Stacker found the top college majors that earn the most money. (Staten Island Advance/Annalise Knudson)
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Choosing your college major is a big deal as it determines the direction of your prospective career. But some majors may yield bigger salaries after graduation, which makes them even more desirable.
Data journalism website Stacker sought to find out how valuable some college majors are over others.
It used data from a 2020 PayScale report to rank the top 100 college majors that alumni make the most money from in their respective professional careers. The rankings were released in 2021 and are based on the highest average mid-career salary, according to Stacker.
Here are the top 25 college majors that earn the most money, according to Stacker’s analysis.
24. Computer Science and Engineering (tie)
Major description: Combining computer science and engineering gets students ready for all aspects of building computer hardware and software. Focusing on software can offer better job prospects since the field is constantly changing, though hardware engineers make slightly more. Adding government clearances and professional certifications can enhance a graduate’s pay and chances of finding a job.
24. Marine Engineering (tie)
Major description: Marine engineering majors learn about all the internal components of a ship, from steering and power, to refrigeration and lighting. To graduate, students master aspects of calculus, chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering and algebra. Over the next decade, there is a projected 1% growth rate for jobs as marine engineers, who often spend a semester on the water.
23. Electrical and Computer Engineering
Major description: Working on updated power grids, chemical sensors and implantable devices are all tasks electrical and computer engineering majors perform. While the electrical side of the major teaches wireless communication and information processing, the computer side educates students on software verification and embedded systems. Job growth for the major until 2029 is expected to be 3%.
22. Computer Systems Engineering
Major description: How computers integrate into business and personal lives is the most important function of a computer systems engineer. To do that, these majors learn to combine skills in math, computer science and engineering to examine and test circuits, software and hardware. A good portion of the professionals in this field work in California.
21. Political Economy
Major description: A political economy degree program focuses on the intersection of politics, the economy, and how public policy is formed at that intersection. Some areas of career focus with this degree include social inequality, climate change, resource distribution, trade and healthcare. Alumni often fill role,s such as financial manager, lobbyist and foreign policy specialist.
20. Actuarial Science
Major description: Assessing risk within a particular industry falls under the purview of an actuarial science graduate, who uses math and statistics. Insurance companies are the primary employers of actuaries, who help create rates on premiums from life to car insurances. The field is expected to grow rapidly in the next decade, while adding business and analytics courses can help boost graduates’ prospects in what’s becoming a highly competitive job market.
19. Cognitive Science
Major description: Cognitive science involves studying how the brain processes information, learns, and behaves. A wide range of potential careers awaits those with a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science, including marketing and teaching, as well as game and web development. Attaining a master’s degree or doctorate in the field can greatly enhance job prospects by honing skills like psychology, biology, and chemistry.
17. Building Science (tie)
Major description: Designing the next generation of buildings that meet the needs of safety, human comfort, and environmental demands is the goal of a building science major. This study combines the skills learned in architecture and construction management and building science majors can expect a job market projected to grow by 10% in the next decade. While a master’s degree is preferred to earn more, those with bachelor’s degrees will attain skills in economics, physics, and construction technology.
17. Chemical Engineering (tie)
Major description: Skills in math and multiple scientific disciplines are required for a career as a chemical engineer, and graduates will be prepared to tackle issues related to chemical manufacturing. Choosing to focus on a certain discipline, like nanomaterials or oxidation, can give job-seekers a bump in both prospects and pay, as the profession will grow at an average rate. A push toward domestic natural gas and oil will maintain the need for chemical engineers.
16. Aerospace Studies
Major description: Some majors in aerospace studies are preparing for a life in the Air Force, as coursework falls under the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. Graduates are eligible to be commissioned as officers in the Air Force, which sought 3,500 officers to fill recruitment and instructor positions in 2019. Outside of recruiting or teaching, graduates learn about military planning, from developing national security policy to using air and spacecraft for strategic purposes.
Major description: Becoming a full-fledged pharmacist requires a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in pharmacy. Four-year grads undertake an intensive study of biology and chemistry, while learning about the production and manufacture of pharmaceuticals. The need for professionals in this field is expected to increase rapidly over the next decade, as a growing elderly population creates a rise in demand within the health care industry.
