highest paying college majors
Updated February 27, 2020

49 Highest Paying College Majors, From IT to Psychology and More

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Going to college is a significant investment. There are over 44 million people who collectively owe nearly $1.52 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. alone because they know that earning a college degree is the gateway to getting better-paying jobs.

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Good to Know

However, specific college majors can help you pay off your student debt faster than others.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Some of the lowest paying college majors include physical and health education teaching ($38,764), social psychology ($38,001), and library science ($26,462).
  • Overall, the top paying college majors are the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors who record the highest rates of employment and highest incomes with occupations like nuclear engineering, zoology, and applied mathematics being great examples.
  • Using recent statistics from salary comparison site PayScale who surveyed more than 2.3 million graduates from over 2,700 colleges across the U.S., we have compiled the median earnings of 50 college majors within the first five and ten years of their careers.

Here are the 49 highest paying college degrees presently, based on their mid-career salaries:

Science & Technology Majors

1. Aeronautics & Astronautics

Early Career Pay: $71,400

Mid-Career Pay: $133,300

The average annual salary for Aeronautics & Astronautics degree holders is $84,000.

2. Building Science

Early Career Pay: $50,700

Mid-Career Pay: $135,000

Building science majors have the opportunity to delve into several careers in the construction industry, from project manager to building project researcher.

Building construction scientists are in charge of various residential, commercial, and civil construction projects.

The median annual salary for building science degree holders is $69,000.

The employment growth outlook is expected to rise by 5% by 2024.

3. Computer Science (CS)

Early Career Pay: $68,800

Mid-Career Pay: $113,900

Computer scientists create applications for mobile devices, develop websites, and program software.

Computer majors can pursue careers as software engineers, technical analysts, web engineers, database administrator, and IT consultants.

The average annual salary for computer scientists is $83,000.

4. Information Sciences and Technology

Early Career Pay: $58,900

Mid-Career Pay: $110,200

Information sciences and technology majors apply innovative solutions to complex technology and systems problems. Common job opportunities include network analyst, database administrator, and application developer.

Median annual wage for degree holders is $66,000.

5. Operations Management & Information Systems

Early Career Pay: $61,900

Mid-Career Pay: $112,000

With this major, students learn how to leverage their knowledge of business fundamentals, information systems, and operations management to design, improve, and manage business processes.

Career paths for majors include line supervisor, production manager, database administrator, and IT consultant.

The average yearly salary for degree holders is $69,000.

6. Astrophysics

Early Career Pay: $60,700

Mid-Career Pay: $110,800

The average annual salary for astrophysics majors is $76,000.

7. Physics

Early Career Pay: $60,700

Mid-Career Pay: $110,000

Among the duties of physicists are to conduct research into occurrences, develop theories based on their observations and experiments, and devise methods to apply physical laws and theories to daily situations.

Career paths for physicists include health physicist, molecular physicist, optical scientist, and rheologist.

The mean annual wage for physics majors is $82,000.

Engineering Majors

8. Engineering

Early Career Pay: $64,200

Mid-Career Pay: $112,500

The BLS projects employment growth for engineers to increase, with over 140,000 new jobs expected from 2016 to 2026.

These jobs will be split among the more than 18 engineering occupations which include civil engineers, mechanical engineers, computer hardware engineers, materials engineers, and environmental engineers.

The median annual wage for engineering majors is about $83,000.

9.   Petroleum Engineering

Early Career Pay: $82,700

Mid-Career Pay: $183,600

Petroleum engineering tops the list for the highest paying college majors with a reported average annual salary of about $183,600.

Petroleum engineers design and develop production methods for extracting oil and gas deposits from below the Earth’s surface.

The job prospects for this field are primarily tied to oil prices. Increased prices can cause oil and gas companies to increase their capital investment and hire more engineers.

However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 15% job growth rate for petroleum engineers over the next ten years, much faster than that of other occupations.

10. Operations Research & Industrial Engineering

Early Career Pay: $79,600

Mid-Career Pay: $166,300

Operation research and industrial engineers use advanced techniques like statistical analysis and mathematical modeling to develop solutions for organizations to run more efficiently.

