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College majors that make the most money

  • College majors that make the most money

    Nearly one-third of all college students will change their primary field of study or major at least once within three years, according to one estimate by the National Center for Education Statistics. The challenges of choosing the field that one will work in after school can be overwhelming, with the coursework requirements typically determining the likelihood of a switch. Per the same estimate, more than half of all mathematics majors will switch concentrations, as will 35% of all science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) majors.

    Of the highest-paying majors, most are in STEM fields. In the United States, there is currently a critical shortage of STEM-trained workers; among the hardest jobs to fill are scientists and mathematicians, engineers and architects, IT computer specialists, high-skilled technicians, and construction and extraction workers, according to Monster. This lack of trained workers is slowing corporate growth in some regions, which leads to depressed competitive regional pay and the forced emigration of critical labor to healthier job markets.

    Stacker has examined 403 bachelor's degree programs to determine the 50 majors that lead to the best-paying jobs. For this comparison, data came from PayScale's 2018-2019 College Salary Report. Rankings are based on the mid-career median salary reported for the major, or the salary that is expected after 10 years of continuous employment in the major's field.

    For this calculation, equity or stock compensation, retirement plans, and non-cash benefits—such as health care—were not considered. Salaries are inflation-adjusted to June 2018 dollars for the sake of comparison. In the case of ties, preference was given based on the starting salary expected for a worker in the field within their first five years of employment. This statistic will be provided, along with the majors' median wages. Payscale's College Salary Report is a compensation survey based on the responses of 3.2 million college graduates. Check out the survey's full methodology here and continue reading to find out if your major is among the highest paying.

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  • #50. Physics

    - Early career pay: $60,700
    - Mid-career pay: $110,000
    - Percent of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 45%

    Physics is the study of matter and how it changes and interacts over time. A diverse field, concentrations in physics include acoustical physics, astrophysics, biophysics, chemical physics, and theoretical physics. Because of the wide array of concentrations, a major in physics usually precedes graduate study. However, bachelor's degree holders can find jobs in research, teaching, engineering, manufacturing, and industrial processing—such as nuclear and food irradiation technicians.

  • #49. Accounting and economics

    - Early career pay: $61,200
    - Mid-career pay: $110,100
    - Percent of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 42%

    Besides being an accountant, there are multiple avenues an accounting or economics major can take. Financial planning, government work, record-keeping, money planning, internal auditing, teaching, research, and consulting are among the employment options.

  • #48. Information sciences and technology

    - Early career pay: $58,900
    - Mid-career pay: $110,200
    - Percent of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 45%

    Information science is the science of data management and analytics in a computer system. Job options for major in this field include application analysts, cyber security specialists, data scientists, database administrators, IT consultants, and software engineers. Jobs in this field are expected to stay in demand for the foreseeable future.

  • #47. Biomedical engineering (BME)

    - Early career pay: $66,000
    - Mid-career pay: $110,300
    - Percent of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 71%

    Similar to physics, biomedical engineering is a multifaceted field. Specialties include bioinstrumentation, biomaterials, biomechanics, clinical engineering, rehabilitation engineering, and system physiology. Jobs in biomedical engineering—beyond engineering positions—include teaching, research, orthopedic construction, medical imaging, and medical equipment technician.

  • #46. Astrophysics

    - Early career pay: $60,700
    - Mid-career pay: $110,800
    - Percent of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 59%

    A specialized concentration in physics, astrophysics studies the application of physical laws in relation to celestial bodies, such as stars and planets. A major that encourages graduate studies, bachelor's degree holders can find jobs as fellows, researchers, and teaching assistants.

  • #45. Metallurgical engineering

    - Early career pay: $77,300
    - Mid-career pay: $111,100
    - Percent of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 61%

    Metallurgical engineering is the study of metal, as it relates to the mining, processing, and analyses of metallic products. Degree holders can find jobs in mine equipment design, fabrication, and servicing; forge operations; weaponry design and fabrication; alloy fabrication; and environmental response/recovery.

  • #44. Statistics

    - Early career pay: $62,000
    - Mid-career pay: $111,300
    - Percent of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 38%

    Statistics is the mathematical analysis of data sets and real-world data. As such analysis has use in a wide array of sectors, statistics has one of the largest subsets of career paths of any major. Among these paths are teaching, journalism, statistician, econometrics, sport/performance analysis, biostatistics, environmental statistics, and data science.

  • #43. Industrial engineering (IE)

    - Early career pay: $66,400
    - Mid-career pay: $111,300
    - Percent of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 43%

    Industrial engineering is the study of how systems, processes, and organizations can be improved with the development and integration of new resources, including labor, money, knowledge, equipment, and materials. Industrial engineering majors have found work as manufacturing (automation) engineers, and in supply chain management, electronic product manufacturing, and human resources system development.

  • #42. Plastics engineering

    - Early career pay: $65,300
    - Mid-career pay: $111,900
    - Percent of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: data not available

    Plastic engineering involves the development, design, and fabrication of plastic polymers and plastic materials. As with many engineering fields, plastic engineering has specialties, such as consumer plastics, medical plastics, automotive plastics, recyclables/recycling, and rubber/elastomers. While most plastic engineering jobs encourage a master's degree or better, jobs in research, development, business application, and consumer relations are available to those who hold bachelor's degrees.

  • #41. Industrial and systems engineering

    - Early career pay: $67,600
    - Mid-career pay: $111,900
    - Percent of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 51%

    Industrial and systems engineering seeks to improve systems through proper implementation and integration of materials, energy, people, information, and equipment. This discipline specifically focuses on the productivity and quality improvement of industrial systems. Industrial and systems engineering majors have worked as project managers, astronauts, CEOs of major tech companies—such as Tim Cook of Apple—car designers, and movie producers.

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