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The 10 Highest Paying College Majors

Updated on December 29, 2016

Computers Are Essential To Just About Any College Major

While Computer Engineering is a Hot College Degree, Having Computer Competency Is Essential For Just About Any College Major
While Computer Engineering is a Hot College Degree, Having Computer Competency Is Essential For Just About Any College Major | Source

With the cost of a college education soaring and student debt exploding, it is important to consider the highest paying college majors, so you can weigh the financial cost-benefit of choosing a college major and eventually a career. Of course, the expected compensation that can be earned is not the only consideration when choosing a college major and career path. It is also important to choose a college major and career that you actually want to do. However, if you do not want to be one of those adults who decides later in life that they made a mistake and should have chosen a college major that affords one an opportunity to earn a comfortable living, then it is well worth the effort to examine which are the highest paying college majors to see if there is one that you feel is worth pursuing. It is not easy to go back to school to get another degree and start a new career, once you are well beyond college age and have many responsibilities and time pressures.

What Careers Are Hot Right Now

Before delving into the highest paying college majors, it is worth mentioning which careers are hot right now. The three big ones are healthcare, engineering and computer science. These career categories can be further broken down into hot sectors, such as biotechnology and computer technology in healthcare, civil and environmental engineering, and anything related to cyber security in computer science.

The great thing for college graduates now is that with the Baby Boom generation retiring by the millions each year, millions of new job opportunities are opening up for them further down the employment ladder. This not only makes it easier to obtain an entry-level job, but it also makes it easier to advance in your career, as long as you are committed to excellence and does well with their job performance. Choosing college degree and career with strong growth can help springboard you into a career that not only has good earnings potential, but also has healthy career advancement opportunities.

Electrical Engineering is One of the Ten Hottest College Degrees

Electrical Engineering Is #2 on the List of Ten Hottest College Degrees
Electrical Engineering Is #2 on the List of Ten Hottest College Degrees | Source

The 10 Highest Paying College Majors

The following is a list of the highest-paying college majors, per a study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (salaries are median salaries).

  1. Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration ($108,000)
  2. Electrical Engineering ($104,000)
  3. Civil Engineering ($97,000)
  4. Mechanical Engineering ($96,000)
  5. Computer Engineering ($93,000)
  6. Computer Science ($92,000)
  7. Chemical Engineering ($92,000)
  8. Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering ($91,000)
  9. Economics ($88,000)
  10. Management Information Systems and Statistics ($87,000)

Of course, the highest-paying college majors will vary over time, as new careers come into demand, while others fade. However, the college majors listed above or some variation of these majors offer good prospects to pay well in the future, as the 21st Century economy needs workers in these fields to meet growing demand.

Do you notice a pattern in the highest-paying college majors? The word “engineering” is in more than half of the majors. Even though the word “computer” only appears in two of the majors, it is critically important for college graduates to have a high level of computer competency to perform many of the careers associated with the majors above.

Why Care About Choosing a Well Paying College Major?

College is often a time when people explore their career options and often focus on their dream career, whether or not it has prospects to pay well when they are working. While it is laudable and rewarding to follow your heart and pursue a career in a field you find compelling, reality may someday set in, as the bills pile up and the financial demands of adult life add stress. One of the largest monthly bills for many college graduates will be paying off loans they took out to pay for their college degree. Think of college as an investment. If you cannot pay off your investment in a college degree with your post-college salary, then perhaps it is worthwhile to consider whether your current degree is a good investment of your time and in your future.

The reality for many adults that have college decades in their rear view mirrors is that whether they like it or not, they eventually have to change careers from the field they were passionate about in college to a more lucrative field that pays the bills. Keep that in mind, as you chose a college major. You can always pursue your life’s passions as a hobby or in some other capacity if you chose a different college major.

Choosing a College Degree Poll

Do You Think Cost-Benefit Should Be Considered When Choosing a College Degree To Pursue?

See results

Is a college degree worth the cost? You decide.


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    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 19 months ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      STEM careers have always and will pay well because such careers are in demand. The humanities, liberal arts, and the soft sciences are a total waste of time at this point as majors. Such majors have been on the wane, even decline since the 1970s when majors in those areas had a difficult time finding jobs even then.

    • Rock_nj profile image

      John Coviello 2 years ago from New Jersey

      Good point Larry. Interesting that a travelling nurse can make that much money. It goes to the cost-benefit decision regarding which college degree to pursue. That one sounds like it has a good cost-benefit ratio.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great list, but one can also figure in time for degree. For example, with a 2 year nursing degree applied to say travel nursing, a person can earn at or over 6 figures.

    • Rock_nj profile image

      John Coviello 2 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the input MizBejabbers. I struggle with this question often. I got the degree I really wanted to get to pursue my life's passion "environmental science", and it has been challenging financially at times. I still work in the environmental field as a writer, which is nice, since I am doing what I want to do and have always wanted to do. I guess my one regret is that I didn't get an "English" degree, because in reality, I've been making my living writing more than anything, and having an English degree would help pursue more opportunities in the writing and editing fields.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Well-paying careers are so fickle and change often. Many young people, like my son, got a degree in computer science only to see their careers exported to India. He finally ended up in a government job making good money, but things were tough those years he was out of work. His wife worked as a salaried salesperson in a drugstore while trying to home school their children. It’s cycled back around and computer careers are hot again.

      Sure glad I’m not a young person today because none of the hot career fields interest me. I picked one of the lowest-paying, journalism. My cousin got her degree in journalism, worked one year, and then went back for a career in health care. Today she is wealthy and I’m not, but I don’t regret it. I would have been miserable. I don't believe that our degrees cost us as much proportionately as degrees today. It is more important that students make good career decisions for their investments. Very good well-researched hub.