Career Planning

10 College Majors with the Highest Salaries for Graduates

The Fed and NACE highlight the top 10 college majors that make the most money after graduation.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

November 16, 2022

10 College Majors with the Highest Salaries for Graduates
Make the most of your first job -- literally.
High school and college students alike can benefit from knowing which college majors are paying the most. For college students, this data can help them navigate their major declaration as well as job search. For high school students, these figures can help them chart a course for their college search. Though money shouldn’t be the main motivator in choosing a job or a major, it certainly doesn’t hurt to consider how a high starting salary can help graduates pay off student loan debt, afford an apartment, and invest in future opportunities, like home ownership and retirement. The most recent data from The Federal Reserve Bank of New York and National Association of College Employment (NACE) shows that STEM majors are most likely to see a high salary after college graduation.

10 College Majors with the Highest Salaries for Graduates

The Fed defines the top 1o highest-paying college majors as: 10. General Engineering Average starting salary: $62,000 From 2016 – 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that 140,000 new engineering jobs will become available. The median salary for engineers today is $71,792. 9. Civil Engineering Average starting salary: $63,000 Over the next 10 years, the BLS estimates that the need for civil engineers will increase by 7%. As of now, the median salary for a civil engineer is $88,050. 8. Miscellaneous Engineering Average starting salary: $65,000 From 2016 – 2026, the BLS estimates that 140,000 new engineering jobs will become available. The median salary for engineers today is $71,792.
7. Mechanical Engineering Average starting salary: $68,000 Mechanical engineer jobs are expected to grow just 2% over the next 10 years. Their median salary is $95,300. 6. Industrial Engineering Average starting salary: $69,000 Over the next 10 years, industrial engineering will grow by 10%, which is considered faster than average. The median salary for mechanical engineers is $95,300. 5. Electrical Engineering Average starting salary: $70,000 Electrical engineering jobs will grow by 3% over the next 10 years, according to the BLS. Their current median salary is $101,780. 4. Chemical Engineering Average starting salary: $70,000 Chemical engineers can expect exponential growth over the next 10 years. They will see a 14% increase in opportunities. The median salary for chemical engineers in 2021 was $105,550. 3. Aerospace Engineering Average starting salary: $70,000 Over the next 10 years, aerospace engineering jobs are expected to grow by 6%. The median salary for individuals on this career path is $122,270. 2. Computer Science Average starting salary: $70,000 Of all the career fields, this is expected to grow the most in the next 10 years. The BLS estimates that this field will see 21% growth. The median salary for computer and information research scientists is $131,490. 1. Computer Engineering Average starting salary: $74,000 Finally, computer engineering is forecasted to grow 5% in the next 10 years. The median salary for this particular career sits at $128,170.
NACE created a general list of fields that garner the most wages after graduation. Though engineering is featured, it does not dominate. Students will find lucrative salaries in a variety of fields: 5. Health Professions Average starting salary: $54,133 4. Business Average starting salary: $57,186 3. Mathematics & Statistics Average starting salary: $68,929 2. Engineering Average starting salary: $71,516 1. Computer & Information Sciences Average starting salary: $81,202

How to Choose a College Major

Though how much you can make after graduation is important, it’s certainly not the only factor that goes into your ultimate college major decision. You’re going to spend a couple of years studying this subject as well as working in the field for years to come, so you need to love what you do as well. But how do you pick your life’s path at age eighteen or nineteen? Some college students know exactly what it is that they want to study and do with their career after graduation, but most students do not. An estimated 20 – 50% of students begin their college career “undecided,” according to a study from Butler University. Furthermore, about 30% of college students actually change their major, reports the National Center for Education Statistics. Once you get to college, you will likely have to take general education courses. While you are technically fulfilling graduation requirements, these classes are also a great way to dabble in different fields. You can get a sense of what the coursework is like for a particular field. If you have the ability, take classes that also just sound interesting, like Creative Writing or Art History or Communications. These “fun courses” could eventually become your major. That’s why it’s important to fulfill your graduation requirements but also use your courses as a way to explore different majors that are out there. Most colleges don’t require you to declare a major until your second year, but check with your Advisor to be certain. Though your sophomore year may feel far away as a college freshman, you need to be thinking about the kind of path you’ll chart until it’s time to declare your major. Will you only have time to take general education courses? How much flexibility do you have to be more exploratory in deciding your college major? If you don’t know what you want to major in, do a little exploration before college. What careers sound interesting to you? What do you have to study to make a path toward that career? How much of your undergrad career will you have to devote to taking classes toward your major? Additionally, you may want to look at careers and determine future income using a salary calculator. If you’re still having trouble nailing down a college major, it may be time to visit your College Career Center. They will be able to tell you which types of jobs are available to specific majors. They’ll also have details on salaries and benefits that those careers can expect. Finally, they’ll have connections. Your Campus Career Center will likely know where alumni are working and can help you network with those former students who can give you advice on choosing a major and making your way toward the field in which they currently work.

Changing Your College Major

At the same time, it’s important to note that you can change your college major if you’re unhappy in what you’re studying. In fact, many students do. You are not locked into a specific major once you declare. You can change your mind once or twice; however, you should keep in mind how this will affect your graduation timeline. It’s likely that changing you major once won’t impact when you graduate, but changing your major two or three times may push your graduation back a year or two. And that means you’ll be spending more on your college education than you originally intended, which could also lead to greater student loan debt. If you are considering a major change, meet with your Advisor. He or she will help you chart a path toward what courses you have to take and when in order to graduate. They may also be able to impart some great advice along the way. After all, they have been advising students for years on what they should major in, how it will affect their graduation, and career outcomes after college.

A Major Decision

You have a lot to consider when choosing your college major: what will give you the type of income you desire? What type of job will satisfy you and bring you a sense of fulfillment? How will you create a path toward that career? Fortunately, there are plenty of resources along the way to help you navigate this decision, and don’t get so locked into having to choose a major that you don’t explore the breadth of courses that your college offers. College is definitely a time to hustle, but it’s also a time to discover your passions and interests. What better place to start than in the classroom?

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