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High Paying Majors You Should Pursue for a Steady Career

Your major can have a significant impact on future salary potential. This article will explore high paying majors that lead to lucrative careers.

Oct 16, 2023
  • Education
  • Student Tips
Aerospace engineering student

✨ 5-second summary

  • What major you choose to pursue can impact how much money you earn after graduation, as well as later in your career.
  • Engineering and computer science majors tend to earn significantly more than other Bachelor's graduates.

Are you currently deciding on your major, but are unsure whether it'll pay off long-term? We'll go over the things you should consider before applying, as well as what are the best college majors you could choose in terms of setting up your future career.

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Does your major impact your future salary?

In short: yes, your major can impact your future earning potential.

There's a fair amount of research which suggests that choice of major can significantly influence earnings in early and late career.

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce report from 2015, The Economic Value of College Majors, provides an extensive analysis of the relationship between undergraduate majors and earnings.

Here are some of their key findings:

  • Business and STEM are the most common and generally the highest-paying majors.
  • The gap between wages of different majors grows larger over time. STEM graduates have a significantly higher earning potential in their mid-career than their humanities and social science counterparts.
  • There are exceptions to patterns above - some college graduates from typically lower-paying majors earn more than some grads with higher-paying degrees.

High paying majors you can pursue

Below are our picks for the best majors to pursue if you'd like to earn the highest salary possible in your early career.

We've crafted this list by cross-referencing several studies and industry reports, such as NACE's winter 2023 survey, Payscale's College Salary Report, Glassdoor's Top 50 List and others.

1. Petroleum engineering

💰 Median starting salary: $85,000

Petroleum engineers study exploration and extraction techniques for oil and natural gas resources.

Popular entry-level jobs:

  • Reservoir Engineer
  • Drilling Engineer
  • Production Engineer

2. Software engineering

💰 Median starting salary: $80,000

Software engineers create algorithms, data structures and programs to solve real-world problems.

Popular entry-level jobs:

  • Front-End Developer
  • Back-End Developer
  • Junior Web Developer

3. Nuclear engineering

💰 Median starting salary: $76,000

Research and develop processes, instruments, and systems used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation.

Popular entry-level jobs:

  • Nuclear Systems Engineer
  • Radiation Safety Specialist
  • Reactor Engineer

4. Aerospace/aeronautical engineering

💰 Median starting salary: $75,500

Aerospace engineers design, develop, and produce aircraft, spacecraft, and related systems and equipment.

Popular entry-level jobs:

  • Aerospace Design Engineer
  • Flight Test Engineer
  • Systems Engineer

5. Chemical engineering

💰 Median starting salary: $75,000

Apply chemistry, biology, physics, and math to solve problems involving the production of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and more.

Popular entry-level jobs:

  • Process Engineer
  • Chemical Production Engineer
  • Quality Control Engineer

6. Electrical engineering and engineering technology

💰 Median starting salary: $75,000

Electrical engineers study how electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism can be used to design electrical and electronic systems.

Popular entry-level jobs:

  • Electronics Engineer
  • Control Systems Engineer
  • RF (Radio Frequency) Engineer

7. Environmental engineering

💰 Median starting salary: $75,000

Environmental engineers develop solutions to environmental problems, such as pollution and waste management, to protect human health and the ecosystem.

Popular entry-level jobs:

  • Water Resources Engineer
  • Air Quality Specialist
  • Environmental Compliance Specialist

8. Computer science

💰 Median starting salary: $74,000

Study algorithms, programming, data structures, and the design and analysis of computer systems.

Popular entry-level jobs:

  • Software Developer
  • Systems Analyst
  • IT Specialist.

9. Mechanical engineering

💰 Median starting salary: $73,000
Mechanical engineers design, analyze, and maintain mechanical systems, such as machinery, tools, and equipment, to solve problems and improve functionality.

Popular entry-level jobs:

  • Mechanical Design Engineer
  • HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) Engineer
  • Manufacturing Engineer

10. Biomedical engineering

💰 Median starting salary: $73,000
Biomedical engineers design and develop medical equipment, devices, computer systems, and software used in healthcare, often combining principles from biology and medicine.

Popular entry-level jobs:

  • Clinical Engineer
  • Biomechanical Engineer
  • Medical Device Quality Engineer

Exceptions and considerations

While many high paying majors lead to high paying jobs, it's essential to remember that success isn't guaranteed solely by choice of major:

Saturation: Some high paying fields may become saturated, leading to increased competition and potentially reduced wages. For instance, IT is a field where despite the potential for high earnings, many software engineering graduates struggle to find high paying jobs due to market saturation.

Geographical differences: Earnings can vary based on location. A software engineer in Silicon Valley may earn more than one in a smaller city, due to the higher cost of living and concentration of tech companies.

Soft skills: Even in specialized fields, soft skills like communication, teamwork, and leadership can play a significant role in career advancement and salary potential.

Continued learning: Some fields may require continuous learning or additional certifications to maintain high earning potential. This is particularly important in law, engineering, and similar fields.

Bottom line

Ultimately, no job is worth the money if your heart isn't in it. Choosing a major that sparks your interest is important. Finding a major that you love, and to wake up every morning, excited to dive into your coursework because it actually interests you is key.