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College Majors with the Highest Salaries

Colin GrubbNov 1, 2017

According to CollegeBoard, the average annual tuition for in-state students at a four-year public university is $9,410, while private institutions cost an average of $32,410. And those are just the averages – at some of America’s top universities, annual tuition can exceed $50,000 – all before other expenses such as room and board, textbooks, and transportation.

Yet, despite the costs, certain majors are well worth the investment. Studies have shown that choosing the right bachelor’s degree can result in millions of dollars in additional salary over the course of one’s career.

To determine which college majors offer the best return on investment, ConsumersAdvocate.org’s research team looked at the average wage graduates earned both early on in their careers, as well as mid-career. For early career wages, engineering disciplines dominated the list with the following top 10 results:

  1. Chemical engineering: $70,000
  2. Computer engineering: $63,000
  3. Electrical engineering: $63,000
  4. Industrial engineering: $62,000
  5. Aerospace engineering: $60,000
  6. Mechanical engineering: $60,000
  7. General engineering: $59,000
  8. Computer science: $55,000
  9. Miscellaneous engineering: $55,000
  10. Civil engineering: $54,000

To understand what non-engineering disciplines offer the greatest financial rewards for recent graduates, the team further analyzed the data to see which majors fared best.

Methodology

To determine which majors earned the highest wages, ConsumersAdvocate.org’s research team used data from the American Community Survey to analyze the median wage for college graduates aged 22 to 27. In the event of a tie, the mid-career wage (ages 35-45) was used as a tiebreaker. The data only includes individuals working full time that have earned a bachelor’s degree but did not go on to complete graduate school.


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10. Information systems and management

  • Median Wage Early Career: $45,000
  • Median Wage Mid-Career: $70,000

A degree in information systems and management teaches students how to leverage information and data to help businesses improve their operations. Perfect for the left-brained, analytical type, a career in information systems and management can be lucrative, with mid-career professionals in the field earning a median wage of $70,000.


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9. Accounting

  • Median Wage Early Career: $45,000
  • Median Wage Mid-Career: $70,000

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” Perhaps he was right. The profession of accounting can be traced to ancient civilization, when Egyptians and Babylonians developed early auditing systems. Things may look much different today at “the big four” accounting firms in the U.S., but those that earn their degree in accounting are still well paid, with early career earnings of $45,000 a year.


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8. Physics

  • Median Wage Early Career: $45,000
  • Median Wage Mid-Career: $80,000

If you always wanted to be an astronaut, physics may be a great major for you. But even if you don’t want to be the next Neil Armstrong or Sally Ride, a physics major could pay off – with early career graduates earning $45,000 and mid-career graduates earning an average wage of $80,000. Most physicist and astronomer jobs in research or academia do require a Ph.D., but those with a bachelor’s degree are still handsomely rewarded.


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7. Pharmacy

  • Median Wage Early Career: $45,000
  • Median Wage Mid-Career: $110,000

The average medical school graduate carries six figures in medical school debt. If you love medicine but don’t want to foot the bill for a medical degree, consider studying pharmacy. Mid-career, pharmacists earn a nice six-figure median wage of $110,000 a year – and that’s with only a bachelor’s degree.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia

6. Nursing

  • Median Wage Early Career: $50,000
  • Median Wage Mid-Career: $65,000

For decades, the U.S. has been dealing with a national shortage of nurses. However, with more Americans over the age of 65 than at any other time in history, the problem is about to get much worse. For those interested in healthcare, studying nursing could be a smart choice.


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5. Engineering technologies

  • Median Wage Early Career: $50,000
  • Median Wage Mid-Career: $75,000

Separate but closely related to a degree in engineering, a degree in engineering technologies focuses on the practical application and implementation of engineering principles. From product development to design and construction, the work of an engineering technologist covers a wide spectrum. One growing area of work: energy conservation engineering.


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4. Construction services

  • Median Wage Early Career: $50,000
  • Median Wage Mid-Career: $75,000

As the economy grows, the construction industry grows along with it. Currently one of the strongest sectors of the economy, construction is booming, and growing considerably faster than the national average.


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3. Finance

  • Median Wage Early Career: $50,000
  • Median Wage Mid-Career: $80,000

If you were always an “A” math student, a major in finance may be a great choice for you. Perfect for individuals interested in working for a large company or for themselves, a major in finance earns early career professionals a median wage of $50,000 a year.


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2. Economics

  • Median Wage Early Career: $50,000
  • Median Wage Mid-Career: $80,000

An economics degree can prepare students for a wide variety of careers. With opportunities to work in virtually any industry – from investment banking to city planning and the nonprofit sector – economics majors earn an average mid-career wage of $80,000.


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1. Business Analytics

  • Median Wage Early Career: $54,000
  • Median Wage Mid-Career: $83,000

Business analytics is an umbrella term that includes enterprise information management, business intelligence, and analytic applications. What does that mean? Business analytics majors help businesses leverage data to drive decision making. A degree in business analytics earns early career professionals a median wage of $54,000 – the highest on the list.