CollegeWiz.com on Twitter
Don't miss

The Highest and Lowest Paying College Majors

By on January 31, 2013
College Graduates

The US Census Bureau’s most recent study projected that the average college graduate will earn around $2.4 million dollars throughout his or her lifetime. This study, conducted along with the American Community Study in 2011, shows numbers according to lifetime earnings, number of employed graduates, median annual earnings, and the most popular profession in that area. Keep in mind there are always exceptions (or outliers) to each average and that the projected earnings are in no way reflective of you and your life. However, it should give you a good idea of the various fields and possibilities within each.

The Bureau’s study divides college majors into 13 categories. The differences between each category will be summarized later in this article.

Martin Kohli of the Bureau emphasizes that there are many other reasons to take a specific college major, besides money. There are other priorities and things at stake.

Perhaps the most serious issue this study reveals is the pay difference between men and women. Women are making about 77% of what men do, for the exact same position.

Here are the 13 categories:

13. Education

  • Lifetime earnings: $2.03 million
  • Number employed with major: 3.17 million
  • Median annual earnings: $50,902
  • Most popular profession: Elementary and middle school teachers

 

A whopping 40% of employed teachers/professors are working with elementary or middle schools. In order to reach the projected $2 million in lifetime earnings, the teacher needs at least a master’s degree. Almost 59% of people working in education are working for the government.

12. Visual and Performing Arts

  • Lifetime earnings: $2.09 million
  • Number employed with major: 1.07 million
  • Median annual earnings: $50,484
  • Most popular profession: Designers

 

About 10% of graduates in this sector end up in design. Unfortunately, the demand for design jobs is not growing and there will be a lot of competition. Out of the people who pursued an education venue along with visual arts, nearly 14% are self-employed. There are of course, the movie celebrities in this college major who are making tens of millions.

11. Psychology

  • Lifetime earnings: $2.34 million
  • Number employed with major: 1.40 million
  • Median annual earnings: $55,509
  • Most popular profession: Counselors

 

There are currently more than one and a half million people employed with a psychology major. Popular career paths include counselors, teachers, or social workers.

10. Liberal Arts and History

  • Lifetime earnings: $2.38 million
  • Number employed with major: 1.48 million
  • Median annual earnings: $58,761
  • Most popular profession: Lawyers

 

Interestingly enough, more people in this major go on to become a lawyer than any other career path. If we were to look just at this, the median lifetime earnings for a lawyer with a liberal arts and history major are $4.78 million dollars. Coming in second most popular is being a clergyman. They earn a median of $1.74 million lifetime earnings, significantly lower than lawyers.

9. Literature and Languages

  • Lifetime earnings: $2.39 million
  • Number employed with major: 1.14 million
  • Median annual earnings: $58,616
  • Most popular profession: Elementary and middle school teachers

 

Not surprisingly, the largest profession in this sector is education (teachers). Some become lawyers, some become translators. This category has the second highest unemployment rate, where an enormous 46% surveyed reported they were not full time employed.

8. Communications

  • Lifetime earnings: $2.41 million
  • Number employed with major: 1.25 million
  • Median annual earnings: $55,859
  • Most popular profession: Managers

 

This field of study branches into the popular journalism, advertising, and media. This category does not have a distinct favorite career path, and “Managers” is the largest profession by a tiny margin. No single occupation has more than 60,000 individuals with a communications degree. Unfortunately, the median annual earnings for those with this major is $8,537 less than the average earnings of all college graduates.

7. Business

  • Lifetime earnings: $2.72 million
  • Number employed with major: 7.27 million
  • Median annual earnings: $66,605
  • Most popular profession: Accountants and auditors

 

The business and financial sector is the largest in America. This has a wide variety of possible college majors, ranging from banking to administration. More than 7 million people studied business in college. Chief executive officers (CEOs) have a projected $5 million lifetime earnings and most likely majored in some business type in college.

6. Science- and Engineering-Related Fields

  • Lifetime earnings: $2.75 million
  • Number employed with major: 2.79 million
  • Median annual earnings: $69,615
  • Most popular profession: Registered nurses

 

These science fields range from doctors to architecture to bioengineering. Nursing is by far the most popular career path. There are more than ¾ of a million registered nurses who majored in this sector, earning a median of $2.73 million lifetime earnings. Pharmacists are a clear second, earning $4.48 million lifetime earnings. In terms of the highest paying career, physicians and surgeons top the scale with a projected $5.84 million in lifetime earnings.

5. Social Science

  • Lifetime earnings: $2.84 million
  • Number employed with major: 2.49 million
  • Median annual earnings: $70,197
  • Most popular profession: Lawyers

 

The three most clear-cut majors in this field are sociology, anthropology, and economics. More than a quarter of a million in this sector became lawyers, with a projected lifetime earning of $4.6 million. However, you need to keep in mind that there are more students becoming lawyers than there are jobs available. The demand is not growing, but the supply is. In this field, the men’s median salary is around $80,000 while women average at about $57,000. This is a serious issue.

4. Biological, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

  • Lifetime earnings: $2.90 million
  • Number employed with major: 2.09 million
  • Median annual earnings: $70,025
  • Most popular profession: Physicians and surgeons

 

A career in medicine or doctoral pursuits is most prominent, with more than 300,000 college grads employed as surgeons or physicians. For people with a medical degree, surgeons and physicians are the best paid.

3. Physical and Related Sciences

  • Lifetime earnings: $3.17 million
  • Number employed with major: 1.08 million
  • Median annual earnings: $80,037
  • Most popular profession: Physicians and surgeons

 

The physical and related sciences, which include chemistry, geometry, physics and astronomy, employ a wide range of people in a variety of professions, without a predominant field. The largest proportion of these graduates end up as physicians or surgeons, but that only amounts to 85,252 of the more than whopping one million people who major in the physical sciences. Roughly a quarter of workers educated in the field get a master’s degree, and their median lifetime pay is $3.2 million, compared to the $2.5 million for those with just a bachelor’s degree. The gender pay gap is particularly bad for this major; median annual salary for a male with a degree in these fields is nearly $30,000 more than that of a female.

2. Computers, Mathematics and Statistics

  • Lifetime earnings: $3.24 million
  • Number employed with major: 1.55 million
  • Median annual earnings: $80,180
  • Most popular profession: Software developers

 

Many computer science, mathematics, or statistics college majors pursue a technological path such as programming or info-system management. Many computer science careers are projected to grow by 30% by the year 2020. A vast majority of these graduates are working in the private sector.

1. Engineering

  • Lifetime earnings: $3.62 million
  • Number employed with major: 2.80 million
  • Median annual earnings: $91,611
  • Most popular profession: Managers

 

Engineering majors produced careers with a median annual salary $10,000 more than any other major. Engineering employment is projected to grow 19% by 2020. Some significant career paths include hardware development, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. 79% of engineering grads work in the private sector, the highest of all the categories.

Comments

comments

About Stephen Zhang

Stephen is currently an undergradute student attending UC Berkeley. He's an entrepreneur, developing innovative ideas and executing methods for online marketing and social media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *