Special Report

These Are the College Majors That Pay Off the Most

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15. Mechanical engineering
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $89,801
> 2019 unemployment rate: 2.3%
> 2019 total workforce: 1,237,657

Mechanical engineers design, develop, and build machines. The average working American with a mechanical engineering degree earns $89,801 a year, the 15th highest figure of any degree field. The major is one of the most common, with over 1.2 million working mechanical engineers. Just 2.3% of those holding a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering were unemployed in 2019, roughly half the unemployment rate for all workers that year.

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14. Actuarial Science
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $90,399
> 2019 unemployment rate: 2.5%
> 2019 total workforce: 20,036

Actuarial science is one of 14 majors in which the average graduate earns more than $90,000 per year. Actuaries work to analyze the potential financial risks incurred by businesses and individuals, typically on behalf of insurance companies. A bachelor’s degree is generally enough to land a job as an actuary. and fewer than a quarter of actuarial sciences bachelor’s degree holders go on to earn an advanced degree.

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13. Mathematics and computer science
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $91,843
> 2019 unemployment rate: 1.1%
> 2019 total workforce: 20,824

Mathematics and computer science majors combine the programming and coding skills of a typical computer science major with mathematical skills. Their education can be applied to theoretical computer science, artificial intelligence, and data analysis. Just 1.1% of mathematics and computer science majors were unemployed in 2019, as compared to 4.5% of the U.S. labor force.

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12. Chemical engineering
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $93,118
> 2019 unemployment rate: 1.9%
> 2019 total workforce: 465,744

Chemical engineers work to produce fuel, food, drugs, and other products. Nearly half of all American workers with bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering go on to earn a master’s degree as well, and one in six also earn their doctorate. Those with chemical engineering degrees earn more than $93,000 a year on average, well above the $35,672 average annual earnings across the country in 2019.

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11. Economics
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $94,493
> 2019 unemployment rate: 3.1%
> 2019 total workforce: 1,565,623

Economics is one of the most common undergraduate degrees — more than 1.5 million college graduates in the labor force majored in economics. It is one of just 12 fields in which the average annual earnings for workers with an economics degree exceeds $93,000. Many economist jobs require a master’s or doctorate degree, and 41.4% 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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