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College majors that earn the most money

NTNU, Faculty of Natural Sciences // Flickr

College majors that earn the most money

College is a time for many overwhelming experiences and exciting opportunities. Whether it’s forgoing sleep to prepare for an exam or studying abroad in an exotic city, college is a unique experience with a variety of trials. But post-graduation life can feel good, especially when the first paycheck from a new graduate’s first job arrives, and it makes all that hard work feel worthwhile.

For some alumni, the stress of college is paying off. The rise of information technology and digitization has transformed the job market, leading to an unprecedented demand for technical and analytical skills. More and more students are majoring in math- and science-related fields, with the likelihood of earning at least $100,000 annually by their 30s.

To show just how valuable these college majors can be, Stacker used data from PayScale to rank the top 100 college majors whose alumni make the most money in their respective professional careers. The rankings are based on the highest average mid-career salary, and with a tie, the major whose alumni earned more money on average earlier in their career is ranked higher. Along with each slide, information is provided as to the jobs a major in that area might be hired for, which skills they’ll attain while in school, and what the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects their prospects are of finding a job upon graduation with a bachelor’s degree.

Keep reading to find out if your major made the list of college majors that earn the most money.

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Rsa // Wikimedia Commons

#100. Aeronautical science & engineering

- Early career pay: $53,800
- Mid-career pay: $107,100

A degree in Aeronautical Science & Engineering opens up job opportunities in aviation specific to aircraft design, propulsion, and performance. With this degree, graduates can become aircraft designers, rocket engineers, or even flight-test planners. Majors in the subject should be well-versed in advanced math, physics, and computer programming.


#99. Japanese studies

- Early career pay: $48,600
- Mid-career pay: $107,300

Japanese Studies entails speaking, reading, and writing the culture’s language to learn its history, economics, and social science. As a subset of East Asia Studies, graduates can find work in a variety of fields, including public service, international relations, or multinational organizations. Depending on the area of concentration, the job outlook for those with a Japanese Studies degree is highly favorable.


#98. Japanese language

- Early career pay: $48,200
- Mid-career pay: $107,500

Graduating with a major in Japanese language sets one up for a career in translation, teaching, or political science, among others. With over 120 million Japanese speakers in the world, the need for translators and interpreters is expected to grow by nearly 20%, according to the BLS. Continuing to a master’s degree enhances job prospects by ensuring increased mastery of the language and culture.


#97. Finance & economics

- Early career pay: $59,100
- Mid-career pay: $10,500

Finance and economics majors can become actuaries, accountants, business reporters, and credit, financial, or policy analysts, all of which entail strong mathematical skills. Additionally, strong analytical and communication skills are required for those who pursue the major. The double major combines qualitative and quantitative aspects of economics and teaches the ins and out of financial analysis and appraisal.

StFX // Wikimedia Commons

#96. Economics

- Early career pay: $56,700
- Mid-career pay: $107,800

Collecting, analyzing, and forecasting data for specific market trends, including finance, labor, and agriculture is what economics majors well. The BLS projects up to 8% growth in the field from 2018 to 2028 for economists, who most often hold a master’s or Ph.D. Critical thinking, reading comprehension, and decision-making are required skills for students who take on a variety of tasks, including conducting research, compiling reports, and supervising projects.

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#95. Energy management

- Early career pay: $64,000
- Mid-career pay: $107,900

Energy management majors study science, finance, engineering, and geology, all of which are required to graduate. These students, whose interests include communication, management, and business work with utility companies, government agencies, and energy trading firms. To date, the University of Oklahoma’s Energy Management program, formerly the Petroleum Land Management program, is the oldest and most prestigious curriculum of its kind in the U.S.


#94. Entrepreneurship & marketing

- Early career pay: $46,800
- Mid-career pay: $108,500

Building launch-ready businesses are what entrepreneurship and marketing majors do best. Required skills include product development, merchandise management, and business planning. From bootstrapping to brand-building, majors must be able to take financial risks with their own business ventures to succeed. New venture formation and buyer behavior are examples of courses majors study to graduate.

CEphoto, Uwe Aranas // Wikimedia Commons

#93. Industrial engineering & management

- Early career pay: $62,300
- Mid-career pay: $108,500

Industrial engineering and management majors who graduate oversee major projects in a safe, well-timed, financially efficient manner. Some standard courses for the major, offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels, are quality control, industrial psychology, engineering economy, and organizational leadership. These classes cover topics including risk analysis, inflation, and project financing. Career paths for these majors include project quality manager, process improvement analyst, and supply chain consultant.

ESO // Wikimedia Commons

#92. Optical science & engineering

- Early career pay: $67,000
- Mid-career pay: $108,500

A major in optical science and engineering goes on to a career in optical design, fabrication, instrumentation, and communications. Optical engineers must have strong skills in math, physics, manual dexterity, and problem-solving. They should also be versed in optical design/analysis tools, such as Zemax, Code V or Trace Pro, and be able to use a variety of scientific and laboratory equipment.

ShutterOK // Shutterstock

#91. Telecommunications engineering

- Early career pay: $59,600
- Mid-career pay: $108,600

Telecommunications engineering entails designing, maintaining, and troubleshooting data, voice, video, and image systems. Graduates have jobs setting up network systems or installing fiber optic cable, working for telecom companies, government agencies, or consulting firms. Available in an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees, majors in the subject learn computer programming and networking through studying digital electronics and satellite transmission, among other specialties.