The average annual salary of some of the jobs that fall under this major include data analyst ($74,447), research analyst, operations ($76,968), and operations research scientist ($88,608).

The BLS projects a 27.4% employment growth for operations research analysts between 2016 and 2026, opening an estimated number of 31,300 jobs within this period.

11. Industrial Engineering (IE)

Early Career Pay: $66,400

Mid-Career Pay: $111,300

Industrial engineers create and design technologies that integrate workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to develop a product or service. Among their duties is to find ways to eliminate wastefulness in the production process of businesses.

The average annual salary for degree holders is $82,000.

Employment of industrial engineers is projected to grow by about 10% within the next decade, adding about 25,000 jobs.

12. Chemical Engineering

Early Career Pay: $71,800

Mid-Career Pay: $126,900

Chemical engineers design processes and equipment using the principles of chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems relating to the use of chemicals, food, drugs, fuel, and other products.

The median annual salary for chemical engineering degree holders is $99,000.

Employment of chemical engineers is expected to grow 8% from 2016 to 2026, with an addition of about 2,500 jobs.

13. Systems Engineering

Early Career Pay: $70,800

Mid-Career Pay: $131,200

System engineers are in charge of developing computer systems for companies or organizations based on their specific needs, and they work extensively with hardware engineers, software engineers, system administrators, among others.

A systems engineer gets an average wage of $76,594 per year.

14. Aeronautical Engineering

Early Career Pay: $67,900

Mid-Career Pay: $122,500

The median aeronautical engineer has a base pay of about $78,664. However, salaries can be influenced by possession of added skills such as Engineering Design, Aeros, Test Engineering, AutoCAD, Project Management, and CATIA.

15. Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering

Early Career Pay: $66,900

Mid-Career Pay: $115,000

Mechanical & aeronautical engineers study aerospace propulsion, design, and manufacturing and then specialize in aeronautical engineering.

The employment growth is expected to rise by 6% between 2016 and 2026, with an addition of 4,200 jobs.

16. Aerospace Engineering

Early Career Pay: $68,700

Mid-Career Pay: $113,900

Aerospace engineers are involved in the design of aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. They also create and test prototypes to ensure that they run according to specifications.

Employment of aerospace engineers is projected to grow 6% from 2016 to 2026, with an addition of 4,200 jobs.

The median annual wage for aerospace engineers is $78,000.

17. Mechanical Engineering (ME)

Early Career Pay: $65,800

Mid-Career Pay: $108,700

Mechanical engineers apply the knowledge of engineering mathematics, physics, and material science to design, analyze, develop, and maintain mechanical systems.

The average salary for mechanical engineers is $78,000 yearly.

18.      Marine Engineering

Early Career Pay: $72,600

Mid-Career Pay: $126,500

Marine engineering graduates design, build, and maintain ships, like sailboats, aircraft carriers, and submarines. They are also responsible for the functioning of the ships propulsion, electrical, and steering systems.

The median annual wage for marine engineers is around $90,970.

Employment of marine engineers is expected to grow 12% from 2016 to 2026, with an addition of about 1,000 jobs.

19. Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering

Early Career Pay: $68,800

Mid-Career Pay: $117,700

Combined with the job description of marine engineers, naval architects are responsible for a ship’s design, including the form, structure, and stability of hulls.

The average annual salary for degree holders is $82,000.

20. Ocean Engineering (OE)

Early Career Pay: $68,900

Mid-Career Pay: $121,200

Ocean engineering majors use science and math to develop ocean structures like ports, platforms, dikes, excluding ships.

The average annual wage for degree holders is $90,000 per year.

21. Nuclear Engineering

Early Career Pay: $70,700

Mid-Career Pay: $121,700

Nuclear engineering majors research and develop the processes, systems, and instruments used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation.

The average yearly salary for bachelor degree holders of nuclear engineering is $62,000.

Employment of nuclear engineers is estimated to grow by 4% from 2016 to 2026, slower than the average for all occupations.

22. Electrical Power Engineering

Early Career Pay: $71,300

Mid-Career Pay: $122,300

The average annual salary for an electrical power engineer is $85,113.

23. Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE)

Early Career Pay: $71,100

Mid-Career Pay: $120,400

Electrical & Computer Engineers deal with the theories, principles, and practices of traditional electrical engineering and mathematics and apply them to the design of computers and computer-based devices.

The median annual wage for ECE majors is $95,000 per year.

24. Computer Engineering (CE)

Early Career Pay: $72,600

Mid-Career Pay: $120,000

Computer engineering majors use the study of mathematics, physics, and computer science to analyze, design, and develop computer hardware and software.

Career paths for computer engineers include computer programmer, computer systems analyst, web developer, and computer network architect.

The average salary for computer engineers is $82,000 every year.

25. Software Engineering

Early Career Pay: $69,100

Mid-Career Pay: $109,100

Software engineers develop applications that allow people to do specific tasks on computers or other devices.

Employment of software engineers and developers is expected to increase by 24% from 2016 to 2026, with an addition of over 300,000 jobs.

The average yearly salary for software engineers is $77,000.

26. Engineering Physics

Early Career Pay: $65,400

Mid-Career Pay: $119,100

Engineering Physics majors use their broad knowledge in the combined disciplines of physics, mathematics, and computer, nuclear, electrical engineering to develop, create, and optimize engineering solutions.

The average annual salary for Engineering Physics majors is $75,000.

27. Engineering Science

Early Career Pay: $63,900

Mid-Career Pay: $118,000

Engineering scientists use the integration of engineering, biological, chemical, mathematical, and physical sciences with the arts, humanities, and social sciences to develop new technologies and innovative solutions.

The average yearly salary of engineering science majors is $77,000.

28. Construction Engineering Management

Early Career Pay: $64,000

Mid-Career Pay: $118,200

The average construction engineering manager earns about $88,970 every year. This amount might increase depending on the possession of extra skills such as Blueprints, Construction estimating, and AutoCAD.

29. Control Engineering

Early Career Pay: $68,500

Mid-Career Pay: $115,300

Controls engineers develop, test, and implement automation, control, and processing systems, such as those used for electrical or water control.

Controls engineers are paid a median salary of $74,633 every year.

30. Electrical & Electronics Engineering (EEE)

Early Career Pay: $69,200

Mid-Career Pay: $112,000

Electrical and electronics engineers are in charge of designing and developing electronic equipment such as broadcast and communications systems like portable music players and Global Positioning System (GPS) devices.

The average annual pay for electrical and electronics engineers is $94,000.

31. Electronics & Communications Engineering

Early Career Pay: $56,400

Mid-Career Pay: $108,700

Electronics and communications engineers engage in research, design, development, and testing of the electronic equipment used in various communications systems.

Average base pay for electronics and communication graduates is $46,561 per year.

32. Mining Engineering

Early Career Pay: $72,100

Mid-Career Pay: $114,000

Mining engineers design mines to safely and efficiently remove minerals such as coal, gold and silver, iron, and other metals for use in manufacturing and utilities.

Employment of mining engineers is expected to grow 8% from 2016 to 2026.

The average salary for a mining engineer is $75,207.

33. Welding Engineering

Early Career Pay: $73,500

Mid-Career Pay: $112,300

Welding engineers are involved in all the processes related to the design, production, performance, and maintenance of welded products.

The average salary for a welding engineer is $76,043 every year.

34. Plastics Engineering

Early Career Pay: $65,300

Mid-Career Pay: $111,900

Career paths for plastics engineering majors include process engineer, design engineer, project engineer, and quality engineer.

The average annual pay for plastics engineers is $64,249.

35. Metallurgical Engineering

Early Career Pay: $77,300

Mid-Career Pay: $111,100

Metallurgical engineering is one of the top paying college majors in the engineering field.

They apply technology in converting natural mineral resources into useful products for society. They are also involved in the mining, extraction, design, processing, and application of metals and their alloys.

The average salary for a metallurgical engineer is $74,115 every year.

The employment rate in the industry is projected to witness a slight growth by just 2% over the next decade.

