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And the Best Paying College Major is....

May 13, 2013 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Recently, the National Association of Colleges and Employers released a survey reporting on the highest-earning four-year college majors nationwide. It’ll come as no surprise that students in engineering, science, technology, and math-related majors out-earn those in the liberal arts, on average—but according to the survey, these majors also beat out business degrees.

Here’s a look at five of the top ten best-paying college majors*.

Computer engineering majors

The top-earning degree at $70,400 as an average starting salary, computer engineering is looking like a great investment. This degree program integrates the fields of computer science and electrical engineering, providing an education that gives students broad expertise in developing both computer hardware and software. Computer engineers may design microprocessors, circuits, personal or supercomputers, or software.

Chemical engineering majors

This is the second most high-earning degree program, with a $66,400 average starting salary. Chemical engineering majors are also highly challenging, with training in chemistry, physics, biology, microbiology, and biochemistry. Biochemical engineers are able to convert raw chemical materials into more useful substances for industrial and commercial applications. They may work in nanotechnology, alternative fuels, or biomechanical engineering.

Computer science majors

Not the same thing as computer engineering, computer science majors made an average of $64,000 in average starting salary. Computer science degrees involve the study of technical topics such as computer architecture and theory, artificial intelligence, data management and database administration, logic design, and network fundamentals, as well as programming languages. They also include a heavy concentration in algorithms, calculus, statistics, and other mathematical topics.

Aerospace engineering majors

Aerospace Engineering may be ranked at number 4—earning an average of $64,000 in starting salary per year—but they’re seeing the largest increase, at 8.3% from 2011 to 2012. This branch of engineering is primarily focused on the design and construction of aircraft and spacecraft. Students with this major may wind up designing aircraft for Boeing or spacecraft for NASA.

Mechanical engineering majors

Those majoring in mechanical engineering made approximately $62,900 in average starting salary as of 2012. Mechanical engineering majors study physics and materials science to learn how to design, manufacture, and maintain mechanical systems. It’s an extremely broad field, and one of the oldest engineering disciplines—involving the study of thermodynamics, kinetics, electricity, structural systems, and physical science.

In addition to these top five, other high-paying majors that made the list were systems engineering, industrial engineering, engineering technology, business systems networking, telecommunications, and information sciences and systems. This list tells a clear story—that our economy is growing to reward those with engineering and high-tech degrees in challenging and demanding fields, with immediate, real-world application potential in high-tech and manufacturing industries.

Business majors may not have made it into the top slots—but it’s still not a bad choice to make. The average entry-level earnings for business majors came out to $53,900—as opposed to $61,913 for the engineering degrees surveyed—but business had greater growth between 2011 and 2012, at 4.2% vs. 3.9%. Despite the fact that engineers earn more out of the gate, there still appear to be a strong and growing opportunities for graduates who major in business.

Of course, for many students, it’s hard to choose a major based on earning potential alone. But if engineering is a field you could be interested in, and financial security is important to you, it may be a good investment to earn a degree in this area. If you do, you have a high chance of earning a strong starting salary in a growing field—higher even than the chances of business majors from traditional or accredited online schools.


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