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#90. Structural engineering

- Early career pay: $63,600
- Mid-career pay: $108,800

Considered a specialty within civil engineering, majors in this field concentrate on the design and structure of buildings, bridges, and roadways. Both a college degree and a Professional Engineer’s license is required to practice, which requires an understanding of physics, math, and material properties. During their careers, structural engineers work alongside architects and construction officials to determine design safety in the face of elemental forces, including snow, wind, and earthquakes.

Edwards Air Force Base

#89. Engineering physics

- Early career pay: $65,400
- Mid-career pay: $108,800

The dual degree in engineering physics opens up doors for careers in nuclear science and aerospace. Specifically, majors who graduate with the degree can become materials scientists, medical physicists, or atomic engineers, all of which earn a minimum of $65,000 annually. Engineering firms and high-tech startups seek out these majors as employees post-graduation.

NTNU, Faculty of Natural Sciences // Flickr

#88. Materials science & engineering

- Early career pay: $68,600
- Mid-career pay: $109,000

A materials science & engineering degree combines the study of the structure and chemical properties of all types of materials, including metals, glass, polymers, graphites, plastics, and ceramics. While the BLS separates materials scientists (who study substance interaction on atomic and molecular levels) from materials engineers (who develop and test substances), both professions earn a considerable median income.


#87. Ceramic engineering

- Early career pay: $65,700
- Mid-career pay: $109,100

Ceramic engineers develop materials needed for defense systems, transportation, and environmental technology by working with ceramics: an inorganic material handled at high temperatures. By combining math and science, majors learn to invent and work with products through critical thinking and problem-solving. Those who pursue the degree have a strong interest in the practical application of physics and chemistry.


#86. Information & decision sciences

- Early career pay: $53,000
- Mid-career pay: $109,500

By combining technology and business, a major in information and decision sciences can become a business analyst, data quality specialist, and business intelligence developer, among other titles. Graduates gain skills to analyze emerging technologies, use computer programs, and design and update operating systems.

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Ohiodominican // Wikimedia Commons

#85. Physician assistant studies

- Early career pay: $91,100
- Mid-career pay: $109,600

Physician assistant studies prepares majors for a career in the medical field. The BLS reports that most in the field require a master’s degree. This industry is forecasted to grow by up to 31% by 2028, making it an appealing choice for those interested in job security. Strong listening, critical thinking, and deductive and inductive reasoning skills are required for graduates, who become assistants in examining, testing, diagnosing, and treating patients.


#84. International business & finance

- Early career pay: $58,400
- Mid-career pay: $109,800

International business and finance majors learn to manage money on a worldwide scale. By learning international law, corporate governance, and capital markets, majors can become venture capitalists, management consultants, investment bankers, financial accountants, and financial analysts. BLS reports that business and financial employment is growing faster than the average for all jobs, with an expected 7% growth between 2018-2028.


#83. Industrial engineering

- Early career pay: $67,300
- Mid-career pay: $110,000

An industrial engineering degree prepares graduates to oversee various aspects of large-scale projects, including quality control, labor, cost analysis, logistics, material flow, and more. The BLS reports that many industrial engineers have a degree in a specific field, including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and manufacturing engineering. An expanding health-care system will probably produce a higher demand for industrial engineers in professional, scientific, and consulting businesses.


#82. Corporate accounting & finance

- Early career pay: $61,600
- Mid-career pay: $110,300

Corporate accounting and finance majors primarily become financial managers for large-scale companies. Before becoming chief financial officers (CFOs), graduates study capital budgeting, finance practicum, multinational financial management, and cost accounting, among other courses.


#81. Industrial distribution

- Early career pay: $60,000
- Mid-career pay: $110,400

International sales manager, retail buyer, and regional sales director make up a few career choices for industrial distribution majors, who study the purchase and transport of goods. Program coursework required for this career includes communications, domestic and international marketing, analysis, operations management, wholesale purchasing, and distribution supervision. Professionals in the field have strong math and problem-solving skills.

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#80. Finance & marketing

- Early career pay: $52,800
- Mid-career pay: $110,500

A double major in finance and marketing prepares graduates to become investment bankers, hedge fund managers, and medical sales representatives, among other roles. Common coursework for the program includes personal and business finance, consumer behavior, professional selling, market research and planning, and investment analysis. Professionals who have studied this double major report having successful careers.


#79. Business & economics

- Early career pay: $55,500
- Mid-career pay: $110,600

Business and economics, the study of trade and finance, is a double major that equips a graduate for several careers, including senior financial analyst, chief finance officer, and chief operating officer. Those with this double major find well-paying jobs in market research organizations, consulting firms, investment institutions, merger and acquisition departments, and insurance companies.

Tyndall Air Force Base -

#78. Mechanical engineering

- Early career pay: $66,800
- Mid-career pay: $110,600

Mechanical engineering is the design and development of tools, devices, and machinery, which entails strong science, math, mechanical, and critical-thinking skills. The BLS reports up to a 4% growth in mechanical engineering employment until 2028, such as in the automotive manufacturing industry. With a Ph.D., mechanical engineers can participate in research and development programs as well as teach the subject at the university level.

astro_matt // Wikimedia Commons

#77. Bioengineering

- Early career pay: $66,200
- Mid-career pay: $111,200

The study of biological systems and biomedical technologies, bioengineering is the leading concentration required to become a biomedical engineer. Students use math, engineering, and science to conduct experiments and design systems on a multidisciplinary level. This major is also available as a graduate degree, which leads to higher annual income.


#76. International economics

- Early career pay: $53,800
- Mid-career pay: $111,300

International economics is the study of global trade and finance and its worldwide effect. By predicting production, transaction, and multilateral trade negotiations, majors in the subject become government or global organization analysts and consultants, or work in the finance industry. The BLS reports most economics majors in the private sector have either a master’s degree or Ph.D., but entry-level jobs in a federal agency only require a bachelor’s degree.

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#75. Construction engineering management

- Early career pay: $63,700
- Mid-career pay: $111,300

Offered in both undergraduate and graduate levels, construction engineering management is the combination of technology and science to reinforce construction framework on a wide range of large-scale projects, including airport design, roadways, bridges, and water waste management systems, or smaller residential and commercial structures. Majors who practice are well-versed in government codes, regulations, and laws for site inspections. They also have strong active listening and critical thinking skills to work with other officials.


#74. Operations management & information systems

- Early career pay: $61,200
- Mid-career pay: $112,100

An operations management and information major will have strong skills in design systems, research, learning strategies, oral and written communication skills, and math, and science. After graduation, majors, who focus on production and operations management and information services can become inventory managers, materials controllers, and risk analysts.


#73. Petroleum land management

- Early career pay: $76,800
- Mid-career pay: $112,200

Finding and buying land rights for oil and natural gas companies falls under the purview of petroleum land management. Professionals in this field discover ownership rights and negotiate leases or purchase for the purpose of drilling for oil. Knowing how to read zoning maps and investigate property deeds are two skills petroleum land managers will learn.


#72. Physics & mathematics

- Early career pay: $60,800
- Mid-career pay: $112,300

Solving problems in physics by using mathematical equations is the primary study path of physics and mathematics majors. There are a broad range of careers to pursue, including chemical and civil engineering, biophysics, and aerospace engineering. The wide scope of careers, as well as advancements in technology, have projected job growth in both math and physics fields looking favorable.

Air Force District of Washington

#71. Electronics engineering

- Early career pay: $68,200
- Mid-career pay: $112,300

Electronics engineering focuses on the design and development of electronic devices, including phones, music players, and GPS systems. Majors will be taught the ins and outs of digital systems design and circuit theory, while adding drafting courses can enhance a graduate’s employability. Slowing manufacturing and telecommunications industries has the profession projected to grow by only 2% in the next decade (according to the BLS).

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#70. Management information services

- Early career pay: $56,300
- Mid-career pay: $112,500

Analyzing data and determining the best technologies to enhance efficiency falls under the responsibilities of a management information services professional. A graduate of this major can find work as an IT director, project manager, or systems administrator, and will possess a solid background in computer security, mathematics, and statistics.

Joonspoon // Wikimedia Commons

#69. Software engineering

- Early career pay: $69,400
- Mid-career pay: $112,900

Software engineering majors learn to develop programs for computers using principles of engineering. Learning a wide variety of computer languages and gaining certifications can help job candidates stand out from the pack. Becoming a software developer is one of the more lucrative career paths a graduate can take, with this field expected to grow by 21% over the next 10 years.


#68. Statistics

- Early career pay: $62,300
- Mid-career pay: $113,000

Descriptive statistics relates to the numbers found within a data set or population, while inferential statistics is using small sets of data to make inferences about larger populations. The need for statisticians is expected to grow rapidly, at 31%, over the next decade because of increased demand in healthcare and business. Computer programming, physics, and engineering courses a part of this path of study.


#67. Physics

- Early career pay: $60,700
- Mid-career pay: $113,100

Understanding energy and matter and how they relate through space and time is the goal of those pursuing a degree in physics. There are plenty of options for graduates in physics, from teaching in a high school to understanding the origins of the universe. Students will graduate with skills in advanced math, quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, and thermodynamics.


#66. Computer science & physics

- Early career pay: $77,300
- Mid-career pay: $113,400

Fusing computer science and physics into a double major enables students to think analytically with physics, and practically with computer science. Computational science, which uses mathematical models and computer science to solve scientific problems, is just one potential career path for these graduates. Students will leave college with a strong understanding of advanced mathematics, algorithms, and quantum mechanics.

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#65. Materials science

- Early career pay: $69,500
- Mid-career pay: $113,500

Materials science majors study materials such as rubbers, metals, and glass, and look for ways to strengthen them or bind them together to form stronger substances. Semiconductor manufacturing is among the most lucrative jobs for a materials scientist, while research and development employs the most professionals in the field. A large part of the curriculum is chemistry, which is used to study a material at its most basic level to alter it to suit a need.


#64. Applied mathematics

- Early career pay: $62,800
- Mid-career pay: $113,900

Students in applied mathematics will learn how to use equations in their studies to find solutions to engineering and science problems. The field is expected to explode over the next decade, growing at a rate of 30% in the next decade, bolstered by a surge in data storage. There are a wide range of fields to enter upon graduation, including finance, business, engineering, and government.


