Degree

Which College Degrees Get the Highest Salaries

By  | 

If you’re a college graduate, you likely went to school to pursue an important passion of yours. But as we all know, what we major in has consequences that extend far beyond the foundation of knowledge we build in our early years. Any program we choose to enroll in also sets up a track to meet future friends, career opportunities, and connections.

Even further, the college degree you choose will partially dictate your future earning potential – especially in the first decade after school. If jobs in your field are in high demand, it can even set you up for long-term financial success, enabling you to pay off costly student loans and build up savings potential.

DATA BACKGROUNDER

Today’s chart comes to us from Reddit user /r/SportsAnalyticsGuy, and it’s based on PayScale’s year-long survey of 1.2 million users that graduated only with a bachelor degree in the United States. You can access the full set of data here.

The data covers two different salary categories:

Starting median salary: The median of what people were earning after they graduated with their degree.

Mid-career Percentiles: Salary data from 10 years after graduation, sorted by percentile (10th, 25th, Median, 75th, and 90th)

In other words, the starting median salary represents what people started making after they graduated, and the rest of the chart depicts the range that people were making 10 years after they got their degree. Lower earners (10th percentile) are the lower bound, and higher earners (90th) are the upper bound.

Here are all 50 majors from the data set, sorted by mid-career median salary (10 years in):

RankUndergraduate Major Starting MedianMid-Career Median% Change
1Chemical Engineering $63,200 $107,000 69.3%
2Computer Engineering $61,400 $105,000 71.0%
3Electrical Engineering $60,900 $103,000 69.1%
4Aerospace Engineering $57,700 $101,000 75.0%
5Economics $50,100 $98,600 96.8%
6Physics $50,300 $97,300 93.4%
7Computer Science $55,900 $95,500 70.8%
8Mechanical Engineering $57,700 $94,700 64.1%
9Mechanical Engineering $57,900 $93,600 61.7%
10Math $45,400 $92,400 103.5%
11Physician Assistant $74,300 $91,700 23.4%
12Civil Engineering $53,900 $90,500 67.9%
13Construction $53,700 $88,900 65.5%
14Finance$47,900 $88,300 84.3%
15Management Information Systems (MIS) $49,200 $82,300 67.3%
16Philosophy $39,900 $81,200 67.3%
17International Relations $40,900 $80,900 97.8%
18Chemistry $42,600 $79,900 87.6%
19Marketing $40,800 $79,600 95.1%
20Geology $43,500 $79,500 82.8%
21Political Science $40,800 $78,200 91.7%
22Accounting $46,000 $77,100 67.6%
23Architecture $41,600 $76,800 84.6%
24Information Technology (IT)$49,100 $74,800 52.3%
25Business Management $43,000 $72,100 67.7%
26Agriculture$42,600 $71,900 68.8%
27History$39,200 $71,000 81.1%
28Communications$38,100 $70,000 83.7%
29Film$37,900 $68,500 80.7%
30Nursing $54,200 $67,000 23.6%
31Journalism $35,600 $66,700 87.4%
32Geography $41,200 $65,500 59.0%
33Art History $35,800 $64,900 81.3%
34Biology $38,800 $64,800 67.0%
35English $38,000 $64,700 70.3%
36Forestry $39,100 $62,600 60.1%
37Anthropology $36,800 $61,500 67.1%
38Health Care Administration$38,800 $60,600 56.2%
39Psychology $35,900 $60,400 68.2%
40Graphic Design $35,700 $59,800 67.5%
41Sociology$36,500 $58,200 59.5%
42Hospitality & Tourism $37,800 $57,500 52.1%
43Drama $35,900 $56,900 58.5%
44Criminal Justice $35,000 $56,300 60.9%
45Nutrition $39,900 $55,300 38.6%
46Music $35,900 $55,000 53.2%
47Interior Design $36,100 $53,200 47.4%
48Spanish$34,000 $53,100 56.2%
49Education$34,900 $52,000 49.0%
50Religion$34,100 $34,100 52.5%

Based on this data, there are a few interesting things to point out.

The top-earning specialization out of college is for Physician Assistants, with a median starting salary of $74,300. The downside of this degree is that earning potential levels out quickly, only showing a 23.4% increase in earning power 10 years in.

In contrast, the biggest increases in earning power go to Math, Philosophy, Economics, Marketing, Physics, Political Science, and International Relations majors. All these degrees see a 90% or higher increase from median starting salary to median mid-career salary.

In absolute terms, the majors that saw the highest median mid-career salaries were all along the engineering spectrum: chemical engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and aerospace engineering all came in above $100,000. They also generally had very high starting salaries.

As a final note, it’s important to recognize that this data does not necessarily correlate to today’s degrees or the job market. The data set is based on people that graduated at least a decade ago – and therefore, it does not necessarily represent what grads may experience as they are starting their careers today.

College Degrees, By Salary

College Degrees, By Salary

College Degrees, By Salary

Credit: Visual Capitalist

Ava Harper

Ava Harper is a Former researcher at Graphiq after the company was acquired by Amazon, she decided to join U.S. News & World Report and University Magazine, currently living and working out of her new City Toronto, you might be able to find her at Starbucks or Local Coffee shop in downtown Toronto

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
error: