Best college majors for high-paying jobs
By Christine Laue, PayScale.com
When it comes to choosing a college, a college major and eventually a job, where should you put your efforts and your money?
The compensation experts at online salary database PayScale.com used US Department of Education data to identify the 20 most common college majors, then determined the top-paying jobs for each major, five to eight years into each job. What did the research show? When it comes to salary, not all majors are equal.
The majors fall into two general categories, says PayScale’s lead analyst, Katie Bardaro: those that train students for a specific field and those that teach analytical and critical-thinking skills, which can be applied to a variety of fields. For example, physical science degrees train students for specific jobs like chemist and physicist, whereas social science degrees can lead to jobs as varied as editor or social worker.
Jobs in technical fields like physical science tend to pay better, according to PayScale’s research. But lower-paying jobs, such as social work and education, benefit society and can pay back in other ways, Bardaro says.
If you’re considering a major that might lead to lower-paying job, an expensive college might not be your smartest choice financially. And it’s more important than ever to consider the cost of college. In March 2012, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported that student-loan debt had hit a record-high $1 trillion. That’s now more than Americans owe on their credit cards.
“You can’t go into these [less-lucrative] majors, pay a lot for your education and then expect to make a lot of money,” Bardaro says. “Remember that just because you go to college, you don’t [necessarily] get a high-paying job.”
Take a look at PayScale’s list of the best-paying jobs by major to discover what you could earn with a particular degree, roughly five to eight years into your career.
- Internal Auditing Manager: $85,900
- Financial Controller: $77,700
- Certified Public Accountant: $59,900
- Sales Director: $122,000
- Pharmaceutical Sales Representative: $84,400
- Account Manager, Sales: $63,500
- Field Engineer, Construction: $68,200
- Project Engineer, Construction: $65,700
- Senior Civil Engineer: $65,600
- Intelligence Analyst: $68,000
- Detective/Criminal Investigator: $55,100
- Police or Sheriff’s Patrol Officer: $48,900
- Assistant Principal: $52,300
- Program Management Director, Education: $42,400
- Secondary School Teacher: $41,600
- Secondary School Teacher: $42,000
- Elementary School Teacher: $41,300
- Customer Service Representative: $28,000
- Program Manager, Aviation/Aerospace: $99,700
- Manufacturing Engineer: $66,200
- Mechanical Engineer: $63,400
- Nonprofit Executive Director: $54,500
- Academic Adviser (College/University): $40,700
- Admissions Counselor: $38,900
- Executive Assistant: $43,700
- Nonprofit Program Coordinator: $36,700
- Retail Store Assistant Manager: $35,400
Source: Salary data provided by online salary database PayScale.com. Salaries listed are median annual salaries for full-time workers with five to eight years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing. The most popular majors were compiled from US Department of Education data.
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