Special Report

The Highest and Lowest Paying College Majors in America

Highest Paying College Majors

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25. Biology
> Avg. annual earnings: $81,955
> Unemployment rate: 2.6%
> Total workforce: 1,761,882

There are more than 1.7 million American workers who hold a biology degree — making it one of the most popular college majors. As with many other scientific occupations of study, many jobs in the field require high levels of education. Nearly half of all biology degree holders, 47.7%, go on to earn a master’s degree, and 27.7% earn a doctorate. With such high level of education and specialization, many biology degree holders’ earn relatively high wages. The average annual salary of someone with a biology degree is $81,955.

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24. Industrial and manufacturing engineering
> Avg. annual earnings: $82,657
> Unemployment rate: 3.4%
> Total workforce: 191,024

Industrial and manufacturing engineers “devise efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information, and energy,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because improved efficiencies can save companies money, these engineers are very valuable and tend to be well compensated. The average salary among those with industrial and manufacturing engineering degrees is $82,657 — more than triple the average annual earnings of $24,755 among all workers.

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23. Pharmacology
> Avg. annual earnings: $82,823
> Unemployment rate: 3.5%
> Total workforce: 11,878

Pharmacology degree holders are some of the best compensated college graduates in the United States, largely because of the high level of specialization jobs in pharmacology require. Of those with a degree in pharmacology, 85.1% go on to earn a doctorate degree — by far the highest rate of any major. Perhaps because of the high level of education required, a relatively small share of the U.S. workforce holds a pharmacology degree, at fewer than 12,000 people.

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22. Mining and mineral engineering
> Avg. annual earnings: $82,897
> Unemployment rate: 6.2%
> Total workforce: 13,541

Mining and mineral engineering degree holders tend to be well compensated, if they can find work. Graduates with this major are among the most likely degree holders to be looking for work, with a 6.2% unemployment rate. The number of mines for most metals — including coal, gold and silver, iron, and other metals — has greatly diminished over the past decade.

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21. Mechanical engineering
> Avg. annual earnings: $83,463
> Unemployment rate: 2.4%
> Total workforce: 839,480

There is a large demand for mechanical engineers. There are nearly 840,000 graduates with mechanical engineering degrees in the workforce, and just 2.4% are unemployed. This high demand likely helps drive up the average annual pay for a mechanical engineer, which stands at $83,463.