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The 10 Highest Paying College Majors

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What’s Covered:


Some people know exactly what they want to do when they start college. Others explore different fields before making a decision. Either way, there’s plenty to consider when choosing your major. If you are interested in common majors, CollegeVine has put together a list of most popular majors


Another factor many students think about is the earning potential for prospective majors. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the highest-paying majors, based on data from PayScale.


How to Choose a College Major


Along with earning potential, some factors to consider when choosing your major include:


  • Your personal interests and goals: What are you passionate about? What makes you tick?


  • Your strengths: In which subjects and areas have you excelled? What are your best qualities and skills? Think beyond your academic work.


  • Course requirements for specific majors: Of the majors that interest you, are you able to meet the requirements comfortably?


  • Additional requirements: Will you need to earn another degree to succeed in a particular major or field?


  • Compatibility: How will the major fit into the rest of your life? Can you handle the course load given your other responsibilities? 


We have a whole post on choosing a college major, which will guide you through the key questions to ask yourself and help you narrow down your choices.


10 Highest Paying College Majors


1. Petroleum Engineering

Mid-career pay: $182,000


Focused on extracting natural gas and oil from the earth and developing new methods of drilling and obtaining resources, petroleum engineers are vital for addressing our energy needs. The major will appeal to students with a passion for science and exploring. While earning your degree, you’ll study a range of mathematical and scientific topics.


2. Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS)

Mid-career pay: $152,300


In this multifaceted program, you’ll study two pivotal fields and gain knowledge that applies to careers in engineering and technology. Some graduates choose to pursue advanced degrees, although it isn’t critical to succeed in the field. As an undergraduate, you’ll complete coursework in mathematics, physics, computer science, engineering, among other disciplines. 


3. Applied Economics and Management

Mid-career pay: $139,600


A popular choice for people hoping to go into business, the major encourages students to learn about economic theory and principle, and then put the concepts into practice to tackle real-world issues. Some schools like Cornell University have an entire school dedicated to the study of Applied Economics and Management (Dyson). Many graduates go on to earn a master’s degree, such as an MBA or MS in Applied Economics.


See our rankings of the best colleges for business.


4. Operations Research

Mid-career pay: $139,600


This interdisciplinary major combines math topics like statistics and probability with business, data science, and other analytical fields. A degree in the Operations Research will prepare you to solve real-world operational problems for businesses, organizations, and governments. It’s also a common position in the military, from where it originated. A graduate degree isn’t mandatory for a career in the field, although a Master in Operations Research may improve your employability.


5. Public Accounting

Mid-career pay: $138,800


Public accounting is not the only path to becoming, well, a public accountant, but it is the most direct path. In this role, you may work with businesses, individuals, governmental bodies, and other organizations to help them plan and reach their financial goals. Along with your bachelor’s degree, it’s highly recommended that you become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a license that will give you credibility for your knowledge in tax preparation. 

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6. Chemical Engineering/Materials & Science Engineering

Mid-career pay: $137,800


Chemical Engineering and Materials & Science Engineering are typically separate programs, although some colleges allow you to study both as a double major or in a single program. Both are scientific disciplines that involve studying the use and production of energy and materials. Common coursework includes mathematics, chemistry, computer science, among other disciplines. In your future career, you’ll be instrumental in the development, design, and production of many products that are critical in our everyday lives. 


See our rankings of the best colleges for engineering.


7. Quantitative Business Analysis

Mid-career pay: $136,200


Combining math, business, information technology, and other disciplines, this major is critical for numerous industries and occupations. You will receive hands-on training in analytical tools and business decision modeling that will make you marketable for various careers. With your degree, you can pursue several different careers, such as working as a business analyst or an operations research analyst. Depending on your chosen role, you may want to earn an MBA.


8. Pharmacy

Mid-career pay: $133,200


Pharmacists play a crucial role in healthcare and providing education on prescription drugs. It’s not essential to study pharmaceutical sciences as an undergraduate — many students hoping to become pharmacists study biology, chemistry, or related disciplines. No matter your program, you’ll gain a solid foundation in the sciences to prepare you for pharmacy school, where you’ll earn your PharmD.


Want to learn more about pharmacy? See our post on how to become a pharmacist


9. Aeronautics & Astronautics

Mid-career pay: $133,100


Are you interested in space? In Aeronautics and Astronautics, students learn the principles of aerospace engineering, design, and systems. Science, math, engineering, and technology courses are foundational to an undergraduate program in the discipline. With this degree, graduates can pursue careers in aircraft and spacecraft engineering, research, and related fields.


10. Systems Engineering

Mid-career pay: $132,900


“Systems” sounds broad and so is this major. After learning a wide variety of topics and principles in STEM, graduates who pursue careers in systems engineering specialize in different niche systems, such as biological, computer, electrical, mechanical, military, supply chain, transportation, and many others. As a professional, you’ll have the opportunity to work alongside other engineers to ensure that systems function successfully and cohesively.


What Are the Best Colleges for You?


Finding the right college is about more than just looking at the top-ranked schools for your major. You’ll also want to consider factors like location, extracurriculars available, cost, and, of course, your personal fit with the school.


Using CollegeVine’s free school search tool and chancing engine, you can find your best-fit schools based on holistic factors and estimate your real chances of admission. You can also view the starting salaries for different fields and occupations at different schools. Sign up today — it’s free!


Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.