Paying for College

Best Paying College Degrees

Question for those of you who will begin college this fall: Have you decided which major you'll follow? Granted, there are many incoming college freshmen who aren't yet decided as to which academic path to follow. Those that have chosen a path, though, may well end up changing their direction sometime in the first couple years of study, maybe more than once. That brings us to another question: If you have chosen your particular major (or "area of concentration"), why have you chosen it?

Are you passionate enough about a certain field to commit the majority of your college courses to that field? Or, maybe you're looking to maximize your income potential. While I'm certainly not a big fan of choosing a college degree based on its earning potential, some high schoolers are drawn into dreams of large annual incomes and luxurious lifestyles. Thus, you may be asking, "Hey, then. Which college degrees open the door for the most earning power?"


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PayScale.com has released a very interesting list of the Best Undergrad College Degrees By Salary. It's no surprise that technical degrees dominate the top 10 spots. But there are a few surprises.  Here's the list:

Best Undergrad College Degrees By Salary

We've all heard that English majors often struggle to make ends meet while electrical engineers rake in the cash. Is that true? Yes, but don't give up hope. Take a look below at our list of best undergrad college degrees by salary and you'll see that the engineers and scientists fare better financially. But, there is still plenty of money to be made with a liberal arts degree.

Best Undergrad College Degrees By Salary - Full List
Best Undergrad College Degrees By SalaryStarting Median SalaryMid-Career Median Salary
Aerospace Engineering$59,600$109,000
Chemical Engineering$65,700$107,000
Computer Engineering$61,700$105,000
Electrical Engineering$60,200$102,000
Economics$50,200$101,000
Physics$51,100$98,800
Mechanical Engineering$58,900$98,300
Computer Science$56,400$97,400
Industrial Engineering$57,100$95,000
Environmental Engineering$53,400$94,500
Statistics$48,600$94,500
Biochemistry$41,700$94,200
Mathematics$47,000$93,600
Civil Engineering$55,100$93,000
Construction Management$53,400$89,600
Finance$48,500$89,400
Management Information Systems$51,900$87,200
Computing and Information Systems$50,900$86,700
Geology$45,100$84,200
Chemistry$42,900$82,300
Marketing$41,500$81,500
International Relations$41,400$80,500
Industrial Technology$49,500$79,600
Environmental Science$43,300$78,700
Architecture$42,900$78,300
International Business$41,900$77,800
Accounting$46,500$77,600
Political Science$41,300$77,300
Urban Planning$43,300$77,000
Philosophy$40,000$76,700
Information Technology$49,400$75,200
Zoology$37,000$74,400
Occupational Therapy$61,300$73,400
Microbiology$39,800$73,200
Business Administration$42,900$73,000
Business Management$43,300$72,100
Advertising$36,900$71,800
Biology$39,500$71,800
Film Production$38,200$71,800
Landscape Architecture$43,100$70,800
History$38,800$70,000
Health Sciences$37,800$69,600
Geography$40,400$69,300
Nursing$54,900$69,000
Communications$38,700$68,400
Radio and Television$34,000$67,000
English$37,800$66,900
Agriculture$40,900$66,700
Hotel Business Management$37,400$66,400
Journalism$36,300$65,300
Forestry$39,700$64,200
Anthropology$37,600$63,200
Fashion Design$36,700$62,800
Public Relations$36,700$62,600
Art History$36,300$62,400
Health Care Administration$37,900$61,000
Psychology$36,000$61,000
Interior Design$35,700$59,900
Human Resources$37,800$59,600
Graphic Design$36,000$59,400
Criminal Justice$35,900$59,300
Medical Technology$46,600$58,400
Foods and Nutrition$41,700$58,200
Sociology$36,500$57,900
Religious Studies$35,300$57,500
Drama$35,600$56,600
Fine Arts$35,800$56,300
Hospitality and Tourism$37,000$54,300
Education$36,200$54,100
Horticulture$37,200$53,400
Spanish$35,600$52,600
Music$34,000$52,000
Theology$34,800$51,500
Elementary Education$33,000$42,400
Social Work$33,400$41,600

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So, you can see a wide spread between the top-earning degrees and the rest. We might roughly characterize it as a B.S. vs. B.A competition.

The bottom line from where I sit, though, is: Follow your passion. I've always been an advocate of the philosophy that if you do what you want (in other words, what you're passionate about), the money (and happiness) will follow. Sometimes that's a hard swallow, but I've seen it work many times, and I include myself in that "doing what you want" category."

Here's my challenge, then: Sit down and make a list of things you really love to do. Be honest. Then compare that with possible college majors. You just might find that it's possible to follow your passion in some kind of degree and then enter the "real world" with enough preparation and networked circumstances to start building your dreams.

Take it from someone who knows. It can be done.

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Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.