Special Report

These Are the College Majors That Pay Off the Most

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25. Mining and mineral engineering
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $87,606
> 2019 unemployment rate: 4.3%
> 2019 total workforce: 20,823

Mining and mineral engineering is one of the 25 highest paying college majors, with degree holders earning an average of $87,606 in 2019 — more than double the national average annual earnings for all workers of $35,672. Mining and mineral engineers develop methods to locate and extract minerals, such as diamonds or coal, from the Earth.

Workers with this degree tend to be well compensated yet they also have a relatively high unemployment rate at 4.3%. Though this is close to the 2019 U.S. unemployment rate of 4.5%, college graduates are much less likely to be out of work than the typical worker. Just 11 college degree fields have a higher unemployment rate than mining and mineral engineering.

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24. Transportation sciences and technologies
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $87,686
> 2019 unemployment rate: 2.0%
> 2019 total workforce: 205,800

Transportation sciences and technologies students most frequently work after graduating college as airline pilots, aircraft and avionics equipment technicians, and air traffic controllers after graduating college. In many of the majors on this list, students aim to continue their education and earn a master’s or even doctorate degree. Yet just 20.7% of those with a bachelor’s degree in transportation sciences and technologies go on to earn an advanced degree in the field, one of the lowest percentages on this list or for any of the 173 majors considered.

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23. Zoology
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $87,985
> 2019 unemployment rate: 1.9%
> 2019 total workforce: 168,436

Students who graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in zoology went on to earn an average of nearly $88,000 in 2019. Jobs in the field, which involve studying animal physiology and behavior, typically require advanced degrees. Among those with bachelor’s degrees in zoology, 64.0% also earned a master’s degree, and 44.2% earned a doctorate — both among the 10 highest shares in all college degree fields.

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22. Genetics
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $88,409
> 2019 unemployment rate: 4.1%
> 2019 total workforce: 28,631

Genetics is one of the least common majors in the country, with fewer than 30,000 people holding a bachelor’s degree in the field, as of 2019. Genetics majors study how physical characteristics are passed down through DNA in living organisms. It is one of many STEM fields on this list. More than half of all Americans with a bachelor’s degree in genetics went on to get a master’s, and over one-third also earned their doctorate in genetics.

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21. Architectural engineering
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $88,629
> 2019 unemployment rate: 0.9%
> 2019 total workforce: 28,009

Architectural engineers plan, design, and oversee the construction of buildings and their systems, like the lighting and structural systems. This is a relatively uncommon skillset, as there were just 28,000 architectural engineers working in the U.S. as of 2019. Fewer than 1% of architectural engineers in the labor force were unemployed in 2019, and the average income for such workers was $88,629.

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