Special Report

The Highest and Lowest Paying College Majors in America

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15. Chemical engineering
> Avg. annual earnings: $88,361
> Unemployment rate: 3.0%
> Total workforce: 303,142

Chemical engineers work to produce fuel, food, drugs, and other products. Most people with bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering go on to earn a master’s degree as well, and one in five also get a doctorate. Those with chemical engineering degrees earn more than $88,000 a year on average, more than most other college graduates in the labor force.

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14. Biomedical engineering
> Avg. annual earnings: $88,505
> Unemployment rate: 4.1%
> Total workforce: 65,980

Though the typical entry-level education needed for biomedical engineering job is a bachelor’s degree, 63% of people who graduate in the field go on to earn a master’s degree, and 25.1% also earn a doctorate degree. Biomedical engineers design and create devices and systems used in health care — and like many others in medicine, they are well compensated. The average salary among workers with a biomedical engineering degree is $88,505.

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13. Zoology
> Avg. annual earnings: $89,562
> Unemployment rate: 1.4%
> Total workforce: 118,420

Just 1.4% of workers with zoology degrees are unemployed, one of the lowest jobless rates of any degree fields in the country. Zoology degree holders can go on to work several of animal-related fields, including wildlife biology, animal care and service work, and veterinary practice.

As with many high paying degree fields, most people who study zoology as undergraduates continue their education. Almost all zoology degree holders, 95.3%, also earn a professional degree — which is an additional qualification for a specialized field, such as veterinary medicine. More than 38% of zoology bachelor’s degree holders later earn a doctorate degree.

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12. Economics
> Avg. annual earnings: $90,210
> Unemployment rate: 3.5%
> Total workforce: 1,068,804

Economics is one of the most common undergraduate degrees — more than 1 million college graduates in the labor force majored in economics. It is one of just 12 fields in which the average annual earnings for a graduate exceeds $90,000. Many economist jobs require a master’s or doctorate degree, and 48.3% of those who majored in economics in their undergraduate years go on to obtain a master’s degree. Many government economics jobs, however, require only a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions.

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11. Public policy
> Avg. annual earnings: $90,631
> Unemployment rate: 2.0%
> Total workforce: 36,011

Public policy graduates have a wide range of job opportunities after graduating. Graduates can work for nonprofits, a local, state, or national government, or as a consultant for companies looking to determine how governmental regulations could affect their business. Nearly three-quarters of college graduates with a public policy degree also went on to earn a master’s degree. With just a 2.0% unemployment rate, public policy majors are much more likely to find a job that most other degree holders.

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