Major description: Econometrics entails using existing financial data to either test existing economic hypotheses or predict future performance. Graduates can find work in a variety of fields, including banking, investment, government and academics, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting above-average job growth in the next decade.
13. Systems Engineering
Major description: Systems engineers will finish their four-year degree with the ability to build and manage complex systems, including people, equipment and software for a variety of businesses. Aside from strong interpersonal and management skills, a systems engineer will possess high mathematics and information security acumen. The International Council on Systems Engineering offers a number of certifications for graduates to enhance their job prospects in this growing field.
12. Aeronautics and Astronautics
Major description: Aeronautics and astronautics involve learning the design, manufacturing and testing of everything that flies in the skies (aeronautics), and beyond the earth’s atmosphere (astronautics). The job outlook for graduates with a degree in the field is average, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 3% growth by 2029. Proficiency in math, science, and engineering is a must for obtaining an entry-level position, while additional training in computer software can enhance an applicant’s prospects.
11. Information and Computer Science
Major description: Using both concrete and abstract principles, information and computer science majors learn to solve problems and explore new areas using computers. Graduates will leave school with the ability to create algorithms, understand different programming languages, and utilize artificial intelligence, data mining, and security skills. The need for these professionals is expected to grow at a rate well above the national average, although obtaining a master’s degree is a wise choice to further enhance job prospects.
10. Electrical Power Engineering
Major description: Designing, manufacturing and maintaining electrical equipment are the fields of expertise for graduates with electrical power engineering degrees. A downturn in manufacturing and telecommunications will have an adverse effect 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 Fundamentals of Engineering exam to become an engineer-in-training, while further work experience is needed before becoming a professional engineer.
9. Actuarial Mathematics
Major description: 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 in addition to possessing exceptional business skills, will set themselves apart while seeking a job.
8. Business Computing
Major description: 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. Alumni of this degree program most often work in information technology roles.
7. Applied Economics and Management
Major description: Applied economics and management majors use economic models to predict financial outcomes based on the decisions of a business or individual. Micro and macroeconomics, statistics, advanced algebra and finance are just a few of the skills necessary 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
Major description: The need for increased efficiency among businesses has the demand for operations research analysts projected to grow by 25% in the next decade. Students in the program will learn how to apply practical solutions to complex business problems, using math and statistical analysis to make informed decisions. Since these analysts are needed in a variety of business settings, adding additional specializations, like computer programming, political science, or economics can enhance job prospects.
5. Public Accounting
Major description: 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 becoming a Certified Public Accountant requires passing an industry exam, ethics exam and being supervised by a CPA for six months to two years.
4. Interaction Design
Major description: The very best interaction design—the process of anticipating and facilitating behaviors between users and technology— is undetectable to the user. When you engage with technology through the click of a mouse or touch of your finger, that is the result of 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 the components of UX into separate roles, including interaction designers, visual designers, and information architects.
3. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Major description: There are a wide range of careers for a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science that all involve knowing the workings of both software and hardware for electronic devices. Jobs with this degree vary, from software design for major companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google, to creating systems for the aeronautical field. A firm understanding of computer languages, mathematics, and logic are critical to success, while continued education and certifications can advance job prospects.
2. Operations Research and Industrial Engineering
Major description: 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 that require decisions to be made around safety, optimization, and efficiency, including transportation, manufacturing, healthcare, finance, and entertainment.
1. Petroleum Engineering
Major description: Finding and removing oil and natural gas from the earth falls under the well-paid direction of petroleum engineers. They analyze, design, and implement plans for extraction when a reservoir is found, requiring skills in math, science, mechanical engineering, and physics. The push toward renewable and clean energy may have an adverse effect on job prospects for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering, though additional certifications and cooperative programs can boost job prospects.
If you want to see the full list of the top 100 college majors, you can read Stacker’s report here.
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Stacker found the top college majors that earn the most money. (Staten Island Advance/Annalise Knudson)