36. Biomedical Engineering (BME)

Early Career Pay: $66,000

Mid-Career Pay: $110,300

Biomedical engineers design, develop, and create devices and systems used in health care.

Career paths for biomedical engineering majors include biomechanics, clinical engineering, medical imaging, and systems physiology.

The average salary among workers with a biomedical engineering degree is $70,000.

Mathematics Majors

37. Actuarial Mathematics

Early Career Pay: $54,700

Mid-Career Pay: $158,100

Actuarial mathematicians use statistics and financial theory to analyze the economic costs of risks and uncertainty, and they help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the value of that risk.

The average yearly wage for an actuarial mathematics major in the United States is around $101,560 per year.

The employment growth rate of actuaries is expected to grow by 22% from 2016 to 2026, with 5,300 new jobs added over the ten years.

38. Actuarial Science

Early Career Pay: $62,700

Mid-Career Pay: $123,500

The average salary for actuarial science degree holders is $86,000.

39. Economics and Mathematics

Early Career Pay: $63,200

Mid-Career Pay: $126,900

Economics and Mathematics majors are within the top ten highest paying college majors in America, and they earn an average salary of $68,000 per year.

40. Computational & Applied Mathematics

Early Career Pay: $65,200

Mid-Career Pay: $117,300

Computational and applied mathematics majors focus on the application of a broad range of mathematical and computational methods to the solution of scientific and engineering problems.

The annual median wage for degree holders is $75,000.

41. Applied Mathematics

Early Career Pay: $61,700

Mid-Career Pay: $113,000

An applied mathematics degree is essential in a wide range of fields, such as electronics, aerospace, technology, manufacturing, medical companies, finance, and analytics.

According to BLS, the median annual wage for mathematicians in 2017 was $103,010.

The employment opportunities for mathematicians and statisticians is expected to grow by 33% in 2026, with an addition of 13,500 new jobs from 2016 to 2026.

42. Statistics

Early Career Pay: $62,000

Mid-Career Pay: $111,300

Statisticians analyze data and apply statistical techniques to help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, healthcare, and other fields.

The median annual wage for statisticians is $67,000.

Other Majors

43. Public Accounting

Early Career Pay: $60,700

Mid-Career Pay: $135,000

Public accounting majors prepare and examine financial records to determine their accuracy. They also assess financial operations and work to ensure that organizations run smoothly.

The median annual wage for accountants is around $69,350.

The employment rate is expected to increase by about 10% in 2026.

44. Business Analysis

Early Career Pay: $53,400

Mid-Career Pay: $129,800

The average yearly salary of business analysts is $75,000.

45. Business Logistics & Transportation

Early Career Pay: $53,300

Mid-Career Pay: $117,000

This degree focuses on the movement of people, materials, and equipment from one place to another.

Business logistics & transportation degree holders can pursue the following careers: logistics engineers, consultant, purchasing manager, and inventory manager.

The average annual pay for majors is $61,000.

46. Information Management

Early Career Pay: $59,600

Mid-Career Pay: $116,800

The average yearly salary for information management degree holders is $71,000.

47. Managerial Economics

Early Career Pay: $60,800

Mid-Career Pay: $117,800

Managerial economics majors use the application of economic principles to analyze the organization and operation of business enterprises.

The average annual pay for managerial economics degree holders is $66,000.

48. Accounting & Economics

Early Career Pay: $61,200

Mid-Career Pay: $110,100

A dual accounting degree, combined with an economics major, balances accounting practices with relative ease. Majors use logical reasoning to identify and solve complex accounting or economic issues in businesses and organizations.

The average yearly salary is $66,000.

49. Business & Economics

Early Career Pay: $55,400

Mid-Career Pay: $109,000

Business and economics degree holders use the fundamental principles of economics to solve issues related to international finance, public policies, and business management.

The average annual wage for degree holders is $61,000.

Conclusion

We’ve done a rundown of the 49 highest paying college degrees as well as their average annual salary, and their projected employment outlook.

Which of these majors do you think are the best college majors for the future?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Logan Allec, CPA

Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in July 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.

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