The 10 Most Lucrative College Majors in 2021

College graduate with money tassel
Burlingham /

The price of everything — from groceries to your dream home — suddenly seems to be out of control. It sure would be nice to have a job that puts a couple of extra coins into your pocket.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, salaries for college graduates are climbing, according to the latest salary survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). The average starting salary for the class of 2020 was $55,260, an increase of 2.5% since 2019, the association found.

Some majors are especially lucrative.

Following are what the NACE says are the top-paid majors for graduates who have earned bachelor’s degrees. The average starting salary for some of these majors is more than 50% higher than the average starting salary across all majors.

The salary survey only takes into account base salaries and doesn’t include bonuses, overtime or fringe benefits.

10. Chemical engineering

Chemical engineer
Khakimullin Aleksandr /

Average starting salary for this major: $72,713

Chemical engineers use a combination of chemistry, biology, physics and math to resolve issues involving the production or use of products ranging from chemicals to drugs and fuel.

Some chemical engineers specialize in a particular process, while others have expertise in a particular field. They spend most of their workday in offices and labs.

9. Applied mathematics

Merkushev Vasiliy /

Average starting salary for this major: $73,558

Students who major in applied mathematics are trained to use mathematics to solve problems in areas such as engineering and science.

Graduates go on to jobs where they use math to solve real-world problems both by better understanding observed phenomena and predicting as-yet-unseen phenomena.

8. Statistics

Woman statistician
Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko /

Average starting salary for this major: $75,916

Statisticians analyze data and use mathematical theories and techniques to solve problems in fields such as business, engineering and the sciences.

They often work for the federal government or at scientific research and development companies.

7. Computer and information science

Female computer scientist
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Average starting salary for this major: $78,603

Computer and information research scientists take new and existing computing technology and try to design innovative uses for it.

Job prospects are expected to remain excellent, growing 22% from 2020 to 2030.

6. Operations research

Operations research analyst
G-Stock Studio /

Average starting salary for this major: $80,166

An operations research analyst employs advanced methods of math and analysis to solve complex issues in fields such as business, logistics and health care.

To do their jobs, these analysts turn to sources of information ranging from computer databases to customer feedback.

5. Electrical, electronics and communications engineering

Electrical engineer
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Average starting salary for this major: $80,819

These types of engineers design, develop, test and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment.

However, future job growth in this area will be muted compared with some other occupations on this list. That is because growth is slowing in fields such as manufacturing and utilities.

4. Computer science

Computer scientist
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Average starting salary for this major: $85,766

Computer and information research scientists develop innovative uses for new and existing computing technology.

This career field should have excellent prospects for years to come, with jobs growing at a 22% clip between 2020 and 2030.

3. Computer engineering

Computer engineer
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Average starting salary for this major: $85,996

Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop and test both computer systems and their components. They spend a lot of time testing their work, analyzing the test results and modifying the design if necessary.

The field is expected to grow just 2% between 2020 and 2030, though.

2. Computer programming

A female programmer works from home at her computer desk
PR Image Factory /

Average starting salary for this major: $86,098

Computer programmers write the code behind computer applications and software programs.

As lucrative as the field is now, the future is not so bright. Jobs are expected to decline 10% from 2020 to 2030, in part because companies may decide to hire programmers in low-wage countries.

1. Petroleum engineering

Petroleum engineer
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Average starting salary for this major: $87,989

Petroleum engineers develop methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits under the ground. They may work in offices or at drilling and well sites.

Jobs are expected to grow 8% from 2020 to 2030, but oil prices will be a major determinant of employment growth.

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