#63. Electrical & electronics engineering

- Early career pay: $70,600
- Mid-career pay: $114,000

Learning how to design and manufacture electronic and electrical devices, along with computers and their components, is the goal of electrical and electronics engineering majors. Telecommunications, power generation, and the biomedical field are just a few of the career paths graduates can strive to attain. This job market is expected to slow in the next decade for owing to a downturn in manufacturing, but technological advancements and updates to the nation’s power grid should help offset losses.


#62. Aeronautical/aerospace engineering technology

- Early career pay: $72,500
- Mid-career pay: $114,300

A degree in aeronautical/aerospace engineering technology teaches students the skills to design and build aircraft and spacecraft. Combining math, science, and engineering prepares graduates for careers in airframe design, logistics, or integration engineering. Growth in the field is projected to be sluggish due to slowing manufacturing.

UC Davis College of Engineering // Wikimedia Commons

#61. Biomedical engineering

- Early career pay: $66,700
- Mid-career pay: $114,600

A degree in biomedical engineering entails taking many of the same courses needed to graduate from medical school. Biomedical engineering students can take several paths within the discipline, including medical imaging, nanotechnologies, genetic engineering, or prosthetics. An increasing aging population will help increase the demand for biomedical engineers.

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UC Davis College of Engineering // Flickr

#60. Computer science

- Early career pay: $68,600
- Mid-career pay: $114,700

Computer science majors delve into the world of designing, developing, and applying computer software. Software developer is a common career for a graduate with a computer science degree, a field that is expected to grow at 21% over the next decade (about four times the national average). A four-year degree will prepare grads with advanced math skills in calculus, statistics, and algorithms, as well as a slew of computer courses, including computer theory, information management, and design physics.


#59. Chemical & biomolecular engineering

- Early career pay: $74,200
- Mid-career pay: $115,000

Fusing molecular biology, biophysical chemistry, and chemical engineering to create new products is the main area of expertise for a chemical and biomolecular engineer. Biomolecular engineers have a hand in everything, from life-saving pharmaceuticals to innovations in the food industry. This field is expected to see steady growth over the next decade.

Commander, Navy Installations Command

#58. Computer & information science

- Early career pay: $59,800
- Mid-career pay: $115,100

Treating the computer as a tool to find innovative solutions to complex problems falls to the computer and information science grads. Students will leave with a firm grasp on network security, computer programming, and software design. The job market for those completing a four-year degree is strong, with careers in software development expected to grow 21% over the next 10 years.


#57. Astronomy

- Early career pay: $53,500
- Mid-career pay: $115,300

Astronomy majors prepare to unlock the mysteries of the universe, and unlike most sciences where lab work is imperative, astronomers use mostly observation and math. Skills in physics, cosmology, and math are needed to observe, chart, and track celestial bodies as they move across the night sky. A bachelor’s degree in astronomy points graduates toward careers in fields like telescope operator or research assistant, while a doctorate is generally preferred to work in an academic setting as an astronomer.


#56. Metallurgical engineering

- Early career pay: $78,100
- Mid-career pay: $115,300

Transforming metal from ore into finished material falls under the direction of a metallurgical engineer. A subset of materials engineering, metallurgists can enhance their job prospects by taking computer modeling classes or gaining certifications. The field is expected to see little to no growth in the next decade—especially in manufacturing—while new medical and scientific products will help keep Metallurgical Engineers in demand.

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Coast Guard Compass

#55. Engineering

- Early career pay: $65,500
- Mid-career pay: $115,400

A bachelor’s degree in engineering prepares students for a life designing, inspecting, and testing a wide variety of products, from airports to zippers. The median salary for an engineer in 2016 was over $90,000, while obtaining certifications and practical experience while in college can help graduates start working at a salary above $65,500. The demand for well-trained engineers is expected to accelerate in the coming years, as the country looks to update infrastructure and develop new energy systems.


#54. Physics & astronomy

- Early career pay: $53,000
- Mid-career pay: $116,300

While reaching the stars salary-wise requires a doctoral degree, graduates with a bachelor’s degrees in physics and astronomy can find work in a variety of fields, both within the government and private sectors. Coursework includes extensive math, statistics, and science training to learn how matter interacts with energy.


#53. Computer science & mathematics

- Early career pay: $65,200
- Mid-career pay: $116,400

Combining computer science and mathematics can lead to a lucrative career as a software developer, programmer, or research scientist. The job outlook for these majors is fairly strong, with the BLS predicting 16% growth for researchers, and 21% for developers. Additional certifications can help enhance job prospects and boost starting salary.


#52. Mining engineering

- Early career pay: $74,900
- Mid-career pay: $116,600

Extracting coal and other metals in the safest manner is what mining engineering students are preparing for. Reduction in mining of coal, and businesses hiring engineering firms as opposed to employing their own, has growth projected at just 3% over the next decade. The future of mining may be beyond the confines of our planet, with the Colorado School of Mines being the first to offer a space resources course for extracting precious metals from asteroids and other bodies in outer space. 


#51. Accounting & economics

- Early career pay: $59,500
- Mid-career pay: $116,800

Double majoring in accounting and economics combines accounting’s skills of preparing financial documents and tax statements with economics’ understanding markets and forecasting future decisions. Both professions individually are expected to grow at, or slightly above, the national average, while combining them only enhances job prospects.

