College majors that earn the most money

Written by:
May 7, 2021

College majors that earn the most money

Choosing a college major is a big decision. Students must select to study something that challenges and interests them while balancing the hard realities of the job market and outlook of career paths. A good salary coming out of college is key to a secure middle class future, and with increasing student loan debts, choosing a major that yields bigger salaries out the gate becomes ever more desirable.  

To show just how valuable these college majors can be, Stacker used data from a 2020 PayScale report to rank the top 100 college majors that alumni make the most money from in their respective professional careers. The rankings, released in 2021, are based on the highest average mid-career salary. Information is provided about the jobs a major in that area might be hired for, which skills they’ll attain while in school, and what the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects their prospects are of finding a job upon graduation with a bachelor’s degree.

Stacker’s list of top 100 college majors that earn the most money is diverse, beginning with Japanese studies and ending with petroleum engineering. In between, computational and applied mathematics, aeronautics, building science, and mechatronics  top the ranks of college majors that earn the most money early to mid-career. Within the list, engineer-related college majors dominate, with petroleum engineering majors making the most mid-career pay at $182,000.

Keep reading to find out if your major made the list of college majors that earn the most money.

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1 / 100

#100. Japanese studies

- Early career pay: $49,200
- Mid-career pay: $108,500

Japanese studies entails speaking, reading, and writing the culture’s language to learn its history, economics, and social science. As a subset of East Asian studies, graduates can find work in a variety of fields, including public service, international relations, or multinational organizations. Depending on the area of concentration, the job outlook for those with a Japanese studies degree is highly favorable.

2 / 100

#97. Automotive engineering (tie)

- Early career pay: $60,500
- Mid-career pay: $108,700

After taking courses in diesel engine theory, fuel cell systems, and automotive dynamics and electronics, graduates design and tweak passenger cars, buses, and trucks, as well as motorcycles and off-road transport. Graduates with master’s degrees learn and perform specialized vehicle systems, including noise and vibration, powertrain, and ergonomics.

3 / 100

#97. Business and information technology (tie)

- Early career pay: $58,200
- Mid-career pay: $108,700

While a computer forensic analyst averages more early career pay, a network architect makes even more than the mid-career pay for graduates of the major. The business end of the major teaches students finance, marketing, operating systems, and web administration. Students who attain a graduate business and information technology degree, and earn more annual pay, learn disaster recovery, managerial accounting, and systems project management.


4 / 100

#97. Japanese language (tie)

- Early career pay: $50,000
- Mid-career pay: $108,700

Graduating with a major in Japanese language sets one up for a career in translation, teaching, or political science, among others. With more than 120 million Japanese speakers in the world, the need for translators and interpreters is expected to grow by nearly 20%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Continuing to a master’s degree enhances job prospects by ensuring increased mastery of the language and culture.

5 / 100
Petekub // Shutterstock

#96. Managerial economics

- Early career pay: $61,500
- Mid-career pay: $109,100

Up to 6,270 managerial economic degrees were awarded during the U.S. 2018–2019 college year, making the major the 110th most popular. Courses for the major include accounting, calculus, econometrics, financial markets, economics of regulation, international trade, and money and banking. Graduates of the major find careers as financial managers and analysts, executive directors, and economists.

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6 / 100

#94. Energy management (tie)

- Early career pay: $64,000
- Mid-career pay: $109,200

Energy management majors study science, finance, engineering, and geology, all of which are required to graduate. These students, whose interests include communication, management, and business, work with utility companies, government agencies, and energy trading firms. To date, the University of Oklahoma’s energy management program, formerly the petroleum land management program, is the oldest and most prestigious curriculum of its kind in the United States.

7 / 100

#94. Structural engineering (tie)

- Early career pay: $64,300
- Mid-career pay: $109,200

Considered a specialty within civil engineering, majors in this field concentrate on the design and structure of buildings, bridges, and roadways. Both a college degree and a professional engineer’s license are required to practice, which requires an understanding of physics, math, and material properties. During their careers, structural engineers work alongside architects and construction officials to determine design safety in the face of elemental forces, including snow, wind, and earthquakes.

8 / 100
StFX // Wikimedia Commons

#93. Economics

- Early career pay: $58,200
- Mid-career pay: $109,400

Collecting, analyzing, and forecasting data for specific market trends, including finance, labor, and agriculture, is what economics majors study. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects up to 8% growth in the field from 2018 to 2028 for economists, who most often hold a master’s degree or doctorate. Critical thinking, reading comprehension, and decision-making are required skills for students who take on a variety of tasks, including conducting research, compiling reports, and supervising projects.

9 / 100

#90. Electronics engineering (tie)

- Early career pay: $67,600
- Mid-career pay: $109,700

Electronics engineering focuses on the design and development of electronic devices, including phones, music players, and GPS systems. Majors will be taught the ins and outs of digital systems design and circuit theory, while adding drafting courses can enhance a graduate’s employability. The slowing of the manufacturing and telecommunications industries has the profession projected to grow by only 2% in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

10 / 100
PRESSLAB // Shutterstock

#90. Engineering physics (tie)

- Early career pay: $66,700
- Mid-career pay: $109,700

The dual degree in engineering physics opens up doors for careers in nuclear science and aerospace. Specifically, majors who graduate with the degree can become materials scientists, medical physicists, or atomic engineers, all of which earn a minimum of $65,000 annually. Engineering firms and high-tech startups seek out these majors as employees post-graduation.

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11 / 100

#90. Industrial distribution (tie)

- Early career pay: $60,700
- Mid-career pay: $109,700

International sales manager, retail buyer, and regional sales director make up a few career choices for industrial distribution majors who study the purchase and transport of goods. Program coursework required for this career includes communications, domestic and international marketing, analysis, operations management, wholesale purchasing, and distribution supervision. Professionals in the field have strong math and problem-solving skills.

12 / 100
LI CHAOSHU // Shutterstock

#89. Paper science

- Early career pay: $72,400
- Mid-career pay: $109,900

Graduates in this major, who learn the science and technology of converting raw bio-materials into paper and new ways to manufacture the product, are well-versed in advanced math, chemistry, and physical and chemical properties of wood. Field, project, packaging, quality, and process engineer are some titles alums hold after graduating.

13 / 100
Nejron Photo // Shutterstock

#88. Mathematics and statistics

- Early career pay: $59,800
- Mid-career pay: $110,000

Data analysis, experimental design, and statistical research are skills that mathematical statistician graduates attain in college. The northeastern United States has the most jobs for graduates, with Connecticut and Maryland paying top dollar for employment. Job titles include statisticians who interpret and process medical, governmental, and social data, and math professors, who instruct in theory, technique, and problem-solving.

14 / 100

#87. Business and economics

- Early career pay: $56,800
- Mid-career pay: $110,500

Business and economics, the study of trade and finance, is a double major that equips a graduate for several careers, including senior financial analyst, chief finance officer, and chief operating officer. Those with this double major find well-paying jobs in market research organizations, consulting firms, investment institutions, merger and acquisition departments, and insurance companies.

15 / 100
ShutterOK // Shutterstock

#86. Telecommunications engineering

- Early career pay: $59,800
- Mid-career pay: $110,600

Telecommunications engineering entails designing, maintaining, and troubleshooting data, voice, video, and image systems. Graduates have jobs setting up network systems or installing fiber optic cable, and work for telecom companies, government agencies, or consulting firms. Available in associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees, majors in the subject learn computer programming and networking through studying digital electronics and satellite transmission, among other specialties.

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16 / 100

#85. Finance and marketing

- Early career pay: $53,400
- Mid-career pay: $110,700

A double major in finance and marketing prepares graduates to become investment bankers, hedge fund managers, and medical sales representatives, among other roles. Common coursework for the program includes personal and business finance, consumer behavior, professional selling, market research and planning, and investment analysis. Professionals who have studied this double major report having successful careers.

17 / 100

#84. Information and decision sciences

- Early career pay: $60,600
- Mid-career pay: $110,800

By combining technology and business, a major in information and decision sciences can attain the title of business analyst, data quality specialist, and business intelligence developer, among others. Graduates gain skills to analyze emerging technologies, use computer programs, and design and update operating systems.

18 / 100

#82. Ceramic engineering (tie)

- Early career pay: $66,300
- Mid-career pay: $110,900

Ceramic engineers develop materials needed for defense systems, transportation, and environmental technology by working with ceramics, an inorganic material handled at high temperatures. By combining math and science, majors learn to invent and work with products through critical thinking and problem-solving. Those who pursue the degree have a strong interest in the practical application of physics and chemistry.

19 / 100

#82. International economics (tie)

- Early career pay: $54,600
- Mid-career pay: $110,900

International economics is the study of global trade and finance and its worldwide effect. By predicting production, transaction, and multilateral trade negotiations, majors in the subject become government or global organization analysts and consultants, or work in the finance industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports most economics majors in the private sector have either a master’s degree or doctorate, but entry-level jobs in a federal agency only require a bachelor’s degree.

20 / 100

#78. Entrepreneurship and marketing (tie)

- Early career pay: $48,500
- Mid-career pay: $111,100

Building launch-ready businesses are what entrepreneurship and marketing majors do best. Required skills include product development, merchandise management, and business planning. From bootstrapping to brand-building, majors must be able to take financial risks with their own business ventures to succeed. New venture formation and buyer behavior are examples of courses majors study to graduate.

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21 / 100
indukas // Shutterstock

#78. Engineering science (tie)

- Early career pay: $64,700
- Mid-career pay: $111,100

Engineering science alumni become researchers, electronic technicians, and field engineers, among other related occupations. Common major courses include cell and molecular biology, nanoengineering, quantum electronics, and thermodynamics of materials. Engineering science graduates are guaranteed employment in several states, including Washington, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

22 / 100

#78. International business and finance (tie)

- Early career pay: $57,700
- Mid-career pay: $111,100

International business and finance majors learn to manage money on a worldwide scale. By learning international law, corporate governance, and capital markets, majors can become venture capitalists, management consultants, investment bankers, financial accountants, and financial analysts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that business and financial employment is growing faster than the average for all jobs, with an expected 7% growth between 2018–2028.

23 / 100
nevodka // Shutterstock

#78. Materials science and engineering (tie)

- Early career pay: $69,200
- Mid-career pay: $111,100

A materials science and engineering degree combines the study of the structure and chemical properties of all types of materials, including metals, glass, polymers, graphites, plastics, and ceramics. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics separates materials scientists, who study substance interaction on atomic and molecular levels, from materials engineers, who develop and test substances, both professions earn a considerable median income.

24 / 100

#77. Industrial engineering

- Early career pay: $68,300
- Mid-career pay: $111,400

An industrial engineering degree prepares graduates to oversee various aspects of large-scale projects, including quality control, labor, cost analysis, logistics, material flow, and more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that many industrial engineers have a degree in a specific field, including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and manufacturing engineering. An expanding health care system will probably produce a higher demand for industrial engineers in professional, scientific, and consulting businesses.

25 / 100

#76. Mechanical engineering

- Early career pay: $67,600
- Mid-career pay: $111,500

Mechanical engineering is the design and development of tools, devices, and machinery, which requires strong science, math, mechanical, and critical thinking skills. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports up to a 4% growth in mechanical engineering employment until 2028, such as in the automotive manufacturing industry. With a doctorate, mechanical engineers can participate in research and development programs as well as teach the subject at the university level.

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26 / 100
Ohiodominican // Wikimedia Commons

#75. Physician assistant studies

- Early career pay: $92,900
- Mid-career pay: $112,200

Physician assistant studies prepares majors for a career in the medical field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most in the field require a master’s degree. This industry is forecasted to grow by up to 31% by 2028, making it an appealing choice for those interested in job security. Strong listening, critical thinking, and deductive and inductive reasoning skills are required for graduates, who become assistants in examining, testing, diagnosing, and treating patients.

27 / 100
Jat306 // Shutterstock

#74. Construction engineering management

- Early career pay: $64,800
- Mid-career pay: $112,700

Offered in both undergraduate and graduate levels, construction engineering management is the combination of technology and science to reinforce construction framework on a wide range of large-scale projects, including airport design, roadways, bridges, and water waste management systems, or smaller residential and commercial structures. Majors who work in the field are well-versed in government codes, regulations, and laws for site inspections. They also have strong active listening and critical thinking skills to work with other officials.

28 / 100

#73. Physics and astronomy

- Early career pay: $54,000
- Mid-career pay: $112,900

While reaching the stars from a salary standpoint requires a doctorate, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy can find work in a variety of fields, both within the government and private sectors. Coursework includes extensive math, statistics, and science training to learn how matter interacts with energy.

29 / 100

#72. Physics and mathematics

- Early career pay: $61,500
- Mid-career pay: $113,600

Solving problems in physics by using mathematical equations is the primary study path of physics and mathematics majors. There are a variety of career paths to pursue, including chemical and civil engineering, biophysics, and aerospace engineering. The wide scope of careers, as well as advancements in technology, have projected job growth in both math and physics fields looking favorable.

30 / 100

#71. Physics

- Early career pay: $62,300
- Mid-career pay: $113,800

Understanding energy and matter and how they relate through space and time is the goal of those pursuing a degree in physics. There are plenty of options for graduates in physics, from teaching in a high school to understanding the origins of the universe. Students will graduate with skills in advanced math, quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, and thermodynamics.

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31 / 100

#69. Business analysis (tie)

- Early career pay: $59,200
- Mid-career pay: $114,300

Efficiency is the primary goal of a graduate with a degree in business analysis, from improving software to streamlining production processes. The need for these professionals is expected to grow rapidly in the next decade—especially within the health care and IT fields—as more businesses look to control costs. Successful graduates take a range of classes, including math, business, finance, and IT.

32 / 100

#69. Computer and information science (tie)

- Early career pay: $60,100
- Mid-career pay: $114,300

Treating the computer as a tool to find innovative solutions to complex problems falls to the computer and information science grads. Students will leave with a firm grasp of network security, computer programming, and software design. The job market for those completing a four-year degree is strong, with careers in software development expected to grow 21% over the next 10 years.

33 / 100

#68. Statistics

- Early career pay: $63,700
- Mid-career pay: $114,400

Descriptive statistics relates to the numbers found within a data set or population, while inferential statistics is using small sets of data to make inferences about larger populations. The need for statisticians is expected to grow rapidly, at 31%, over the next decade because of increased demand in health care and business. Computer programming, physics, and engineering courses are a part of this path of study.

34 / 100

#67. Operations management and information systems

- Early career pay: $61,900
- Mid-career pay: $114,500

An operations management and information major will have strong skills in design systems, research, learning strategies, oral and written communication, math, and science. After graduation, majors who focus on production and operations management and information services can become inventory managers, materials controllers, and risk analysts.

35 / 100
Joonspoon // Wikimedia Commons

#66. Software engineering

- Early career pay: $71,100
- Mid-career pay: $114,700

Software engineering majors learn to develop programs for computers using principles of engineering. Learning a wide variety of computer languages and gaining certifications can help job candidates stand out from the pack. Becoming a software developer is one of the more lucrative career paths a graduate can take, with this field expected to grow by 21% over the next 10 years.

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36 / 100
astro_matt // Wikimedia Commons

#65. Bioengineering

- Early career pay: $67,400
- Mid-career pay: $115,000

The study of biological systems and biomedical technologies, bioengineering is the leading concentration required to become a biomedical engineer. Students use math, engineering, and science to conduct experiments and design systems on a multidisciplinary level. This major is also available as a graduate degree, which leads to higher annual income.

