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The Top 9 Highest-Paying College Majors

Posted Oct 17 2012 - 12:00am
Tagged With: lists

Spotted, a recent college grad wearing this shirt: “I have a degree in Liberal Arts. Do you want fries with that?”

For those graduating with liberal arts degrees, and a lot of other degrees for that matter, complete financial security might feel like a distant dream far into the future.
Last spring, the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported the average salary offers to 2010 bachelor's degree candidates were down 1.7 percent from 2009. Each year the cost of college increases – rising over 30 percent for public colleges and 23 percent for private institutions since 1997. No one likes to hear they are paying more money for an education that will eventually provide them with less.

But not every major will force its students to spend the rest of their lives paying back student loans and “in the red.” Some majors have the potential to provide their students with high-paying jobs and long-term financial security. Her Campus breaks down Newsweek’s list of the best majors for big paychecks and what it takes to be a student and professional in each field.

1. Engineering
Your mental image of engineers may include thick-rimmed glasses and pocket protectors, but these “nerds” are actually the cool kids sitting on the top of the list. According to Newsweek, engineers are number one when it comes to highest earning jobs. They make a median salary of $61,000 right out of college and $105,000 by midcareer.
engineering design architect blueprints ruler “Money is an advantage of engineering, but I chose it because it will allow me the most opportunity,” junior engineering major Kathryn Bergmann from the University of Missouri said.
And there is a lot of opportunity. Engineering is a broad profession that breaks down into more specific areas like chemical, mechanical and civil. An engineer can do everything from build bridges to create new materials for building those bridges.
What are your strengths?
In general you should be good at math and science and actually like math and science if you want to be an engineer. You will spend a lot of time in high-level classes for everything from physics and chemistry to calculus.
“Engineering is a difficult major in general, but overall I believe the hardest part is the schedule demand. In order to graduate on time your schedule has to be very full every semester,” Kathryn said.
Besides earning the highest-ranking salary and covering a broad range of job areas, engineering is a male dominated field. According to the American Society of Engineering Education, in 2009 of all graduates awarded bachelor’s degrees in engineering, only 17.8 percent were women.
“A woman in engineering is in high demand and that allows you to kind of pick and choose where you go and what you do,” Kathryn said.
These uneven numbers can also make finding a study buddy in class more fun.
“Boys greatly outnumber the girls in engineering courses,” says Kathryn.
Enough said.

2. Economics
economics finance stock market newspaperThe next highest-paying major not only makes a lot of money, but also knows a lot about money as well: economics. Newsweek reports economics majors make $50,200 as a median starting salary, and $101,000 as a midcareer median. Like engineers, people studying economics can take their careers down a variety of different paths. Economics majors become consultants, venture capitalists, journalists, stockbrokers, business analysts and a variety of other things too.
What are your strengths?
Economics is not all about math and statistics. It is a social science. That means it combines the objective facts of science and math with the study of human society and of individual relationships in and to society.If you want to be an economics major you should have strong analytical reasoning and quantitative skills, as well as good writing skills. Don’t let your memory of boredom in high school econ scare you away from pursuing it in college. Undergraduates learn about micro and macroeconomics and more than just which way arrows go on a chart.
An article published in The American Economist in Spring 2010, “Economics: Good Choice of Major for Future CEOs,”reports those with undergraduate degrees in economics are shown to have a greater likelihood of being a CEO than any other major. So if you want to be the big boss, starting as an undergraduate in economics may help.


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