College majors with the highest starting salaries
College graduates can expect to make top dollar with these high-paying majors.
Hey college students! Starting to think about graduation already? Have you got your eyes set on landing your first job—and pulling in a sweet paycheck? How big that paycheck will be depends in large part on what you majored in to earn that bachelor’s degree. So what are the best college majors associated with the highest starting salaries? Glad you asked.
Monster pored over The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Winter 2020 Salary Survey Report, which plotted out the average starting salaries of many popular college majors, and we narrowed it down to the top eight that lead to good-paying jobs. The salaries (which don’t factor in overtime, bonuses, or other benefits) were gathered after NACE surveyed its members between September and December 2019.
No surprise, STEM majors—science, technology, engineering, and math—came out on top. Remember, though, salaries depend on your experience level, specialty, and where in the country you're employed. For example, a civil engineer salary in Oakland, California, is 11% higher than the national median; a data scientist salary in Kansas City, Missouri, is 1% higher than the national median; and an elementary school teacher salary in Little Rock, Arkansas, is 11% lower than the national median.
Read on to see which common majors can lead to high paying careers right out of the gate.
Those of you who majored in engineering are expected to start your careers with the highest salary of the bunch at $69,961—1.1% higher than 2019's salary projection of $69,188. And you've got a healthy job market, too. Architecture and engineering occupations are expected to grow 4% between 2018 and 2028, which is about average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS notes that the most in-demand jobs for engineering majors are those involving renewable energy, oil and gas, rebuilding infrastructure, and robotics.
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2. Computer science
Technology is a major player when it comes to industries with the highest starting salaries. Close behind your engineering peers are you computer science majors, who spent your undergraduate careers learning about programming, data structures, and operating systems. The past four years are about to pay off with an average salary of $67,411 your first year out of college, a slight decrease from 2019’s average starting salary of $67,539.
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3. Math and sciences
Earning a bachelor’s degree in the fields of math or science can set you up for a starting salary of $62,488, up from $62,177 in 2019. Math occupations, which are growing at a faster-than-average pace, include actuaries, operations research analysts, and statisticians. Science majors, on the other hand, might find jobs working as a biological technician, a chemist, or a lab assistant at a hospital or doing research for a major corporation.
Business grads can expect a starting salary of $57,939, up from $57,657 in 2019. Globalization, an economy on the upswing, and technological developments are all increasing the demand for business pros, such as management analysts, market researchers, purchasers, and human resources specialists. The occupation is expected to grow 10% between 2016 and 2026, which is faster than average.
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5. Social sciences
So you studied social sciences in college. Where do you go next? The job market is your oyster, no matter if you’re looking for something in the public or private sector. It’s common for someone with a social science degree to become a government economist, data analyst, or even a salesperson. You can expect to take home $57,425—up from $57,310 in 2019—in the first year.
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Whether you decide to go into public relations, writing, video editing, or translating, your communications degree could help you earn an average starting salary of $56,484, up from $52,056 in 2019. It’s the largest salary jump in the group at 8.5%. With 10 years under your belt, you could be looking at a salary well into the six figures.
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Graduating with a liberal arts degree, such as one in humanities, used to mean you’d have a harder time finding a full-time gig than your STEM-studying friends. Starting salaries for humanities majors have dipped to $53,617 compared to 2019's starting salary of $56,651. Although it's the largest decrease of all the majors, the soft skills (critical thinking, creativity, and leadership) you’ve mastered over the past four years are what a lot of recruiters are looking for right now.
8. Agriculture and natural resources
If you're interested in growing things, you'll be thrilled to learn this industry has made the list. The average starting salary of $53,504 is a fall from 2019's starting salary of $55,750. Nevertheless, all your hard work in the lab, fields, and on the farm are going to pay off, whether you pursue a career in education, landscape design, or crop consulting.
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Graduate to the next step in your job search
Congratulations! You’re about to join the workforce and kick-off a promising career. But knowing which jobs to pursue is half the challenge. You have to get your applications in front of hiring managers. Could you use some help getting started? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. You worked hard for four years—it’s time to reap the rewards with an awesome new job that’ll put you at the head of the class.