37 / 100

#64. Petroleum land management

- Early career pay: $60,600
- Mid-career pay: $115,400

Finding and buying land rights for oil and natural gas companies falls under the purview of petroleum land management. Professionals in this field discover ownership rights and negotiate leases or purchases for the purpose of drilling for oil. Knowing how to read zoning maps and investigate property deeds are two skills petroleum land managers will learn.

38 / 100

#62. Applied mathematics (tie)

- Early career pay: $64,400
- Mid-career pay: $115,500

Students in applied mathematics will learn how to use equations in their studies to find solutions to engineering and science problems. The field is expected to explode over the next decade, growing at a rate of 30%, bolstered by a surge in data storage. There are a wide range of fields to enter upon graduation, including finance, business, engineering, and government.

39 / 100

#62. Integrated science and technology (tie)

- Early career pay: $62,500
- Mid-career pay: $115,500

A bachelor’s degree in integrated science and technology holds several job titles, including software engineer and materials manager. After establishing a solid science foundation and its technology applications during the first two years of undergraduate studies, students then move onto more advanced learning, including applied biotechnology, environmental studies, production systems, networking, and telecommunications.

40 / 100

#61. Engineering

- Early career pay: $66,500
- Mid-career pay: $116,000

A bachelor’s degree in engineering prepares students for a life designing, inspecting, and testing a wide variety of products, from airports to zippers. The median salary for an engineer in 2020 was $83,160. The demand for well-trained engineers is expected to accelerate in the coming years, as the country looks to update infrastructure and develop new energy systems.

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41 / 100

#59. Electronics and communications engineering (tie)

- Early career pay: $61,500
- Mid-career pay: $116,100

Electronics engineering covers the design and manufacturing of electronic devices, from smartphones and televisions, to GPS systems and portable music players. The curriculum will encompass math, physics, circuit theory, and systems design, opening the graduate up for jobs in computers and government, among others. While the career path is expected to grow more slowly than average over the next 10 years, the research and development of new technologies will drive much of that growth.

42 / 100

#59. Mining engineering (tie)

- Early career pay: $75,200
- Mid-career pay: $116,100

Extracting coal and other metals in the safest manner is what mining engineering students are preparing for in their careers. Reduction in mining of coal, and businesses hiring engineering firms as opposed to employing their own, has growth projected at just 3% over the next decade. The future of mining may be beyond the confines of the planet, with the Colorado School of Mines being the first to offer a space resources course for extracting precious metals from asteroids and other bodies in outer space.

43 / 100

#58. Materials science

- Early career pay: $62,700
- Mid-career pay: $116,200

Materials science majors study materials such as rubbers, metals, and glass, and look for ways to strengthen them or bind them together to form stronger substances. Semiconductor manufacturing is among the most lucrative jobs for a materials scientist, while research and development employs the most professionals in the field. A large part of the curriculum is chemistry, which is used to study material at its most basic level to alter it to suit a need.

44 / 100
UC Davis College of Engineering // Wikimedia Commons

#57. Biomedical engineering

- Early career pay: $67,700
- Mid-career pay: $116,300

A degree in biomedical engineering entails taking many of the same courses needed to graduate from medical school. Biomedical engineering students can take several paths within the discipline, including medical imaging, nanotechnologies, genetic engineering, or prosthetics. An increasing aging population will help increase the demand for biomedical engineers.

45 / 100

#56. Computer science

- Early career pay: $70,700
- Mid-career pay: $116,500

Computer science majors delve into the world of designing, developing, and applying computer software. Software developer is a common career for a graduate with a computer science degree, a field that is expected to grow at 21% over the next decade, about four times the national average. A four-year degree will prepare grads with advanced math skills in calculus, statistics, and algorithms, as well as a slew of computer courses, including computer theory, information management, and design physics.

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46 / 100
ESO // Wikimedia Commons

#55. Optical science and engineering

- Early career pay: $67,600
- Mid-career pay: $117,100

A major in optical science and engineering goes on to a career in optical design, fabrication, instrumentation, and communications. Optical engineers must have strong skills in math, physics, manual dexterity, and problem-solving. They should also be versed in optical design/analysis tools, such as Zemax, Code V or Trace Pro, and be able to use a variety of scientific and laboratory equipment.

47 / 100

#54. Industrial and systems engineering

- Early career pay: $69,900
- Mid-career pay: $117,300

Industrial and systems engineering students specifically focus on productivity and quality improvement. They improve a business’ workflow by looking at people, product, and process to maximize efficiency. Employment in this sector is expected to grow 10% from 2019 to 2021, a rate above the national average, thanks to growing needs in the health care and automation industries.

48 / 100

#53. Accounting and economics

- Early career pay: $61,600
- Mid-career pay: $117,400

Double majoring in accounting and economics combines the accounting’s skills of preparing financial documents and tax statements with economics’ understanding of markets and forecasting future decisions. Both professions individually are expected to grow at, or slightly above, the national average, while combining them only enhances job prospects.

49 / 100

#51. Aeronautical/aerospace engineering technology (tie)

- Early career pay: $73,400
- Mid-career pay: $117,500

A degree in aeronautical/aerospace engineering technology teaches students the skills to design and build aircraft and spacecraft. Combining math, science, and engineering prepares graduates for careers in airframe design, logistics, or integration engineering. Growth in the field is projected to be sluggish due to the slowing of manufacturing.

