Should Your College Student Only Consider the Best Paying Majors?

Young female doctor with a stethoscope around her neck and a clipboard in her hand
When deciding on a college major, is it important to consider the salary potential?

Should Your College Student Only Consider the Best Paying Majors?

Published March 27, 2023

When deciding on a college major, is it important to consider the salary potential?
Young female doctor with a stethoscope around her neck and a clipboard in her hand

This story was first published in our Paying for College 101 Facebook community. It’s been edited for clarity and flow. 

Considering how expensive college is these days, students often find themselves asking if they should choose a college major that comes with a big salary. 

A member of our PFC 101 community says it’s the right way to go and brought up the topic in our group. He thinks students should major in something marketable for the best return on their investment. It sparked a lively discussion.  

Here are the highlights: 

Pick a Major You Love 

Our parents mostly agreed that money doesn’t always bring happiness—at school and later, when you’re in the working world—and to take that into consideration when making a decision about what to major in

“Don’t go into a field because of the high pay and then be stuck working the rest of your life in something you hate.” – Amy S. 

Studies show that students perform better academically when they’re studying a topic they’re passionate about. 

“Have your kiddo find joy in whatever field they choose and they will have a life they enjoy living,”  – Rebecca M. 

Liberal Arts Has Its Benefits 

Students who choose to study the humanities–from English to history, literature to philosophy–are often asked: “What will you do with an English degree?” But many parents in our community said they’ve had successful careers after majoring in the humanities.

Lauren B. shared she was an art history major and now has a fundraising consulting practice: “Contrary to popular belief, art history is a complex, multidisciplinary field. The analytical, research, and writing skills that I honed in my major laid the groundwork for my career success.” 

Liberal arts programs tend to expose students to many different fields, giving them a broad experience. 

“I work at a liberal arts university, and we see students major in the humanities and get good jobs all the time.”  – Andi L. 

A Major Isn’t Always a Direct Career Path

Of course, just because a student studies a certain major, that doesn’t mean he or she is going to end up in that field. 

“Having a specific major doesn’t mean you are going to do the same thing for the rest of your life.”  – Melissa M. 

Parent Virginia S. noted that she majored in sociology but is a risk and control officer at a large bank. “Any job that requires the ability to see the big picture and do analysis can be done with any degree,” she said. 

Some majors can give students the skills they need to succeed in various fields. Several parents mentioned journalism as an example. While surveys indicate journalism is a major many students regret studying, it can lead to other careers, such as marketing or public relations. 

“My kid wants to major in journalism, which isn’t particularly marketable because there aren’t a lot of paying (let alone well-paying) journalism jobs anymore. But learning clear effective writing and killer research skills is definitely something that fits into multiple career paths that employers value.” – Cyndi N. 

Yes, Some Majors Do Pay Better

One of the goals of college is to find a career that will bring financial independence. 

Majors can indeed have a significant impact on a student’s salary after graduation. Studies have shown, for example, that the best-paying college majors within five years of graduation tend to be engineering ones. 

Parent Kristen W. said she often hears from other parents that they wish their child picked accounting, like she did, so they could have “more secure and economically-stable jobs.” Students who major in accounting can earn almost $60,000 early in their careers. 

Several parents said they want their students to have a degree that will guarantee a job. 

“Too often, kids choose ABC majors without really thinking about what they will or could do with that major, and then they really have to sell themselves to get any type of job.” – Luz M. 

Parent Nadine C. said she wants her students to have no debt, a marketable degree and work experience for success. 

Other parents echoed her thoughts. Given how many students take out loans these days, Christina S. said it’s wise to “not go into debt over something you have little faith in being able to pay back a loan on.” 

“I know several physicians that were art history, social science, and literature majors.”  – Mira L. 

Bottom Line on the Best Paying Majors

Everyone is different. For students who are motivated by high-paying salaries right out of college, they might want to pick a major in a field that has a strong return on investment

At the end of day, parents feel that it’s important that students study a field that they are passionate about. 

Perhaps April O. summed it up best: “The goal should be a degree that interests you and engages you, while minimizing the debt it takes to get it.”  


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

10 Reasons to Consider Smaller Schools with High Acceptance Rates

Said Yes to a College? You Still Have Financial Planning to Do

Tips and Tricks to Make the Most of Your College Tour




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