In today's world, most people see college as a way for students to secure a good future for themselves. However, because the high cost of tuition requires many students to take out loans, some young people are having second thoughts about earning a degree.
With concerns about the job market, salaries and the general state of the economy, people are concerned about how they'd pay back their loans or earn a living after graduation. However, before you turn your back on college altogether, consider pursuing a more lucrative degree instead.
The highest-paying majors are typically those in engineering, math, sciences, economics, communications, marketing, economics, business, accounting and management.
Choosing a Major in College
When you apply to college, you may be required to apply to a certain program or to declare your major instead of just applying directly to the school. For some students, this makes perfect sense. They've already known for a long time what they want to study, and this just reinforces their dedication. It can also help to know this information because you can do research regarding what the specific program in which you're interested requires so you can better focus your time and energy in the right classes while you're in high school.
However, some students may not know what they want to study right away. That's OK too. Many colleges have liberal arts programs or will allow you to take your general education classes first before being required to declare your major. This can be beneficial to students who are not quite sure what it is they want to do, and they might want to try out different courses to discover their interests.
The Different Majors of Engineering
Engineering is one of the highest-paying majors that a person can declare in college. The best part is that there are many different types of engineering majors, mostly all of which lead to stable jobs and great salaries. Some examples are electrical engineering, civil engineering, nuclear engineering, materials engineering, biomedical engineering or even general engineering.
To get into this major, it depends on the school to which you're applying and the specific program. In general, you will likely need strong academics in math and sciences. The amount of money an engineer will make after earning a degree depends on many different factors too. On average, engineers can make anywhere from $80,000 to well over $100,000.
Information Technology and Computer Science
Another great major to study in college if you want to be sure that you'll be making money once you graduate is information technology and/or computer science. These days, computers and technology are a critical part of our everyday lives. If you earn a degree in IT or computer science, you can work with a major company, a small office or you can even start your own business. The startup path certainly has a lot of money in it.
That being said, it's important to keep in mind that there is a major pay range depending on the area of IT or computer science you enter. For instance, those who work as a network technician might make a little over $50,000 a year on average. However, those who work as a software architect can make $130,000 on average. Of course, those with entry-level positions at smaller companies are going to make far less than those who are working at higher-level positions at larger, more well-known companies.
Biology or Medical Science
If you study biology in college, there are many opportunities for a lucrative career. However, a lot of that depends on whether or not you plan on continuing your studies after earning your bachelor's degree. For instance, most people who want to go on to medical school after earning their bachelor's will find biology as a major to be very useful, though it is not necessarily required that you study biology in order to get into medical school.
Regardless, if you don't have plans to work in the medical field, biology still proves to be a high-earning major. For example, those who study molecular biology can make around $70,000 a year, with the same going for environmental scientists, etc. However, this can be a difficult field because jobs in this field can be hard to come by.
A Major in Economics
Another one of the highest-paying majors is economics. Entry-level economists will likely make around $50,000 when they first start out, but that can go up to $80,000 quickly. Again, this depends on the nature of the job and the specific position. Those with more experience in the field and with a higher position, perhaps someone working in senior-level econometrics, can expect to earn around $160,000.
Pursuing a Career in Business
If you're looking to go into the business world after graduating from college, then there can be a good salary in store for you. Like studying biology before going into a medical profession, though, you don't need to get a degree – especially a master's degree – to work in business or to open your own business, though it can help to do so. Those with a bachelor's degree in business may not find that they are getting as many opportunities as those who pursued a higher-level degree.
All that considered, those who do get a bachelor's degree in business – having studied a major like international business, business administration or business economics – can make anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000. If you earn your MBA, you may have the opportunity to earn over $100,000 on average.
Marketing and Communications
Marketing is an expertise that is very much in demand these days, especially with the rise of startups and online businesses. At some colleges, this may tie into a major in communications, which involves learning how to communicate a brand's vision and mission or how to practice speaking in public and pitching ideas to an audience.
