The college majors that earn the most and least money after graduation


There are a few ways to go about choosing a college major. If you pick a field you’re interested in, it’ll make the process of finding a job you like a lot easier down the road. But then there’s the money factor to consider — especially if you have student loans — you may be more interested in picking a major that you know will provide a higher salary right after graduation. 

Yahoo Finance put together a list of the 12 college majors that earn the most money after graduation — and the 12 that typically earn the least. 

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College majors that earn graduates the most and the least

It should come as no surprise that most of the high-earning college majors are in the S.T.E.M. fields — science, technology, engineering, mathematics. It’s a fast growing job area and is projected to grow 17% between 2008 and 2018. As you’ll see in the list below, many of the top-earning majors are some sort of engineering, with construction, physics and business analytics making cameo appearances. 

These are the 12 college majors that earn the most and the least for recent college graduates, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The 12 college majors that earn the most, on average:

1. Chemical Engineering – $70,000

2. Electrical engineering – $61,000

3. Industrial engineering – $60,000

4. Mechanical engineering – $60,000

5. Aerospace engineering – $60,000


6. Computer engineering – $60,000

7. General engineering – $55,000

8. Miscellaneous engineering – $52,000

9. Business analytics – $50,000

10. Civil engineering – $50,000

11. Construction services – $50,000

12. Physics – $50,000

The 12 college majors that earn the least, on average:

1. Family and consumer sciences – $28,400


2. Theology and religion – $28,600

3. Fine arts – $29,000

4. Social services – $30,00

5. Anthropology – $30,000

6. Early childhood education – $30,000

7. Environmental studies – $30,000

8. Psychology – $30,000

9. Social services – $30,000

10. Performing arts – $30,000

11. Earth sciences – $30,300


12. Mass media – $31,200

Although agriculture (or environmental studies) is one of the lower earning majors, it does almost guarantee a job after college. Students with agriculture, construction and nursing degrees are the least likely of all graduates to be without a job after college. In fact, their unemployment rates are 2% or lower. So if you want to be guaranteed a job and don’t mind making a little less money to start, those fields are good options. 

Most of the lower earners are pretty logical choices. Teachers (early childhood education majors) typically make lower salaries, unless the jobs is at the collegiate level. Psychology is generally a degree that requires students to get a doctoral degree, in particular a degree in psychiatry, in order to get highest-paying jobs in that field. 

Richard Dietz, assistant vice president at the New York Fed, sheds some light on why the more specific majors tend to make more money than non-specific and broader majors: ‘Majors with quantitative skills, STEM-type [science, technology, engineering, math] majors, tend to have better outcomes than those that are less analytical. Majors that provide occupation-specific training tend to do better than non-specific majors.’

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