Special Report

These Are the College Majors That Pay Off the Most

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5. Molecular biology
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $99,520
> 2019 unemployment rate: 1.9%
> 2019 total workforce: 112,585

The average worker with a degree in molecular biology earns nearly $100,000 per year, one of the highest averages among all fields of study. Molecular biologists study how chemicals work and interact with living organisms, and the field can apply/be relevant to many disciplines, including medicine, agriculture, forensic science, and more. More than 45% of those who get a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology eventually go on to get a doctorate — the third highest share of any major.

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4. Biochemical sciences
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $103,991
> 2019 unemployment rate: 1.7%
> 2019 total workforce: 300,966

Biochemical sciences majors study the chemical reactions necessary for life. These majors often go on to work in fields like pharmacology, agriculture and food science, environmental science, and more. Those who hold a bachelor’s degree in biochemical sciences majored in one of just four fields of study in which the average earnings exceeded $100,000 in 2019. It is also one of six college majors considered in which more than 40% of all bachelor’s degree holders went on to get their doctorate as well.

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3. Computer engineering
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $106,276
> 2019 unemployment rate: 2.6%
> 2019 total workforce: 421,802

Computer engineering majors learn how to design and build computer hardware and software. Computer engineering is one of the more common, and highest paying, majors available in college. There are over 420,000 workers with computer engineering degrees, and the average graduate makes over $106,000. Unlike the other college majors with six-figure incomes, computer engineers generally do not need an advanced degree. In the other three college majors that meet the salary threshold, more than 44% of degree holders went on to get their doctorate, compared to less than 5% of computer engineering majors.

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2. Pharmacology
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $106,536
> 2019 unemployment rate: 2.0%
> 2019 total workforce: 17,017

Pharmacologists study how drugs interact with the human body. This highly specialized major can prepare students for a career as a pharmacist, toxicologist, and other scientifically focused careers. These careers tend to be high paying, and the average graduate of a pharmacology program in college earns over $106,000. There are relatively few pharmacology bachelor’s degree holders, at just over 17,000. This is by far the fewest graduates of any major on this list.

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1. Health and medical preparatory programs
> 2019 Avg. annual earnings: $107,638
> 2019 unemployment rate: 1.9%
> 2019 total workforce: 146,806

Health and medical preparatory programs, sometimes known as a “pre-med” major, prepare college students to become medical professionals, like doctors, nurses, optometrists, dentists, and more. These medical professions tend to pay well, as graduates with this major report average annual earnings of $107,638 — more than any other major considered. This major has by far the highest doctorate degree attainment rate at 63.3%. No other degree has even 50%. Health and medical preparatory programs majors also have very low unemployment, at just under 2% in 2019. The national unemployment rate for all occupations that year was 4.5%.

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