50 / 100

#51. Materials engineering (tie)

- Early career pay: $69,100
- Mid-career pay: $117,500

Though the job outlook for college majors with a materials engineering degree is slight, growing 2% between 2019–2029, the early to mid-career pay ranks as one of the highest for young professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2020 median pay for professionals is $95,640 annually, equaling $45.98 per hour. College majors learn how to design and test materials for the creation of products.

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51 / 100

#50. Metallurgical engineering

- Early career pay: $79,100
- Mid-career pay: $117,700

Transforming metal from ore into finished material falls under the direction of a metallurgical engineer. A subset of materials engineering, metallurgists can enhance their job prospects by taking computer modeling classes or gaining certifications. The field is expected to see little to no growth in the next decade—especially in manufacturing—while new medical and scientific products will help keep metallurgical engineers in demand.

52 / 100

#49. Electrical and electronics engineering

- Early career pay: $71,300
- Mid-career pay: $118,100

Learning how to design and manufacture electronic and electrical devices, along with computers and their components, is the goal of electrical and electronics engineering majors. Telecommunications, power generation, and the biomedical field are just a few of the career paths graduates can strive to attain. This job market is expected to slow in the next decade for owing to a downturn in manufacturing, but technological advancements and updates to the nation’s power grid should help offset losses.

53 / 100

#48. Bioscience

- Early career pay: $48,400
- Mid-career pay: $118,300

Bioscience encompasses several majors, including marine biology, animal science, and biomedical engineering. Separating organic and inorganic solutions and DNA extraction are just two skills graduates will have, on top of extensive math, science, and lab work. Graduates can find work in a variety of fields, including genetic counselor, pharmaceutical sales, biochemistry, and more.

54 / 100

#47. Computer science and mathematics

- Early career pay: $66,800
- Mid-career pay: $118,500

Combining computer science and mathematics can lead to a lucrative career as a software developer, programmer, or research scientist. The job outlook for these majors is fairly strong, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting 16% growth for researchers, and 21% for developers. Additional certifications can help enhance job prospects and boost starting salary.

55 / 100

#46. Chemical and biomolecular engineering

- Early career pay: $74,000
- Mid-career pay: $118,700

Fusing molecular biology, biophysical chemistry, and chemical engineering to create new products is the main area of expertise for a chemical and biomolecular engineer. Biomolecular engineers have a hand in everything, from life-saving pharmaceuticals to innovations in the food industry. This field is expected to see steady growth over the next decade.

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56 / 100

#44. Astronomy (tie)

- Early career pay: $54,300
- Mid-career pay: $119,600

Astronomy majors prepare to unlock the mysteries of the universe, and unlike most sciences where lab work is imperative, astronomers use mostly observation and math. Skills in physics, cosmology, and math are needed to observe, chart, and track celestial bodies as they move across the night sky. A bachelor’s degree in astronomy points graduates toward careers in fields like telescope operator or research assistant, while a doctorate is generally preferred to work in an academic setting as an astronomer.

57 / 100

#44. Mechanical and aeronautical engineering (tie)

- Early career pay: $66,900
- Mid-career pay: $119,600

Understanding how to build, fix, and maintain machinery falls to a mechanical engineer, while those who add aeronautical engineering to their major focus on airplanes, missiles, and weapons systems. Skills learned during this four-year degree include extensive math, physics, drafting, and computer courses. Both types of engineering are expected to grow at about the national average for the next decade, while combining the two can push a candidate to the top of the hiring list.

58 / 100
Wojciech Litwin // Wikimedia Commons

#43. Ocean engineering

- Early career pay: $65,100
- Mid-career pay: $119,700

Ocean engineers study the relationship and interaction between engineered systems and bodies of water. Unlike oceanographers who study natural occurrences, engineers design vessels and instruments to explore the depths of the oceans, which are less understood than the surface of Mars. Knowledge of robotic design, underwater acoustics, and geomechanics are just a few of the skills graduates attain.

59 / 100
Gorodenkoff // Shutterstock

#42. Aerospace engineering

- Early career pay: $70,700
- Mid-career pay: $119,800

Aerospace engineering prepares graduates to design aircraft, including planes, missiles, and satellites. A downturn in manufacturing dampens the job outlook for graduates with an aerospace engineering degree, but a push toward the development of smaller satellites and unmanned aircraft should help offset that. Seeking additional training in computer languages, as well as structural engineering, can help job prospects.

60 / 100

#40. Computational and applied mathematics (tie)

- Early career pay: $69,700
- Mid-career pay: $120,100

Computational and applied mathematics involves creating and using mathematical models to solve complex science and engineering problems. A strong foundation in math, science, and engineering is required for a graduate to find success in a wide range of potential careers, including actuaries, forensic science, and teaching.

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61 / 100

#40. Marine transportation management (tie)

- Early career pay: $67,800
- Mid-career pay: $120,100

Training officer, deck cadet, merchant marine, third mate, and seaman are some of the job titles these college majors have. Marine and other transportation management jobs have been on the uprise since 2004, averaging 0.41% growth annually. Ziprecruiter reports marine transportation jobs and annual salary vary, noting career growth is directly related to skill and location.

