is taking over our world. That said, it only makes sense that the demand for data specialists and researchers will continue to grow in decades to come. Qualified data scientists can expect to explore careers in the fields of business, finance, government, healthcare, social networking and technology.

With a doctorate degree, they will hone their research skills to make a larger impact in any of these fields. The hard work comes with a rewarding annual salary – US$126,830 to be exact.


Aerospace Engineering

Those with a background in science or engineering seek out a PhD in aerospace engineering to join an elite category of qualified candidates. These professionals do not just develop capabilities to build, develop, and test aircrafts or spacecrafts — they also gain the ability to teach and conduct research.

From developing new technologies for the aviation industry, defense systems, and more — a doctorate in this field essentially specialising in “rocket science.” According to the BLS, the annual median salary for these graduates could go up to US$118,610.