Top 10 Highest Paying College Degrees And The Worst Paying Majors

The stats prove that college and University grads earn more than graduates from school. But which degree should you get?

Top 10 Highest Paying College Majors

Which college degrees pays the highest as a first job for graduates who just came of University? That’s the question this article answers as we look at the highest paying college degrees and some of the best majors out there.

Statistics shows that college graduates earn more per year than their non-college counterparts, there are some high paying jobs without a degree requirement.

Whether you’re coming out of high school and planning to enter University or college, or you’re planning to go back, the type of major you choose can be the real difference in a greater job security and higher earnings or otherwise.

Yes, passion and interest count but so is your paycheck.

It’s no secret that higher education in the United States comes at a premium these days. With the cost of tuition inflating it’s never been more important to choose a lucrative career. Those who choose wisely are rewarded with some of the highest paying jobs in America, with generous salaries while others are doomed to pay off student loans for decades.

From doctors to accountants to engineers, we are counting the top ten highest paying college degrees

Top Highest Paying College Degrees Worth Pursuing.

If a high paying job is your ultimate goal when you come out of college, here are the top highest paying college degrees you’ll want look into when making your selection after high school.

#10. Finance Majors

What is the average salary that a finance major can expect? At first glance it doesn’t appear that the degree in finance is the ticket to a career with stellar pay. The average recipient of a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in finance takes in $60,000 a year. However, a few years in the industry makes a big difference.

A financial planner’s median annual compensation is $88,890 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. What’s more? Employment within the field is expected to increase 15% between 2016 and 2026 far outpacing most fields. And after working in the field for more than a decade finance experts can expect to make well over $100,000.

The careers which a finance degree might prepare you for would include professions such as bond brokering, corporate finance, financial analysis, financial planning, underwriting, investment baking, venture capitalism and portfolio management.


#9. Civil Engineer

Engineers are responsible for applying the principles of science and mathematics to create items used in daily life. Civil engineers design things such as buildings, homes, roads, tunnels, dams, airports, bridges and water and sewer systems.

When designing these structures and systems, civil engineers must consider factors such as cost of materials, expected lifespan of the finished product and government regulations for safety. Because we all rely on the infrastructure provided by civil engineers, their pay is remarkably high.

As of May 2016 the average salary of a civil engineer was $83,540 annually, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest paid ten percent of civil engineers receive less than $53,470 while the highest paid ten percent earn more than $132,880 per year.

Given these figures you have a 50% chance of earning between $65,330 and $107,140 per year. Those are pretty good odds of making significantly more than $50,000 per year.


#8. Mechanical Engineer

A mechanical engineer has a similar workload to a civil engineer with some slight differences. Mechanical engineers design machines, tools, engines and thermal systems for consumers and industry.

Many also build the things they design and test them for durability or effectiveness. The most common tasks for a mechanical engineer generally require using a computer and special software. The median gross annual salary for mechanical engineers in 2018 is $65,901.

Half of all mechanical engineers earn less than the median and half earn more. Salaries range from $61,250 to $71,429. The top 10% of mechanical engineers earned $76,462. The bottom ten percent only earned $57,015.

However given five or more years of experience, engineers start making $105,000 a year.


#7. Molecular Biologist

Molecular biologists design and perform experiments on molecules and cells to gain insight into how these components operate and communicate. They may then report their findings to colleagues in the form of reports or academic publications.

Many molecular biologists also instruct students at universities. Molecular biologists often perform experiments related to DNA sequencing, cloning, RNA functioning and other cellular behavior.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, biochemists and biophysicists earned an average annual salary of $89,470 in 2012 and an average wage of $43.01 per hour. Half of biochemists and biophysicists reported salaries ranging between $55,360 and $112,200 a year.

The highest-paid 10% of biochemists and biophysicists working in the United States reported high average salaries of $147,350 or more per year.

#6. Pharmacist

If you’ve been to the pharmacy lately you may have found yourself wondering how much pharmacists make. Being a pharmacist at least that the retail level involves a lot of standing, long shifts and dealing with customers which might not be for everyone.

On the plus side salaries in the field are $123,670 on average. Though it requires intensive schooling, life as a pharmacist can be pretty rewarding.


#5. Applied Mathematics

Mathematical careers outside of academia rarely carry this simple title of mathematician. The very idea of a career in mathematics has evolved and diversified. It’s often coupled with a specialty or area of research interest.

Mathematics plays a major role in the bottom line of industrial organizations and helps companies perform better in today’s data-driven marketplace. The broad groundwork of mathematical skills you obtain from this major will be useful for a variety of careers.

