Eight of the Ten Highest-Paying College Majors Include the Word “Engineering” | Smart News | Smithsonian
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Eight of the Ten Highest-Paying College Majors Include the Word “Engineering”

Unfortunately, researchers behind a new study point out, unless students come from a wealthy family, considering whether a college degree will pay off as an investment is a smart move

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If you’re struggling to chose a college major and are determined to make good money once you graduate, opting for a field of study with the word “engineering” in the title may be a safe bet. According to a new survey, released by Georgetown University, at $120,000 per year on average, petroleum engineering is the highest paying bachelor’s degree for recent grads, closely followed by a host of other flavors of engineering-related academic pursuits.

The researchers argue that, unless students come from a wealthy family, considering whether a college degree will pay off as an investment is a smart move. Drama may be a student’s true passion, for example, but in the current economy it ranks as one of the lowest paid majors. “While going to college is undoubtedly a wise decision, what you take while you’re there matters a lot, too,” they write. “At the extreme, the highest earning major earns 314 percent more at the median than the lowest earning major at the median.” 

Surprisingly, the most popular major, business and administration, pays a somewhat average $58,000. On the other hand, some of the least popular majors—metallurgical engineering and oceanographer—aren’t too shabby, paying $80,000 and $70,000 respectively. Here’s how the most popular majors break down as a whole:

Here’s a breakdown of the highest-paid majors, all of which pay more than $80,000.

  • Petroleum engineering
  • Pharmacy Sciences/Administration
  • Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Naval Architecture/Marine Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Metallurgical Engineering
  • Mining and Mineral Engineering

On the other hand, here are the lowest-paid majors, all of which pay an average of $40,000 or less:

  • Health/Medical Preparatory Programs
  • Visual and Performing Arts
  • Communication Disorders Sciences
  • Studio Arts
  • Drama and Theater Arts
  • Social Work
  • Human Services/Community Org.
  • Theology and Religious Vocations
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Counseling Psychology

Still, as NPR points out, money can only talk so loudly. Some students just aren’t interested in petroleum engineering. One recent grad—a psychology major earning $36,000 as a case worker—told NPR, “Honestly, I don’t mind the money. It’s more of a fulfilling thing for me.”

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