College Majors That Land the 10 Best (and Worst) Paying Jobs

Photo (cc) by UC Davis College of Engineering

If you’re on the fence about a college major, trying to decide between pursuing an engineering degree or majoring in mathematics — or pretty much anything else — choose engineering, at least if your priority is high earning power.

According to a new report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, which examined the average wages for graduates with 137 college majors, engineering came out on top. In fact, engineering majors grabbed nine of the top 10 slots for the highest-paying jobs, with starting salaries of about $50,000.

Economics and business economics are the only two majors ranked within the top 25 highest-earning majors that are not STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

“We’ve known for a while that all degrees are not created equal, that your major has a large effect on your ability to get a job and work your way up a career ladder,” said Anthony Carnevale, the center’s director and the report’s lead author, in a statement.

Of course, majoring in engineering isn’t a guaranteed rise to the top, Forbes reports. “The top 25 percent of humanities and liberal arts majors earn more than the bottom 25 percent of engineering majors,” Forbes noted.

These are the 10 highest-paying majors:

  1. Petroleum engineering. Median annual wage (ages 25-59), $136,000.
  2. Pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences and administration. $136,000.
  3. Metallurgical engineering. $98,000.
  4. Mining and mineral engineering. $97,000.
  5. Chemical engineering. $96,000.
  6. Electrical engineering. $93,000.
  7. Aerospace engineering. $90,000.
  8. Mechanical engineering. $87,000.
  9. Computer engineering. $87,000.
  10. Geological and geophysical engineering. $87,000.

Here are the 10 lowest-paying majors:

  1. Family and consumer sciences. $45,000.
  2. Drama and theater arts. $45,000.
  3. Elementary education. $43,000.
  4. Theology and religious vocations. $43,000.
  5. Visual and performing arts. $42,000.
  6. Teacher education (multiple levels). $42,000.
  7. Social work. $42,000.
  8. Studio arts. $42,000.
  9. Human services and community organization. $41,000.
  10. Early childhood education. $39,000.

The report found that on average, college grads earn $1 million more throughout their lifetimes than high school graduates.

When I selected journalism as a college major, I didn’t think too much about the salary (or lack thereof) I would earn working as a reporter. I struggled financially for years making $6 to $8 per hour as a reporter. If I could go back and do it all again, I would definitely consider salary when selecting a major. It wouldn’t be the main criteria, but it deserves to be considered.

Did earning power play into your college major selection? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page. And share this article on your Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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