Friday, February 17, 2012

2012's Highest Paying College Majors

While some go to college to expand their mind and cultivate themselves, others have a far more mercenary goal in mind: They just want to make money. There's nothing wrong with either choice. However, the reason you choose to go to college will impact what major you decide to take. If you're looking to make a lot of money right out of college, these are majors you should look into. All figures are from


The data is clear: When you want to make a pile of money, you go into engineering. Seven of the ten top-earning majors are engineering majors, with all of the top six being engineering majors. The best-paid engineering majors are petroleum, chemical, electrical, materials, aerospace and computer engineering. Petroleum engineers start at about $97,000 per year and are making $155,000 by mid-career. The lowest-paid engineers in the top ten are nuclear engineers, who start at a paltry $65,000 and only early what entry-level petroleum engineers make by mid-career. Still, engineering isn't for everyone: You'd better be very good at math if you decide to make this your vocation.


In seventh place overall is physics. Physicists come out of college earning a respectable $49,800 per year, and are making a handsome $101,000 per year by mid-career. This is another place where you're going to have to be good at applied mathematics to even get through college, let alone make a career at. Still, for the person interested in working with their mind and their hands, this can be a a great choice of major. It can also be a good choice for those who want to teach, though graduate study would be required to teach at the college level.

Applied Mathematics

It goes without saying that this is another major where you need to be good at math. Mathematicians work in a variety of fields, including alongside many of the engineers and physicists mentioned above. It's common for mathematicians to work for the federal government at places like the National Institute of Standards and Technology and NASA. Mathematicians start out making about $52,000 per year but are earning around $98,000 by mid-career.

Computer Science

Different from computer engineering which deals with hardware, computer science is the discipline dedicated to computer software. It's probably not too surprising that computer science majors are among the top earning majors in the United States, or that they are highly employable. As the world increasingly becomes plugged in at all times (think mobile technology and the apps boom), computer science majors might not even need employment in many cases — they might be able to get by just by freelancing or by making their own products and selling them directly to the public. Computer science majors start out earning just over $52,000 per year and are earning $98,000 per year by the time they move into mid-career.


You've probably noticed a pattern by now: Virtually all of the top paying college majors require a lot of math. Economics is no exception to this rule, but it's probably the closest thing to a humanity that we've seen on the list so far. You'll definitely be reading a lot of stuff that isn't math when you pursue an economics degree, but you're also going to be crunching a lot of numbers. Still, it doesn't take an economics major to figure out that making $47,000 a year once you get out of college isn't bad and earning $94,000 annually at mid-career is nothing to sneeze at, either.


Statistically speaking, people who are good at math earn more money than people who aren't. Statistics is a fascinating area of study and, like economics, resembles a humanity in some ways, specifically philosophy. In statistics you'll learn not just how to create statistical projects, but also what different types of statistics actually mean. The discipline is about a lot more than math — it's about learning what numbers say about the world we live in. Entry-level statisticians earn $49,000, with mid-career professionals making $93,000.

Picking A Major

No one is suggesting that you do something you hate for the sake of earning money. However, if you have any interest in the above areas, they're worth considering as majors. It will certainly help you pay off your student loans faster.

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