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#50. Operations & information systems management

- Early career pay: $61,800
- Mid-career pay: $116,900

Maximizing the efficiency with which goods and services enter and exit a business is the goal of an effective Operations Manager. Fusing information systems management into the equation enhances job prospects by teaching students the ins and outs of the IT industry, allowing for total oversight over operations. IT professionals are in high demand, expected to grow faster than the national average over the next decade.


#49. Electronics & communications engineering

- Early career pay: $63,500
- Mid-career pay: $116,900

Electronics engineering covers the design and manufacturing of electronic devices, from smartphones and televisions, to GPS systems and portable music players. The curriculum will encompass math, physics, circuit theory, and systems design, opening the graduate up for jobs in computers and government, among others. While the career path is expected to grow more slowly than average over the next 10 years, the research and development of new technologies will drive much of that growth.


#48. Mechanical & aeronautical engineering

- Early career pay: $66,300
- Mid-career pay: $117,300

Understanding how to build, fix, and maintain machinery falls to a mechanical engineer, while those who add aeronautical engineering focus on airplanes, missiles, and weapons systems. Skills learned during this four-year degree include extensive math, physics, drafting, and computer courses. Both types of engineering are expected to grow at about the national average for the next decade, while combining the two can push a candidate to the top of the hiring list.

Mixabest // Wikimedia Commons

#47. Industrial & systems engineering

- Early career pay: $68,500
- Mid-career pay: $117,300

Industrial and systems engineering students specifically focus on productivity and quality improvement. They improve a business’ workflow by looking at people, product, and process to maximize efficiency. Employment in this sector is expected to increase at a rate above the national average, thanks to growing needs in the health-care and automation industries.

NOAA's National Ocean Service // Flickr

#46. Bioscience

- Early career pay: $47,900
- Mid-career pay: $117,800

Bioscience encompasses several majors, including marine biology, animal science, and biomedical engineering. Separating organic and inorganic solutions and DNA extraction are just two skills graduates will have, on top of extensive math, science, and lab work. Graduates can find work in a variety of fields, including genetic counselor, pharmaceutical sales, biochemistry, and more.

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#45. Information & computer science

- Early career pay: $74,900
- Mid-career pay: $117,900

Using both concrete and abstract principles, information and computer science majors learn to solve problems and explore new areas using computers. Graduates will leave school with the ability to create algorithms, understand different programming languages, and utilize artificial intelligence, data mining, and security skills. The need for these professionals is expected to grow at a rate well above the national average, although obtaining a master’s degree is a wise choice to further enhance job prospects.


#44. Welding engineering

- Early career pay: $76,300
- Mid-career pay: $118,000

Using heat and pressure to fuse two pieces of metal into one as a welding engineer requires skills in computer design, math, and chemistry, among others. After graduating, four years of work experience is required before taking a state licensure exam to become a professional engineer. Joining professional organizations, such as the American Welding Society (AWS) or the Edison Welding Institute can enhance job prospects for entry-level candidates, who can find work in shipyards, oil rigs, or research laboratories.

Griffiths, John W. (John Willis), 1809-1882 // Wikimedia Commons

#43. Naval architecture

- Early career pay: $69,000
- Mid-career pay: $118,200

Designing and building virtually anything that moves or sits on water is the responsibility of a naval architect. Ships, submarines, and marine oil platforms are just a few of the structures these professionals will design upon graduation, entering a job market expected to grow by 9% in the next decade. Obtaining licensing as well as logging time at sea in a practical setting can enhance a graduate’s prospects and starting salary.

Wojciech Litwin // Wikimedia Commons

#42. Ocean engineering

- Early career pay: $66,300
- Mid-career pay: $118,400

Ocean engineers study the relationship and interaction between man-made systems and bodies of water. Unlike oceanographers who study natural occurrences, engineers design vessels and instruments to explore the depths of the oceans, which are less understood than the surface of Mars. Knowledge of robotic design, underwater acoustics, and geomechanics are just a few of the skills graduates attain.


#41. Pharmaceutical sciences

- Early career pay: $50,200
- Mid-career pay: $118,500

Optimizing the delivery of drugs into the body to fight disease falls under the purview of pharmaceutical science majors. Graduates will have skills in chemistry, engineering, biochemistry, and biology and can find work in a variety of fields, including pharmaceutical sales, marketing, and drug testing. Many students continue on to a master’s degree, after which more prestigious positions open up.

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Gorodenkoff // Shutterstock

#40. Aerospace engineering

- Early career pay: $69,900
- Mid-career pay: $118,500

Aerospace engineering prepares graduates to design aircraft, including planes, missiles, and satellites. A downturn in manufacturing dampens the job outlook for graduates with an aerospace engineering degree, but a push toward the development of smaller satellites and unmanned aircraft should help offset that. Seeking additional training in computer languages, as well as structural engineering, can help job prospects.

The University of Findlay // Flickr

#39. Computational & applied mathematics

- Early career pay: $66,600
- Mid-career pay: $118,700

Computational and applied mathematics involves creating and using mathematical models to solve complex science and engineering problems. A strong foundation in math, science, and engineering is required for a graduate to find success in a wide range of potential careers, including actuaries, forensic science, and teaching.


