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Posted: 3:36 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, 2014

The Highest-Paying College Majors

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By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


Good news for new college grads. Employers are planning to hire you this year, according to a new Harris survey.

Business majors are in highest demand, followed by computer and information sciences majors, and engineering majors. But good luck finding a job if you studied liberal arts, general studies and humanities, education; science technologies, or communication and journalism. Those fields are in the lowest demand, according to the survey.

Either way, don't expect too fat of a pay check. The majority of annual starting salaries will be less than $40,000.

The highest-paid college majors

If you're looking for the highest-paid college majors, here's the latest list (these are starting salaries) according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers:

  • Petroleum Engineering: $93,500
  • Computer Engineering: $71,700
  • Chemical Engineering: $67,600
  • Computer Science: $64,800
  • Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering: $64,400
  • Mechanical Engineering: $64,000
  • Electrical/Electronics and Communications Engineering: $63,400
  • Management Information Systems/Business: $63,100
  • Engineering Technology: $62,200
  • Finance: $57,400

Meanwhile, new research from The Hamilton Project shows that the highest-paying majors will earn you roughly $1 million more over a working lifetime than the lowest-earning majors. This chart offers a great visual aid to take in all the research at a glance.

Degrees that pay the most have lifetime earnings in excess of $2 million. (The average earning over a career is $1.25 million.)

However, there are some real weak spots when it comes to earning; a 4-year elementary education degree earns you less over a lifetime than the average 2-year associate degree. Ditto for social work, drama, and theater arts. Music is dead even on earning power with a 2-year associate degree.

The point is if you find something you would really like doing and it pays, maybe you consider it. Though money is not everything.

You're hearing mixed messages from me because it is a mixed message. Taking on enormous student loans to be an art history student, well, maybe that's not a great idea. Ditto for a social worker. On the other hand, if you do chemical engineering, that has a real payback over a lifetime.

 

Jobs of today that are going away

Of course, the job market is a constantly moving target. Technology moves at such a quick pace that many jobs we know today could be extinct tomorrow.

Salary.com recently ran a list of 12 jobs on the brink of extinction. Among the professions listed were librarian, professional typist, video store clerk, travel agents, newspaper deliverer, switchboard operator, and more.

The takeaway for you is don't put blinders on. You've got to gain continual education and re-education to make yourself marketable for today's jobs and tomorrow's jobs.

I like to cite a Canadian study that found 70% of jobs that will exist two decades from now don't exist today. Think about that in your own life. Twenty years ago, if you talked about being a web master, or about e-commerce or the Internet, people would have no idea what you were talking about.

The reality is, if you're not getting ahead, you're falling behind.

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