Contributing Writer at Tally
October 27, 2021
If you've decided you want your bachelor's degree, you’re going to need to consider your college major. The major you choose can significantly impact your ability to get a job coming out of school and future career earnings.
Considering that the average student loan debt was $29,927 in 2020 — and continues to increase, on average, year over year — it's even more important to maximize your earning potential post-college.
In this guide, we’ll outline:
The college majors that make the most money
Why it's important to think about your financial future when selecting a career path
Other factors to consider when conducting your initial job market research.
We hope that by the end of this article, you have some ideas and inspiration to help choose one of the highest-paying college majors and set yourself up for real-world success.
If you're looking for the best college degrees that’ll maximize your earnings potential, you're in luck. Below is a list of the eight majors that can lead to high-paying and high-growth professions. All pay and job outlook information is courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The median pay for computer and information research scientists is $126,830 per year. As a computer scientist, you will design uses for new and existing technology. These jobs are in high demand, as jobs are estimated to grow by 22% between 2020 and 2030. Software engineering, computer engineering and information technology fall into this job category as well.
The median pay for chemical engineers is $108,540 per year. As a chemical engineer, you could solve problems related to food, fuel and pharmaceuticals. Degrees in biology, chemistry and physics also help when entering this field. Jobs in this industry are expected to grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030.
The median pay for petroleum engineers is $137,330 per year. The industry is expected to grow 8% between 2020 and 2030. As a petroleum engineer, you’ll be responsible for extracting oil and gas deposits.
With an electrical engineering major, you can work as an electrical or electronics engineer. The median pay for these roles is $103,390 per year. Jobs should increase by 7% between 2020 and 2030. In this role, you could design, develop and test electrical equipment.
The median pay for biomedical engineers is $92,620 per year. Between 2020 and 2030, the field is estimated to grow by 6%. This role combines both science and engineering to create processes and software in the life sciences or health care fields.
A mechanical engineer designs and develops mechanical systems. The median pay for this role is $90,160 per year. The expected job growth is 7% between 2020 and 2030.
As an industrial engineer, you’ll streamline processes that involve machines, workers, information and materials. The median pay for this role is $88,950 per year. This could be a great field to break into, as jobs are expected to grow by 14% in the coming years.
The median pay for economists is $108,350 per year. This industry is also expecting a lot of growth, with the job outlook increasing by 13% between 2020 and 2030. In this role, you could work as a research analyst to compile and analyze data regarding resources and goods.
No matter how daunting it may seem, choosing the right major is important for a few reasons.
For one, selecting the right major will put you on the right path to your career. Many jobs have basic stipulations and career requirements. For instance, if you want to design bridges and roadways, you likely need a civil engineering degree, not a political science degree.
Second, maximizing your earning potential sets you up for future success. The more you earn coming out of school, the easier it is to pay off your student loans and avoid additional credit card debt. This can reduce the total amount that you'll end up owing in interest. As a result, you can put more money into savings, potentially making it easier to reach your financial goals.
Lastly, switching jobs mid-career can be difficult, especially if you are looking to go from a non-technical field to a technical field. For example, if you studied liberal arts and worked as a writer out of college, it may be difficult to switch to an aerospace engineering job without going back to school. It may be easier to jump from a technical-based career field to a non-technical field, i.e., from an aeronautics job to a blogger.
Though your salary is important when choosing a career, you'll also want to think about the overall big picture. In addition to your career field's average salary, you may also want to consider things like:
Your general lifestyle
For instance, choosing a job in astronautics may lead to relocation to Houston or Florida, where NASA is based. Working as a software developer or programmer could allow you the flexibility to work from anywhere, but you might miss out on a typical office lifestyle. Working as an accountant could result in high pay, but you may have to work long hours, especially during tax season.
Think about the type of life you want to live. Though money is important, it's not everything. It's just as important to choose a career that balances what you value, no matter what that may be.
Additionally, you should consider whether you’ll need to go back to school to maximize your earning potential. A four-year college degree may not be enough for your field. You may need to earn a graduate degree, which will cost more time and money. Grad school may or may not be for you, and it's worth considering when determining your future career.
Conducting market research can also help when you make your decision. Sites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics not only provide payscale information like entry-level starting salaries and median salaries but also things like the overall job outlook.
If an industry is expected to increase or decrease its hiring in the coming years, it could impact your career long term. A job may pay a lot now, but if it's expected to shrink in the next decade, you have to make a change mid-career.
Lastly, it's also important to note that it's possible to earn money without being a college graduate. If you only have a high school diploma, you can still make a lot of money in your career. Be sure to check out our guide of the highest-paying jobs without a degree to learn more.
The college major you choose now can impact your life considerably down the road. Choosing a major that leads to a high-paying job can boost your overall career pay, ultimately making it easier to stay out of debt and save for retirement. However, making those decisions as a college student or even a high school student can be daunting.
Consider doing market research and figuring out the job you want to work and what you need to study to get there. It's also worth considering things like your work-life balance when making this decision.
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