Some of UWF’s Most Popular Degree Programs Also Most Lucrative

When thousands of university students start their programs this fall, they may be surprised to learn which programs may quickly propel them toward a full-time position and higher salary.

Data from the State University System indicates that registered nursing is the top program when considering employment outcomes, such as full-time wages and employment one year after graduation.

Eighty percent of 2014’s registered nursing graduates were employed full time in Florida the next year. The annualized full-time wages for this group of graduates was more than $57,000, nearly 81 percent over the median wages for all Florida full-time workers 25 and older ($31,527). When compared to other adults in the state that also have a bachelor’s degree, registered nursing graduates still earned 30 percent more than their median wages ($43,815).

UWF students posing for photo outside during graduation at the Civic Center.
The top 25 degree programs at UWF include the fields of nursing, engineering and education.

The most recent SUS data set is for the 2013-14 graduating class and includes information on the top 25 percent and the bottom 10 percent of all programs. Each program is ranked by its graduates’ annualized wages and the percent of them employed full time within the state. It is graphed by that information below with each point represented by a bubble that corresponds to the size of its graduating class.

The top 25 programs are an interesting mix of those usually presented as producers of great outcomes, like STEM (science, engineering, technology and math)-related majors, and other high performing specialties, like education. Indeed, more than one-third of the top 25 programs are education- or teaching-related. That subset is presented below. Teacher education, of multiple levels, had the highest annualized full-time wages, though elementary education and teaching produced the most graduates (1,742). Mathematics teacher education graduates were the most likely (88 percent) of all the top programs to be employed full time in Florida one year after earning their baccalaureate.

As perhaps expected, those students who graduated in electrical/communications, computer, mechanical, environmental or civil engineering were earning high annualized wages at approximately $50,000 or more. However, small and medium programs were not alone in presenting exceptional outcomes. Several of the top 25 programs were substantial in size, including business administration and management (2,260 graduates), finance (2,156 graduates) and accounting (1,965 graduates). By 2015, at least 60 percent of the 2014 cohort was employed and earning wages of more than $40,000.

The programs that fell into the bottom 10 percent included selections from various disciplines including medical microbiology and bacteriology; food science; classics, classical languages, and linguistics; dance; and exercise physiology. Zoology graduates earned the least in annualized wages in 2015 at only $24,440. None of these programs are currently offered by UWF.

Headshot of Amy Newburn.
Amy Newburn, assistant director of the Haas Center at UWF.

This type of data serves many uses for the university community and its prospective students. Many states provide this information as a public resource, and its collection may help students set educational and professional goals. Access to this information allows a student to calculate the potential return on investment they would receive from their university education as soon as one year post graduation. In addition, the SUS has incorporated employment and wage outcomes as metrics to consider in their performance funding model for all of Florida’s public universities.

The great success of the graduates of these programs may signal good things to come for University of West Florida students. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard, some of UWF’s most popular programs include many of those considered most successful, like business, management, marketing and related support services; health professions and related programs; and education.

Furthermore, the Employ Florida Marketplace suggests many of these most successful programs also have a positive job outlook in the Pensacola area. Many of these positions are in high demand, though again registered nursing leads the pack with 369 openings compared to Pensacola’s 84 annual program completions. Other programs that had high local demand include business administration; accounting; finance; business/commerce; and computer engineering.