62 / 100

#39. Instrumentation and control engineering

- Early career pay: $69,000
- Mid-career pay: $120,500

Instrumentation and control engineering majors will learn how to measure and control variables like temperature, pressure, and flow in a system. Knowledge of mathematics and physics, as well as engineering, are critical for success in the field. While the job outlook for engineers is declining, instrumentation engineers are critical to setting up and maintaining automated systems, which are always in demand.

63 / 100

#37. Geophysics (tie)

- Early career pay: $56,900
- Mid-career pay: $120,600

While a master’s degree is preferred among many employers, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in geophysics have a firm understanding of the planet’s physical properties and use physics to study the earth’s magnetic, gravitational, and electric fields. Emerging energy technologies, like wind and geothermal energies, will help keep geophysicists employed.

64 / 100

#37. Pharmacology (tie)

- Early career pay: $55,000
- Mid-career pay: $120,600

Pharmacology majors become clinical research associates, staff nurses, and pharmacist technicians, among other related occupations. Drug interaction study involves several courses, including toxicology, pharmacokinetics, biochemical proliferation and differentiation, and apoptosis. The three top states for pharmacology majors are Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Alaska.

65 / 100

#35. Cognitive science (tie)

- Early career pay: $64,100
- Mid-career pay: $121,100

Cognitive science involves studying how the brain processes information, learns, and behaves. A wide range of potential careers awaits those with a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science, including marketing and teaching, as well as game and web development. Attaining a master’s degree or doctorate in the field can greatly enhance job prospects by honing skills like psychology, biology, and chemistry.

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66 / 100

#35. Control engineering (tie)

- Early career pay: $69,900
- Mid-career pay: $121,100

Control engineers combine math and mechanical engineering to design and implement automation or processing systems. Upon graduation, passing an exam to become an engineer-in-training is a must to get started. Control engineering is an offshoot of mechanical engineering, a field that is predicted to grow by 4% over the next decade. Keeping up with technological advances can help prospective employment.

67 / 100
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#33. Economics and mathematics (tie)

- Early career pay: $65,000
- Mid-career pay: $121,400

Mathematical economists solve complex economic problems using principles of algebra, calculus, and statistics, and form models to predict future performance. Mathematical economists rely on quantitative methods, and advanced knowledge of computer modeling can help set job candidates apart when looking for work in finance, government, or education.

68 / 100

#33. Electrical engineering (tie)

- Early career pay: $71,800
- Mid-career pay: $121,400

Electrical engineers design and maintain electrical equipment, and require extensive training in math, science, and engineering. Despite slower job growth than average, learning new technologies can give grads an advantage in the job market, as research and development provide steady work. Passing an exam to become an engineer-in-training is a must, while work experience and further state licensing are needed to become a professional engineer.

69 / 100

#31. Foreign affairs (tie)

- Early career pay: $52,200
- Mid-career pay: $121,800

Earning a degree in foreign affairs earns students knowledge of the ins and outs of foreign and domestic policy, including trade policy and public relations. Graduates can seek careers in government as diplomats or intelligence officers, or in the private sector working for international banks or businesses. Additional language skills are a plus for graduates seeking to reach the top of the applicant list.

70 / 100

#31. Welding engineering (tie)

- Early career pay: $76,900
- Mid-career pay: $121,800

Using heat and pressure to fuse two pieces of metal into one as a welding engineer requires skills in computer design, math, and chemistry, among others. After graduating, four years of work experience is required before taking a state licensure exam to become a professional engineer. Joining professional organizations, such as the American Welding Society or the Edison Welding Institute can enhance job prospects for entry-level candidates, who can find work in shipyards, oil rigs, or research laboratories.

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71 / 100

#30. Quantitative economics

- Early career pay: $62,000
- Mid-career pay: $121,900

A specialized field of economics, quantitative economics incorporates statistics along with math to predict future economic conditions. The demand for economists is expected to grow slightly faster than average over the next decade, but the highly competitive nature of the field means grads should consider pursuing a master’s degree. Learning additional statistical analysis software can help those obtaining a bachelor’s degree enhance their job prospects.

72 / 100

#29. Mechatronics

- Early career pay: $70,200
- Mid-career pay: $122,300

When combined, mechanical and electrical engineering and computer science make up a mechatronics degree. As an engineering branch, the novel college major created in the 1960s teaches undergraduates how to build complicated systems. After graduation, college majors become mechatronics engineers, robotics engineers, and automation engineers.

73 / 100

#28. Building science

- Early career pay: $51,100
- Mid-career pay: $122,500

Designing the next generation of buildings that meet the needs of safety, human comfort, and environmental demands is the goal of a building science major. This study combines the skills learned in architecture and construction management and building science majors can expect a job market projected to grow by 10% in the next decade. While a master’s degree is preferred to earn more, those with bachelor’s degrees will attain skills in economics, physics, and construction technology.

74 / 100

#27. Econometrics

- Early career pay: $60,700
- Mid-career pay: $123,000

Econometrics entails using existing financial data to either test existing economic hypotheses or predict future performance. Graduates can find work in a variety of fields, including banking, investment, government, and academics, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting above-average job growth in the next decade.

75 / 100

#26. Computer engineering

- Early career pay: $74,600
- Mid-career pay: $123,200

A computer engineering degree fuses computer science with electronic engineering, leaving grads equipped to design, develop, and monitor systems. As more common household products integrate computers and microchips, the demand for computer engineers promises to increase over the next decade despite the slowing of manufacturing. Math, science, keeping up with emerging technologies, and ongoing accreditation is imperative to getting ahead in the job market.

