What Majors Make the Most Money? Your Guide to the Top 50

what majors make the most money

What Majors Make the Most Money? Your Guide to the Top 50

Published September 30, 2023

what majors make the most money

A student’s choice of college major holds the power to shape their future career and financial opportunities. While following your passions is undeniably important, it’s equally vital to weigh the earning potential of the majors you’re considering. In this article, we’ll delve into the factors that should inform your decision and shed light on the majors that make the most money.

How to Choose a Major

As you consider college majors, think about your interests, job market demand, and earning potential:

  • Personal Interests and Passions: Your interests and passions are at the core of your major selection. Consider what subjects or fields genuinely excite you, as studying something you love can lead to a more fulfilling career.
  • Job Market Demand: Research the current job market to identify areas with high demand for professionals. Industries with shortages often offer more competitive salaries.
  • Salary Potential: While financial stability is important, it shouldn’t be the sole driving factor. However, it’s essential to understand the earning potential associated with different majors.

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Which Majors Make the Most Money?

In today’s tech-driven work, the top-earning majors include engineering, computer science/software engineering, medical/healthcare, and applied economics. 

  • Engineering Majors: Engineering disciplines such as petroleum engineering, computer engineering, and electrical engineering rank high in earning potential. Engineers possess highly sought-after technical skills and problem-solving abilities, making them indispensable across various industries.
  • Computer Science and Software Engineering: In today’s tech-driven world, professionals proficient in computer science and software engineering are in high demand. Graduates in these majors often find rewarding careers as software developers, data analysts, and systems architects.
  • Medical and Healthcare Fields: Pursuing careers in medicine, dentistry, or physician assistant studies can lead to substantial financial rewards. The healthcare industry consistently experiences a demand for skilled professionals, reflecting in the competitive salaries offered.
  • Applied economics and management: Graduates in this major often secure well-paying positions in various sectors, utilizing their expertise in economics, business management, and decision-making to drive financial success. With a strong foundation in both economics and practical management skills, professionals in this field are highly valued for their ability to make informed, profit-driven choices.

The detailed lists below should help you better understand the earning potential for various college majors you could choose.

The 50 Highest-Paying Majors (Undergraduate)

Majors are ranked by mid-career pay to show the fuller earning potential. Keep in mind that they are averages. These figures come from Payscale.

RankMajorMid-Career PayEarly-Career Pay
1Petroleum Engineering$212,500$97,500
2Operations Research & Industrial Engineering$191,800$98,300
3Interaction Design$173,600$74,700
4Applied Economics and Management$164,400$76,500
5Building Science$163,100$69,000
6Actuarial Mathematics$160,000$70,700
6Operations Research$160,000$92,200
8Systems Engineering$159,100$87,000
9Optical Science & Engineering$158,300$79,600
10Information & Computer Science$157,800$76,000
11Aeronautics & Astronautics$156,900$88,200
12Aerospace Studies$154,300$62,600
13Pharmacy$154,000$69,400
14Cognitive Science$153,800$78,000
15Managerial Economics$153,300$74,700
16Quantitative Economics$152,700$74,500
17Econometrics$152,100$72,000
18Foreign Affairs$152,000$62,900
19Chemical Engineering$151,800$85,600
20Public Accounting$151,200$69,700
21Political Economy$150,600$73,100
22Corporate Accounting & Finance$149,600$76,800
23Actuarial Science$149,000$76,700
24Computer Engineering (CE)$148,500$89,100
25Electrical Power Engineering$148,300$84,700
26Computer Science (CS) & Engineering$148,200$90,500
27Marine Transportation Management$148,000$78,700
28Marine Engineering$147,500$87,900
28Operations & Information Systems Management$147,500$78,800
30Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE)$147,000$88,100
31Entrepreneurship & Marketing$145,800$63,200
32Astronomy$145,600$75,300
33Mechatronics$144,300$80,900
34Computational & Applied Mathematics$144,100$85,700
35Aeronautical Engineering$143,400$84,200
36Welding Engineering$143,300$86,600
37Electrical Engineering (EE)$143,000$84,900
38Electrical & Electronics Engineering (EEE)$142,900$83,900
39Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering$142,800$82,800
40Instrumentation & Control Engineering$141,900$82,800
41Construction Engineering Management$141,800$78,100
42Computer Science (CS) & Mathematics$141,000$80,300
43Engineering Physics$140,300$78,600
44Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering$139,900$80,900
45Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering$139,700$86,000
45Computer Science (CS)$139,700$85,400
47Jazz Studies$139,400$60,000
48Bioscience$139,300$59,900
49Information Management$139,000$67,000
50Aerospace Engineering$138,100$83,500

Is Graduate School Worth It?

Graduate school can significantly boost your income potential, particularly in fields like animal sciences, biology, political science, zoology, health and medical preparatory programs, pre-law, legal studies, and chemistry, where postgraduate degrees often lead to more than a 50% income increase.

To make an informed decision, start thinking about graduate school as early as possible – even while selecting your undergraduate major. Consider the financial aspect carefully by comparing the potential income increase with the cost of graduate education and the opportunity cost of not working during that period.

Calculate your break-even point, the moment when the extra income earned with an advanced degree exceeds what you would have earned without it. This financial analysis will help you determine if graduate school aligns with your long-term career and financial goals.

Final Thoughts on Majors That Make the Most Money

No one is guaranteed to earn the median salary in any major. There will be those who earn less and those who earn more.

Often, financial success depends just as much – if not more – on commitment, drive, networking, work ethic, leadership, risk taking and smart decision making.

But the field you choose to study is a big factor that puts you on the path to your future. How you travel that path is up to you.

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