A college education opens the door to higher-paying jobs. College-educated workers 25 and older earned a median income of $56,344 in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Workers with no more than a high school diploma earned far less — just under $32,000 per year. Yet not all bachelor’s degrees have the same earning potential with some degree fields generally leading to much higher-income careers than others.
To determine the highest paying college majors — that is, the college majors leading to highest-income careers — 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data on average annual earnings for 173 undergraduate majors from the Public Use Microdata Sample summary files of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.
The vast majority of the highest paying majors are in STEM — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — fields. There are eight different engineering majors among the 25 entries on this list as well as a number of medical specialties.
Most of these majors are in fields that require a high level of specialization, such as medicine or research. This means applicants often need advanced degrees — a master’s or even a doctorate — before they can begin working in the field, or in order to advance.
While deciding on a major is important to the future earnings of a student, the college itself is important as well. The quality of the education a college provides, alumni connections, and many other factors can set students up for success — or leave them behind their peers. Students must vet their college choices before enrolling to ensure that they are not overpaying for entry to a lackluster college. These are the top ranked colleges that pay off the least.