Those who earn a degree after studying a major in marketing can make anywhere from $62,000 as a marketing specialist or marketing analyst to over $130,000 as a marketing manager. It's similar for those who have studied communications. A social media specialist, for example, can make around $50,000, and becoming the VP of communications at a company can earn you around $140,000 and up.
Becoming a CPA and Majoring in Accounting
Accounting is another lucrative field to pursue, and you don't necessarily need to be a math wiz to be successful as an accounting major. Many people who study accounting will go on to become a CPA, which you can do once you graduate, pass the tests and acquire the appropriate certifications. A CPA on average makes $65,000, though some make well over $150,000.
Becoming a CPA isn't the only option for those who want to major in accounting. You could become the VP of finance at a company, making around $130,000 a year, or a CFO, making around the same, although you may need a master's degree. You could be an assistant controller and make around $70,000 a year.
Those who want an opportunity at some of the highest-paying jobs should consider majoring in management or administration. Some of this can coincide with a degree in business as well. Ultimately, how much you earn after getting your degree in management or administration depends largely on the industry that you enter. In general, those who work in this field can plan on earning at least $70,000.
The Lowest-Paying College Majors
Now that you know what the highest-paying majors are, you might be wondering what the lowest-paying college majors are, perhaps so you can try to avoid majoring in the wrong subject. Keep in mind that this can be a case-by-case basis, and there are plenty of situations in which those who have a degree in one of these fields end up being very successful. In general, some of the lowest-paying college majors are:
- Early childhood education
- Human services
- Visual and performing arts
- Social sciences
- Theology/religious studies
If you decide to declare a major in one of these fields, there is a chance you will be making around $40,000. Different programs, unions, school districts and universities may help promote higher salaries for one of these jobs. It's certainly something to keep in mind before making your decision.
Remembering Other Factors About Your Major
There are dozens of majors that earn more money than others, and before making such a huge investment in your education or taking out loans that can take decades to pay back, it's important to consider which major can help you achieve financial security. That being said, it's also important to study something that you like. There's no point in majoring in something that you find too difficult or that is of no interest to you because that can make it difficult for you once you enter the workforce.
Additionally, it can be helpful to look at specific colleges and programs and research the job placement rates and salaries for that school's graduates. Colleges have to share this information, and knowing it can help you make a well-informed decision.
The best of both worlds would be to not just go into a field that makes a lot of money but to enter one that has a good job market and job security. After all, it is better to have an average-paying job that you don't have to worry about losing versus a higher-paying job that has a high turnover rate.
Pursuing Other Options
Going to college does not have to be the only option for a promising career or life after high school. There are many other options that students can pursue instead of worrying about how to get the highest-paid bachelor degree jobs. For example, you can go to vocational school, go to coding school, get a public works job or start a business with friends and family. College is not the only way to go, but before you dismiss it completely, it's good to have another plan and to weigh the pros and cons of every decision.
Aside from jobs that require a degree no matter what – for instance, becoming a lawyer or a doctor – there are many things you can learn yourself online that go hand in hand with jobs that don't necessarily require a degree. This could include graphic design, video editing or digital marketing. It's OK to take some time to decide what it is you want to do or study and how you want to go about it. This is why some students may take a gap year or even do their studies abroad where it might be more affordable.
- Edmit: What are the Lowest-Paying College Majors?
- PayScale: Average Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Salary
- PayScale: Best Jobs For Communications Majors by Salary Potential
- Accounting Degree Review: 40 Top Paying Accounting Jobs
- All Business Schools: Marketing Salary and Job Outlook
- Business Insider: How Much Money 19 Types of Engineers Actually Make
- Investopedia: What is the Average Salary for an MBA Graduate?
- PayScale: Best Jobs For Computer Science Majors In 2018
- GetEduated.com: Highest Paying Jobs for Biology Majors
- Best Value Schools: How Much Do Economists Make?
Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.