#38. Jazz studies

- Early career pay: $46,300
- Mid-career pay: $119,000

Jazz studies prepares students to enter a wide range of fields in the music industry, from being an actual jazz musician, to working behind the scenes as an engineer, music director, or teacher. Funding cuts for the arts, along with developing technologies, have negatively affected the job outlook for grads in the field. Those looking to work as musicians may find this career challenging, from constant travel to the highly competitive nature of the field.


#37. Foreign affairs

- Early career pay: $49,900
- Mid-career pay: $119,100

Earning a degree in foreign affairs earns students knowledge of the ins and outs of foreign and domestic policy, including trade policy and public relations. Graduates can seek careers in government as diplomats or intelligence officers, or in the private sector working for international banks or businesses. Additional language skills are a plus for graduates seeking to reach the top of the applicant list.


#36. Instrumentation & control engineering

- Early career pay: $68,100
- Mid-career pay: $119,100

Instrumentation and control engineering majors will learn how to measure and control variables like temperature, pressure, and flow in a system. Knowledge of mathematics and physics, as well as engineering, are critical for success in the field. While the job outlook for engineers is declining, instrumentation engineers are critical to setting up and maintaining automated systems, which are always in demand.

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#35. Electrical & computer engineering

- Early career pay: $72,500
- Mid-career pay: $119,500

Electrical and computer engineers help design, develop, and implement computer hardware and software using aspects of computer science and electrical engineering. Graduates can use their advanced math and computer skills to work for major companies like Google and Dell. The BLS predicts slow growth in the field over the next 10 years, as manufacturing and telecommunications production decline.


#34. Control engineering

- Early career pay: $67,400
- Mid-career pay: $119,800

Control engineers combine math and mechanical engineering to design and implement automation or processing systems. Upon graduation, passing an exam to become an Engineer-in-Training (EIT) is a must to get started. Control engineering is an offshoot of mechanical engineering, a field which predicted to grow by 4% over the next decade. Keeping up with technological advances can help prospective employment.


#33. Cognitive science

- Early career pay: $58,900
- Mid-career pay: $119,900

Cognitive Science involves studying how the brain processes information, learns, and behaves. A wide range of potential careers awaits those with a bachelor’s in cognitive science, including marketing and teaching, as well as game and web development. Attaining a master’s or PhD in the field can greatly enhance job prospects by honing skills like psychology, biology, and chemistry.


#32. Electrical engineering

- Early career pay: $70,600
- Mid-career pay: $119,900

Electrical engineers design and maintain electrical equipment, and require extensive training in math, science, and engineering. Despite slower job growth than average, learning new technologies can give grads an advantage in the job market, as research and development provide steady work. Passing an exam to become an engineer-in-training is a must, while work experience and further state licensing are needed to become a professional engineer.


#31. Computer engineering

- Early career pay: $72,900
- Mid-career pay: $120,000

A Computer Engineering (CE) degree fuses computer science with electronic engineering, leaving grads equipped to design, develop, and monitor systems. As more common household products integrate computers and microchips, the demand for computer engineers promises to increase over the next decade despite slowing manufacturing. Math, science, keeping up with emerging technologies, and ongoing accreditation is imperative to getting ahead in the job market.

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#30. Naval architecture & marine engineering

- Early career pay: $69,200
- Mid-career pay: $120,300

Naval architecture involves designing and building new ships and vessels and improving old designs. A marine engineer makes sure ships run smoothly by maintaining and improving a ship’s engine and navigation systems. The profession is expected to grow slightly faster than average over the next decade, while skills in STEM are important to advance in the job market, which will receive a boost from emerging offshore wind turbines.


#29. Quantitative economics

- Early career pay: $61,600
- Mid-career pay: $120,500

A specialized field of economics, quantitative economics incorporates statistics along with math to predict future economic conditions. The demand for economists is expected to grow slightly faster than average over the next decade, but the highly competitive nature of the field means grads should consider pursuing a master’s. Learning additional statistical analysis software can help those obtaining a bachelor’s enhance their job prospects.

UC Davis College of Engineering // Flickr

#28. Computer science & engineering

- Early career pay: $72,300
- Mid-career pay: $122,100

Combining computer science and engineering gets students ready for all aspects of building computer hardware and software. Focusing on software can offer better job prospects since the field is constantly changing, though hardware engineers make slightly more. Adding government clearances and professional certifications can enhance a graduate’s pay and chances of finding a job.

Idaho National Laboratory // Flickr

#27. Nuclear engineering

- Early career pay: $72,400
- Mid-career pay: $122,200

Designing and developing instruments and equipment related to the harnessing of nuclear power and radiation falls to nuclear engineering professionals. Graduates can find work with the government, in construction, or within the medical field, while a third are employed in electric power generation. Knowledge of computer programs, like LINUX, Oracle Java, and C++, among others, can enhance job prospects and pay.

James St. John // Flickr

#26. Petroleum geology

- Early career pay: $60,100
- Mid-career pay: $122,900

Training to be a petroleum geologist will teach students how to locate oil deposits deep within the ground using seven principles: source, reservoir, seal, trap, timing, maturation, and migration. Knowledge of math, science, and skills with GPS and sonar technology are important for graduates breaking into the field, which is projected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

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#25. Building science

- Early career pay: $49,800
- Mid-career pay: $123,100

Designing the next generation of buildings that meet the needs of safety, human comfort, and environmental demands is the goal of a building science major. This study combines the skills learned in architecture and construction management and building science majors can expect a job market projected to grow by 10% in the next decade. While a master’s degree is preferred to earn more, those with bachelor’s degrees will attain skills in economics, physics, and construction technology.


