Majors That Make the Most Money

Majors That Make the Most Money

The point at which a high schooler seriously starts thinking about college is a monumental moment and with it comes many daunting decisions.

 Students decide where to go, whether or not to take a gap year, what to major in, etc. 

Figuring out what to major in comes with its own set of considerations.

While choosing a major shouldn’t  be based solely on a student’s interests, it often is.

Eventually, however, the topic of career earnings will sneak into the picture.

Mark Twain, who actually dropped out of school in the 5th grade to become a printer’s apprentice, said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

As “nice” as that sounds, it may not be a very practical way of looking at things.

With college costs being so high, and student loan debt rising to keep up with the increase, it would be silly to not include earning potential in your decision-making when looking at majors.

With that in mind, we have compiled a list of the top majors by wage and offer some advice on ways to increase your earning potential even more, depending on your major.

Once you absorb this information  you’ll hopefully have the answers to questions such as: What should I major in to make a lot of money? What are the easiest college majors that pay well? What is the highest paying major? What is the most popular major?

 

Why Does Choosing a Major Matter?

As stated above, choosing your major is extremely important, arguably second only to deciding whether to attend college at all and where to go.

Understanding how much a major is worth is key to unlocking the full potential of your college experience. You wouldn’t want to get a poor return on your investment after purchasing something from a store, so why would you not consider the ROI when investing in a college education?

Thirty-fiver percent of jobs today require a bachelor’s degree or higher. The lists below should help you better understand what you will get receive monetarily from college, depending on the major you choose.

It is also important to keep in mind that these numbers are all averages and other skills such as networking and work ethic can equally impact your earnings over time.

The salary numbers listed below have been collected from a recent study performed by Georgetown University and a separate database from Payscale.

 

Top 10 Highest Paid Majors (Undergraduate)

Petroleum Engineering 

Early Career Pay: $92,300

Median Earnings: $136,000

Mid-Career Pay: $182,000

Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration

Early Career Pay: $63,000

Median Earnings: $113,000

Mid-Career Pay: $133,000

Metallurgical Engineering 

Early Career Pay: $79,100

Median Earnings: $98,000

Mid-Career Pay: $117,700

Mining and Mineral Engineering 

Early Career Pay: $75,200

Median Earnings: $97,000

Mid-Career Pay: $116,100

Chemical Engineering 

Early Career Pay: $73,500

Median Earnings: $96,000

Mid-Career Pay: $128,900

Electrical Engineering 

Early Career Pay: $71,800

Median Earnings: $93,000

Mid-Career Pay: $121,400

Aerospace Engineering 

Early Career Pay: $73,400

Median Earnings: $90,000

Mid-Career Pay: $117,500

Mechanical Engineering 

Early Career Pay: $67,600

Median Earnings: $87,000

Mid-Career Pay: $111,500

Computer Engineering 

Early Career Pay: $74,600

Median Earnings: $87,000

Mid-Career Pay: $123,200

Geological and Geophysical Engineering 

Early Career Pay: $59,100

Median Earnings: $87,000

Mid-Career Pay: $95,600

 

Top 10 Lowest Paid Majors (Undergraduate)

Family and Consumer Sciences

Early Career Pay: $40,500

Median Earnings: $45,000

Mid-Career Pay: $64,900

Drama and Theater Arts

Early Career Pay: $41,500

Median Earnings: $45,000

Mid-Career Pay: $78,600

Elementary Education

Early Career Pay: $37,700

Median Earnings: $43,000

Mid-Career Pay: $51,600

Theology and Religious Vocations 

Early Career Pay: $38,100

Median Earnings: $43,000

Mid-Career Pay: $54,700

Visual and Performing Arts

Early Career Pay: $42,900

Median Earnings: $42,000

Mid-Career Pay: $67,800

Teacher Education

Early Career Pay: $40,000

Median Earnings: $42,000

Mid-Career Pay: $61,000

Social Work

Early Career Pay: $36,600

Median Earnings: $42,000

Mid-Career Pay: $51,600

Studio Arts

Early Career Pay: $40,400

Median Earnings: $42,000

Mid-Career Pay: $65,300

Human Services and Community Organization

Early Career Pay: $40,500

Median Earnings: $41,000

Mid-Career Pay: $52,100

Early Childhood Education

Early Career Pay: $34,100

Median Earnings: $39,000

Mid-Career Pay: $43,300

 

What Are the Easiest College Majors That Pay Well?

Now that you know what majors pay the most and the least, you may also want to consider what majors are the easiest. According to a previous article on the easiest and hardest majors, there are two majors that overlap with the list above.

  • Chemical engineering, with an average GPA of 3.2 and average weekly study hours of 22 according to statistics from CollegeVine, is one of the hardest majors that simultaneously ranks as one of the highest paying. Chemical engineers have a predicted 20-Year ROI of $850,000.
  • Social Work comes in as one of the easiest majors, sporting an average GPA of 3.4 to go with average weekly study hours of 12. As one of the easiest, but lowest-paying majors, social workers can expect a predicted 20-Year ROI of $139,000.

 

Top Paid Majors by Field (Undergraduate)

STEM

  1. Computer science – $83,000
  2. Physics – $81,000
  3. Information sciences – $73,000
  4. Mathematics – $73,000
  5. Earth science – $69,000

Business

  1. Management Information Systems and Statistics – $77,000
  2. Business Economics – $75,000
  3. Finance – $73,000
  4. Operations Logistics and E-Commerce – $71,000
  5. Accounting – $69,000

Liberal Arts

  1. History – $54,000
  2. English Language and Literature – $53,000
  3. Foreign Language Studies – $52,000
  4. Intercultural and International Studies – $52,000
  5. Philosophy and Religious Studies – $51,000

 

Is Graduate School Worth It?

One way to increase your possible earnings after college is to go back for a graduate degree. There are numerous options of graduate degrees to pursue, from Masters to PhDs to JDs and more, each with its own benefit in terms of returning inflated income.

Majors such as animal sciences, biology, political science and government, zoology, health and medical preparatory programs, pre-law and legal studies, and chemistry all see over 50% increases in their respective median incomes for those coming out of graduate school.

That is an enormous boost and should be heavily considered for anyone looking into those fields. 

The percentage increase graduate school can bring depends on your major and should be something you investigate perhaps even before you get your undergraduate degree.

Additionally, keep in mind that the cost of graduate school per year may be similar to that of obtaining an undergraduate degree and on top of that you most likely wouldn’t be doing any paid work, that is, earning money, while in school.

 

Final Tips to Know About Top-Paying Majors

As stated at the beginning, there are many factors that impact what major to choose in college. It is also worth noting that the numbers above are prone to change with the times.

Two decades ago computer science was unlikely to be on most people’s radar when applying to college, but now it is one of the most popular majors across all schools.

Current events such as the pandemic are guaranteed to impact what majors are most popular going forward and should be something you look into. 

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

Part of what separates people in terms of salary is less about the major they studied and more about their work ethic, networking skills, and commitment to advancement in their careers.

Keeping up these key attributes will help you succeed no matter your field.

For more information on how college majors can directly relate to future earnings, check here.

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Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew is a senior at The Haverford School, in Haverford, PA. He is the editor-in-chief of his school newspaper, The Index. He enjoys writing, photography, and film making.
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