Written by Angela Underwood
Choosing a college major is a big decision. Students must decide whether to pursue a career path and outlook on the hard realities of balancing them while they have challenges and interests. A good salary coming out of college is the key to a financially secure future, and with increasing student loan debts, a major that yields the biggest salaries out of the gate is even more desirable.
To show just how valuable college majors can be, Stacker used data from a 2020 PayScale report to rank the top college majors that make the most money from their most professional careers.
The rankings, released in 2021, are based on the highest average mid-career salary. For each major, information is provided about potential jobs, the skills students will attain in school, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projections on finding a likelihood of graduation with a bachelor’s degree.
# 10. Electrical Power Engineering
– Early career pay: $ 76,100
– Mid-career pay: $ 142,600
– Share of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 68%
Designing, manufacturing, and maintaining electrical equipment are the degrees of expertise in electrical power engineering. A downturn in manufacturing and telecommunications will have a negative impact on job prospects in the next decade, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting only 3% growth. Students can get ahead by completing internships, and will have to pass the engineering exams to become an engineer-in-training, while further work experience is required before becoming a professional engineer.
# 9. Actuarial Mathematics
– Early career pay: $ 64,300
– Mid-career pay: $ 143,400
– Share of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 51%
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 and have gained valuable internship experience in college with additional exceptional business skills and a job seeking while setting themselves apart.
# 8. Business Computing
– Early career pay: $ 73,000
– Mid-career pay: $ 143,600
– Share of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: data not available%
A business computing degree prepares graduates to manage and leverage information systems to support a business. This may even require building new technology systems to maximize efficiency. This degree program of alumni most often involves information technology roles.
# 7. Applied Economics and Management
– Early career pay: $ 66,100
– Mid-career pay: $ 146,400
– Share of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 67%
Applied economics and management majors use economic models to predict the results of a business or individual. Micro and macroeconomics, statistics, advanced algebra, and finance are just a few of the skills needed 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.
# 6. Operations Research
– Early career pay: $ 83,500
– Mid-career pay: $ 147,400
– Share of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 54%
Increased efficiency among businesses in demand for operations research analysts forecast to grow by 25% in the next decade. Students will learn how to apply practical solutions to complex business problems, using math and statistical analysis to make informed decisions. Since there are many different types of business settings, adding additional specializations, such as computer programming, political science, or economics, you can expect job opportunities.
# 5. Public Accounting
– Early career pay: $ 59,800
– Mid-career pay: $ 147,700
– Share of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 47%
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 a certified public accountant requires an industry exam, ethics exam, and being supervised by a CPA for six months to two years.
# 4. Interaction Design
– Early career pay: $ 68,300
– Mid-career pay: $ 155,800
– Share of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 55%
The very best interaction design — the process of anticipating and facilitating behaviors among users and technology — is undetectable to the user. When you engage with technology, click the mouse or touch your finger, that’s the result of the interaction design. When a website feels intuitive or responds to your natural behaviors, that, too, is interaction design. While interaction design is a critical component of UX design, or user experience, smaller companies may only hire a UX designer, a more all-encompassing title. Conversely, large companies often break out of the components of UX into separate roles, including interaction designers, visual designers, and information architects.
# 3. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
– Early career pay: $ 108,500
– Mid-career pay: $ 159,300
– Share of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 46%
There are a wide range of careers for a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science that involve both software and hardware for both software and hardware. This degree varies with jobs, from software design for major companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google to the creation systems for the aeronautical field. A firm’s understanding of computer languages, mathematics, and logic are critical to success, while continuing education and certifications can advance job prospects.
# 2. Operations Research and Industrial Engineering
– Early career pay: $ 84,800
– Mid-career pay: $ 170,400
– Share of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 28%
Utilizing an operations research and industrial engineering degree means using mathematical models, statistical analysis, and real-time observations to design, optimize, and modify complex systems. Managing the flow of guests through an amusement park or scheduling a city’s bus routes are both examples of large-scale and highly complex operational systems. As an industrial engineering and operations research degree holder, you can find work in a wide array of industries, including safety, optimization, and efficiency, including transportation, manufacturing, healthcare, finance, and entertainment.
# 1. Petroleum Engineering
– Early career pay: $ 93,200
– Mid-career pay: $ 187,300
– Share of alumni who say their work makes the world a better place: 67%
Petroleum engineers of the well-paid direction of finding and removing oil and natural gas from the earth. They are a reservoir when it comes to analyzing, designing, and implementing plans that require founding and requiring skills in math, science, mechanical engineering, and physics. With a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering, however, additional certifications and cooperative programs can boost job prospects.