#24. Computer systems engineering

- Early career pay: $74,100
- Mid-career pay: $123,200

How computers integrate into our business and personal lives is the most important function of a computer systems engineer. To do that, they learn to combine skills in math, computer science, and engineering to examine and test circuits, software, and hardware. A good portion of the professionals in this field work in California.


#23. Marine engineering

- Early career pay: $72,600
- Mid-career pay: $123,600

Marine engineering majors learn about all the internal components of a ship, from steering and power, to refrigeration and lighting. To graduate, students master aspects of calculus, chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering, and algebra. The job outlook for marine engineers, who often spend a semester on the water, is strong, with 9% projected growth over the next decade.

WorldSkills UK // Flickr

#22. Aeronautical engineering

- Early career pay: $70,600
- Mid-career pay: $124,800

Aeronautical engineers focus on aircraft, studying their design and the effects of aerodynamics on performance. A subset of aerospace engineering, this profession will see slow growth in the next decade as manufacturing declines, but advances in fuel technology and reduction of noise pollution should help employment numbers. Additional training in software like C++, along with a focus on structural engineering, can help job prospects.

Dominic Hart/NASA // Wikimedia Commons

#21. Human computer interaction

- Early career pay: $74,300
- Mid-career pay: $126,200

Human computer interaction fuses behavioral and computer sciences to study the effects and uses of technology on society. While this master’s degree is rated among the best to get, even those with a bachelor’s can find work relatively easily, as the field is projected to grow rapidly in the next 10 years. App development, software design, and systems analyst are just some careers a graduate in HCI can pursue.

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Mines CERSE // Flickr

#20. Geophysics

- Early career pay: $56,600
- Mid-career pay: $127,200

While a master’s degree is preferred among many employers, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in geophysics have a firm understanding of the planet’s physical properties and use physics to study the earth’s magnetic, gravitational, and electric fields. Emerging energy technologies, like wind and geothermal energies, will help keep geophysicists employed.

Department of Chemical Engineering - PFI-building // Flickr

#19. Chemical engineering

- Early career pay: $72,800
- Mid-career pay: $127,200

Skills in math and multiple scientific disciplines is required for a career as a chemical engineer, and graduates will be prepared to tackle issues related to chemical manufacturing. Choosing to focus on a certain discipline, like nanomaterials or oxidation, can give job-seekers a bump in both prospects and pay, as the profession will grow at an average rate. A push toward domestic natural gas and oil will maintain the need for chemical engineers.


#18. Actuarial science

- Early career pay: $63,700
- Mid-career pay: $127,300

Assessing risk within a particular industry falls under the purview of an actuarial science graduate, who uses math and statistics. Insurance companies are the primary employers of actuaries, who help create rates on premiums from life to car insurances. The field is expected to grow rapidly in the next decade, while adding business and analytics courses can help boost graduates’ prospects in what’s becoming a highly competitive job market.


#17. Economics & mathematics

- Early career pay: $64,300
- Mid-career pay: $127,700

Mathematical economists solve complex economic problems using principles of algebra, calculus, and statistics, and form models to predict future performance. Mathematical economists rely on quantitative methods, and advanced knowledge of computer modeling can help set job candidates apart when looking for work in finance, government, or education.

UC Davis College of Engineering // Flickr

#16. Chemical engineering/materials science & engineering

- Early career pay: $76,100
- Mid-career pay: $127,900

The joint major provides a good chance for graduates to find employment in either field, or ones that require knowledge of both. Materials science and engineering students will learn the properties of materials like ceramics, plastics, and metals, while chemical engineers solve complex problems by using math and multiple science disciplines. Combining the two majors, along with study in computer modeling, can help bump early career pay, which is already near the top among professions on this list.

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NTNU, Faculty of Natural Science // Flickr

#15. Aerospace studies

- Early career pay: $52,600
- Mid-career pay: $129,600

Some majors in aerospace studies are preparing for a life in the Air Force, as coursework falls under the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC). Graduates are eligible to be commissioned as officers in the Air Force, which sought 3,500 officers to fill recruitment and instructor positions in 2019. Outside of recruiting or teaching, graduates learn the ins and out of military planning, from developing national security policy to using air and spacecraft for strategic purposes.


#14. Quantitative business analysis

- Early career pay: $67,100
- Mid-career pay: $130,000

Helping businesses make smart financial decisions by analyzing data falls under the guise of graduates with degrees in quantitative business analysis. Careers in this type of finance are in high demand, with the ability to value securities, identify investment opportunities, and even develop computer software. Graduates with a degree in the field will have a strong command of mathematics and statistics, while advanced computer skills are becoming more important for finding a higher-paying job.

UC Davis College of Engineering // Flickr

#13. Systems engineering

- Early career pay: $72,300
- Mid-career pay: $130,400

Systems engineers will finish their four-year degree with the ability to build and manage complex systems, including people, equipment, and software for a variety of businesses. Aside from strong interpersonal and management skills, a systems engineer will possess high mathematics and information security acumen. The International Council on Systems Engineering offers a number of certifications for graduates to enhance their job prospects in this growing field.