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76 / 100

#25. Electrical and computer engineering

- Early career pay: $73,900
- Mid-career pay: $123,300

Working on updated power grids, chemical sensors, and implantable devices are all tasks electrical and computer engineering majors perform. While the electrical side of the major teaches wireless communication and information processing, the computer side educates students on software verification and embedded systems. Job growth for the major until 2029 is expected to be 3%.

77 / 100

#24. Corporate accounting and finance

- Early career pay: $61,200
- Mid-career pay: $123,600

Corporate accounting and finance majors primarily become financial managers for large-scale companies. Before becoming chief financial officers, graduates study capital budgeting, finance practicum, multinational financial management, and cost accounting, among other courses.

78 / 100

#23. Computer science and engineering

- Early career pay: $74,000
- Mid-career pay: $124,000

Combining computer science and engineering gets students ready for all aspects of building computer hardware and software. Focusing on software can offer better job prospects since the field is constantly changing, though hardware engineers make slightly more. Adding government clearances and professional certifications can enhance a graduate’s pay and chances of finding a job.

79 / 100

#22. Nuclear engineering

- Early career pay: $73,100
- Mid-career pay: $124,500

Designing and developing instruments and equipment related to the harnessing of nuclear power and radiation falls to nuclear engineering professionals. Graduates can find work with the government, in construction, or within the medical field, while a third are employed in electric power generation. Knowledge of computer programs, like LINUX, Oracle Java, and C++, among others, can enhance job prospects and pay.

80 / 100

#21. Computer systems engineering

- Early career pay: $74,600
- Mid-career pay: $124,800

How computers integrate into business and personal lives is the most important function of a computer systems engineer. To do that, these majors learn to combine skills in math, computer science, and engineering to examine and test circuits, software, and hardware. A good portion of the professionals in this field work in California.

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81 / 100

#20. Marine engineering

- Early career pay: $74,700
- Mid-career pay: $125,000

Marine engineering majors learn about all the internal components of a ship, from steering and power, to refrigeration and lighting. To graduate, students master aspects of calculus, chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering, and algebra. Over the next decade, there is a projected 1% growth rate for jobs as marine engineers, who often spend a semester on the water.

82 / 100

#18. Operations and information systems management (tie)

- Early career pay: $63,800
- Mid-career pay: $125,100

Maximizing the efficiency with which goods and services enter and exit a business is the goal of an effective operations manager. Fusing information systems management into the equation enhances job prospects by teaching students the ins and outs of the IT industry, allowing for total oversight over operations. IT professionals are in high demand, and employment opportunities for these majors are expected to grow faster than the national average over the next decade.

83 / 100

#18. Political economics (tie)

- Early career pay: $58,200
- Mid-career pay: $125,100

Knowing how political and economic variables interact while shaping public policy can lead to a career in government policy or financial planning. A political economy degree can also be a stepping stone to a career in law, as a foreign policy specialist, or a legal advisor. The job outlook for graduates depends on the field they enter: Political scientists expect a 2% decline in jobs, while financial planners will see a 16% increase.

84 / 100

#17. Aeronautical engineering

- Early career pay: $71,600
- Mid-career pay: $125,900

Aeronautical engineers focus on aircraft, studying their design and the effects of aerodynamics on performance. A subset of aerospace engineering, this profession will see slow growth in the next decade as manufacturing declines, but advances in fuel technology and reduction of noise pollution should help employment numbers. Additional training in software like C++, along with a focus on structural engineering, can help job prospects.

85 / 100

#16. Information and computer science

- Early career pay: $70,300
- Mid-career pay: $127,600

Using both concrete and abstract principles, information and computer science majors learn to solve problems and explore new areas using computers. Graduates will leave school with the ability to create algorithms, understand different programming languages, and utilize artificial intelligence, data mining, and security skills. The need for these professionals is expected to grow at a rate well above the national average, although obtaining a master’s degree is a wise choice to further enhance job prospects.

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86 / 100

#15. Actuarial science

- Early career pay: $64,700
- Mid-career pay: $128,700

Assessing risk within a particular industry falls under the purview of an actuarial science graduate, who uses math and statistics. Insurance companies are the primary employers of actuaries, who help create rates on premiums from life to car insurances. The field is expected to grow rapidly in the next decade, while adding business and analytics courses can help boost graduates’ prospects in what’s becoming a highly competitive job market.

87 / 100

#14. Chemical engineering

- Early career pay: $73,500
- Mid-career pay: $128,900

Skills in math and multiple scientific disciplines are required for a career as a chemical engineer, and graduates will be prepared to tackle issues related to chemical manufacturing. Choosing to focus on a certain discipline, like nanomaterials or oxidation, can give job-seekers a bump in both prospects and pay, as the profession will grow at an average rate. A push toward domestic natural gas and oil will maintain the need for chemical engineers.

88 / 100
KenSoftTH // Shutterstock

#13. Aerospace studies

- Early career pay: $50,300
- Mid-career pay: $130,300

Some majors in aerospace studies are preparing for a life in the Air Force, as coursework falls under the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. Graduates are eligible to be commissioned as officers in the Air Force, which sought 3,500 officers to fill recruitment and instructor positions in 2019. Outside of recruiting or teaching, graduates learn about military planning, from developing national security policy to using air and spacecraft for strategic purposes.

89 / 100
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#12. Actuarial mathematics

- Early career pay: $61,900
- Mid-career pay: $130,500

Actuaries use math and statistics to analyze and assess financial risk for a business, usually in the finance or insurance fields. The field is relatively small, but competitive, and is expected to explode in the next decade at a rate of 20%. Graduates who pass two actuarial exams and have gained valuable internship experience in college in addition to possessing exceptional business skills, will set themselves apart while seeking a job.

90 / 100

#11. Electrical power engineering

- Early career pay: $73,100
- Mid-career pay: $130,700

Designing, manufacturing, and maintaining electrical equipment are the fields of expertise for graduates with electrical power engineering degrees. A downturn in manufacturing and telecommunications will have an adverse effect on job prospects in the next decade, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting only 3% growth. Students can get ahead by completing internships, and will have to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam to become an engineer-in-training, while further work experience is needed before becoming a professional engineer.

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91 / 100

#10. Systems engineering

- Early career pay: $74,000
- Mid-career pay: $132,900

Systems engineers will finish their four-year degree with the ability to build and manage complex systems, including people, equipment, and software for a variety of businesses. Aside from strong interpersonal and management skills, a systems engineer will possess high mathematics and information security acumen. The International Council on Systems Engineering offers a number of certifications for graduates to enhance their job prospects in this growing field.

92 / 100
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#9. Aeronautics and astronautics

- Early career pay: $74,000
- Mid-career pay: $133,100

Aeronautics and astronautics involves learning the design, manufacturing, and testing of everything that flies in the skies—aeronautics, and beyond the Earth’s atmosphere— astronautics. The job outlook for graduates with a degree in the field is average, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 3% growth by 2029. Proficiency in math, science, and engineering is a must for obtaining an entry-level position, while additional training in computer software can enhance an applicant’s prospects.

93 / 100

#8. Pharmacy

- Early career pay: $66,300
- Mid-career pay: $133,200

Becoming a full-fledged pharmacist requires a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in pharmacy. Four-year grads undertake an intensive study of biology and chemistry, while learning about the production and manufacture of pharmaceuticals. The need for professionals in this field is expected to increase rapidly over the next decade, as a growing elderly population creates a rise in demand within the health care industry.

94 / 100

#7. Quantitative business analysis

- Early career pay: $67,900
- Mid-career pay: $136,200

Helping businesses make smart financial decisions by analyzing data falls under the guise of graduates with degrees in quantitative business analysis. Careers in this type of finance are in high demand, with the ability to value securities, identify investment opportunities, and even develop computer software. Graduates with a degree in the field will have a strong command of mathematics and statistics, while advanced computer skills are becoming more important for finding a higher-paying job.

95 / 100

#6. Chemical engineering/materials science and engineering

- Early career pay: $74,500
- Mid-career pay: $137,800

The joint major provides a good chance for graduates to find employment in either field, or ones that require knowledge of both. Materials science and engineering students will learn the properties of materials like ceramics, plastics, and metals, while chemical engineers solve complex problems by using math and multiple science disciplines. Combining the two majors, along with study in computer modeling, can help bump early career pay, which is already near the top among professions on this list.

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96 / 100

#5. Public accounting

- Early career pay: $60,000
- Mid-career pay: $138,800

Public accountants offer financial services to businesses and people, like preparing tax documents, auditing financial statements, and providing consulting services. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree isn’t enough to find a job in this growing field, as becoming a Certified Public Accountant requires passing an industry exam, ethics exam, and being supervised by a CPA for six months to two years.

97 / 100

#3. Applied economics and management (tie)

- Early career pay: $60,900
- Mid-career pay: $139,600

Applied economics and management majors use economic models to predict financial outcomes based on the decisions of a business or individual. Micro and macroeconomics, statistics, advanced algebra, and finance are just a few of the skills necessary to succeed in the field, which is expected to see solid growth in the next decade. Graduates can find work in public policy, private business, and as financial planners, among other paths.

98 / 100

#3. Operations research (tie)

- Early career pay: $78,400
- Mid-career pay: $139,600

The need for increased efficiency among businesses has the demand for operations research analysts projected to grow by 25% in the next decade. Students in the program will learn how to apply practical solutions to complex business problems, using math and statistical analysis to make informed decisions. Since these analysts are needed in a variety of business settings, adding additional specializations, like computer programming, political science, or economics can enhance job prospects.

99 / 100

#2. Electrical engineering and computer science

- Early career pay: $101,200
- Mid-career pay: $152,300

There are a wide range of careers for a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science that all involve knowing the workings of both software and hardware for electronic devices. Jobs with this degree vary, from software design for major companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google, to creating systems for the aeronautical field. A firm understanding of computer languages, mathematics, and logic are critical to success, while continued education and certifications can advance job prospects.

100 / 100
branislavpudar // Shutterstock

#1. Petroleum engineering

- Early career pay: $92,300
- Mid-career pay: $182,000

Finding and removing oil and natural gas from the Earth falls under the well-paid direction of petroleum engineers. They analyze, design, and implement plans for extraction when a reservoir is found, requiring skills in math, science, mechanical engineering, and physics. The push toward renewable and clean energy may have an adverse effect on job prospects for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering, though additional certifications and cooperative programs can boost job prospects.

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