#12. Public accounting

- Early career pay: $56,400
- Mid-career pay: $130,800

Public accountants offer financial services to businesses and people, like preparing tax documents, auditing financial statements, and providing consulting services. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree isn’t enough to find a job in this growing field, as becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) requires passing an industry exam, ethics exam, and being supervised by a CPA for six months to two years.

Gdsteam // Flickr

#11. Econometrics

- Early career pay: $60,100
- Mid-career pay: $131,000

Econometrics entails using existing financial data to either test existing economic hypotheses or predict future performance. Graduates can find work in a variety of fields, including banking, investment, government, and academics, with the BLS predicting above-average job growth in the next decade.

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ALPA PROD // Shutterstock

#10. Aeronautics & astronautics

- Early career pay: $73,100
- Mid-career pay: $131,600

Aeronautics and Astronautics involves learning the design, manufacturing, and testing of everything that flies in the skies (aeronautics) and beyond the Earth’s atmosphere (astronautics). The job outlook for graduates with a degree in the field is somewhat grim, with the BLS projecting just 2% growth by 2028. Proficiency in math, science, and engineering is a must for obtaining an entry-level position, while additional training in computer software can enhance an applicant’s prospects.


#9. Pharmacy

- Early career pay: $79,600
- Mid-career pay: $132,500

Becoming a full-fledged pharmacist requires a bachelor’s and a doctorate degree in pharmacy. Four-year grads undertake an intensive study of biology and chemistry, while learning about the production and manufacture of pharmaceuticals. The need for professionals in this field is expected to increase rapidly over the next decade, as a growing elderly population creates a rise in demand within the healthcare industry.


#8. Business analysis

- Early career pay: $57,200
- Mid-career pay: $133,200

Efficiency is the primary goal of a graduate with a degree in business analysis, from improving software to streamlining production processes. The need for these professionals is expected to grow rapidly in the next decade—especially within the healthcare and IT fields—as more businesses look to control costs. Successful graduates take a range of classes, including math, business, finance, and IT.

Idaho National Laboratory // Flickr

#7. Electrical power engineering

- Early career pay: $72,400
- Mid-career pay: $134,700

Designing, manufacturing, and maintaining electrical equipment are the fields of expertise for graduates with electrical power engineering degrees. A downturn in manufacturing and telecommunications will have an adverse effect on job prospects in the next decade, with the BLS predicting only 2% growth. Students can get ahead by completing internships, and will have to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam to become an Engineer-in-Training, while further work experience is needed before becoming a professional engineer.

TaLaNoVa // Shutterstock

#6. Actuarial mathematics

- Early career pay: $63,300
- Mid-career pay: $135,100

Actuaries use math and statistics to analyze and assess financial risk for a business, usually in the finance or insurance fields. The field is relatively small, but competitive, and is expected to explode in the next decade at a rate of 20%. Graduates who pass two actuarial exams, have gained valuable internship experience in college, on top of possessing exceptional business skills, will set themselves apart while seeking a job.

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#5. Political economy

- Early career pay: $57,600
- Mid-career pay: $136,200

Knowing how political and economic variables interact while shaping public policy can lead to a career in government policy or financial planning. A political economy degree can also be a stepping stone to a career in law, as a foreign policy specialist, or a legal advisor. The job outlook for graduates depends on the field they enter: Political scientists expect a 2% decline in jobs, while financial planners will see a 16% increase.


#4. Operations research

- Early career pay: $77,900
- Mid-career pay: $137,100

The need for increased efficiency among businesses has the demand for operations research analysts projected to grow by 26% in the next decade. Students in the program will learn how to apply practical solutions to complex business problems, using math and statistical analysis to make informed decisions. Since these analysts are needed in a variety of business settings, adding additional specializations, like computer programming, political science, or economics can enhance job prospects.


#3. Applied economics & management

- Early career pay: $58,900
- Mid-career pay: $140,000

Applied economics and management majors use economic models to predict financial outcomes based on the decisions of a business or individual. Micro and macroeconomics, statistics, advanced algebra, and finance are just a few of the skills necessary to succeed in the field, which is expected to see solid growth in the next decade. Graduates can find work in public policy, private business, and as financial planners, among other paths.


#2. Electrical engineering & computer science

- Early career pay: $88,000
- Mid-career pay: $142,200

There are a wide range of careers for a graduate with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) that all involve knowing the ins and outs of both software and hardware for electronic devices. Jobs with a degree in EECS vary, from software design for major companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google, to creating systems for the aeronautical field. A firm understanding of computer languages, mathematics, and logic are critical to success, while continued education and certifications can advance job prospects.

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement // Flickr

#1. Petroleum engineering

- Early career pay: $94,500
- Mid-career pay: $176,900

Finding and removing oil and natural gas from the Earth falls under the well-paid direction of a petroleum engineer. They analyze, design, and implement plans for extraction when a reservoir is found, requiring skills in math, science, mechanical engineering, and physics. The push toward renewable and clean energy will have an adverse effect on job prospects for graduates with a bachelor’s degrees in petroleum engineering, though additional certifications and cooperative programs can boost job prospects.

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