In addition to math classes students will take statistics, computer science and physics. Though these classes are difficult they result in an average salary of $101,000 a year.

#4. Health and Pre-Medicine

Pre-medical studies is not a major but a series of undergraduate courses in science and mathematics recommended for students who want to pursue medical school after earning their bachelor’s degree. These courses prepare students to enter medical school and ready them for careers as doctors or surgeons.

Assuming these students continue their path to becoming a doctor they can make well over $400,000 with an average salary of $227,000. If they work elsewhere in the health care industry, they can still stand to make $150,000 a year.


#3. Nuclear Engineering

Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes, instruments and systems used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation. Many of these engineers find industrial and medical uses for radioactive materials, for example an equipment used in medical diagnosis and treatment.

Many others specialize in the development of nuclear power sources for ships or spacecraft. This requires many years of studying hard sciences and physics. One false move could be fatal when working with unstable isotopes so these scientists are rewarded handsomely.

The median salary is $102,220 annually.


#2. Zoology

In a zoology career there is high risk and high reward. Whether you’re employed by a zoo, a research facility or an animal conservation group, you know the ins and outs of animal behavior. Zoologists, also known as wildlife biologists, study animals to better understand their origin, behavior, diseases and how their lives progress.

Many zoologist choose to specialize in one particular animal group such as birds or mammals. However, others choose to work at a zoo diving into the animal kingdom like it’s a competitive sport.

Very few colleges offer zoology programs making their grads very valuable. This means the average salary is over $100,000 per year.


#1. Actuarial Science

Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty. They use mathematics, statistics and financial theory to assess the risk of potential events and they help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk.

Actuaries work is essential to the insurance industry. Actuaries are well compensated. Experienced fellows have the potential to earn from $150,000 to $250,000 annually and many actuaries are more than that.

College classes for an actuary involved many advanced finance and statistics classes.

These are the highest paying college degrees you may want to consider when choosing your career as a high school graduate or if you want to go back to graduate after being in the workforce for a while.

Now we want to look at the worst paying college majors or university degrees.


Top 10 Worst Paying College Majors

There is more to life than money. However, if your goal is a high paying job for graduates right out of university then these are some of the college degrees you may want to avoid.


#10. Library Science

By earning your master’s degree in library science at a top program you’ll be well-prepared to work in many types of libraries from regular public libraries to specialty in university libraries. You will have the advanced information and research skills that you need to help people find important information and to keep archives well organized.

However without a master’s degree you will have a hard time landing a job. The average salary for library scientist nationally is $60,000 with many making as low as $30,000.


#9. Interdisciplinary Studies

Earning an interdisciplinary studies degree lets you take classes from a range of disciplines instead of focusing on topics relating to a specific field of study.

When you enrol in one of these programs though you might wonder what you can do in the future. Those who study accounting or graphic design know that they want to work as accountants or designers.

As interdisciplinary studies or programs let you take classes in dozens of different subjects you may need to think about your career goals and build a program that relates to one of the following jobs.

With jobs ranging from journalism to academia, you can leave your options open but unfortunately your median pay will only be $41,000.


#8. Drama and Theatre Arts

Performing arts degrees combine creative talent with practical aspects of self-promotion and arts management. This mix of disciplines is good preparation for entering the world of performance.

The riches and glamour of movie stars is not the reality of most college graduates with a drama and theatre arts degree. Recent graduates can expect an average salary of $26,000 and an unemployment rate of 7.8%. With experience however majors can boost their salary to a measly $45,000.


#7. Educational Psychology

Once you obtain your master’s in educational psychology you’re on the verge of a fascinating and varied career that will allow you to make a real difference in the lives of people. Your role will be to work directly with students but also to do research and to develop, implement and monitor programs designed to increase how effectively people are able to learn.

Your duties will be vast and depend mainly on where you work in terms of the organization and geographical location. However, without a master’s degree you will have an extremely hard time getting hired and stand to make $35,000 a year.


#6. Human Sciences

As a social worker you could expect to earn an annual salary range from $28,800 to $78,510. In 2016 social workers as a group were earning a median annual compensation of $46,890 and an hourly compensation of $22.54.

As these figures illustrate there’s a dramatic difference between the highest paychecks and the lowest one’s paid to social workers. There are several different factors that affect pay rates in this line of work. Social workers conduct business in a variety of settings some of which pay more than others do.

Hospitals employ the highest paid social workers. This group earned median yearly salaries of $57,650 in 2016. Individual and Family Services employed the lowest paid social workers. Their annual median earnings were a modest $39,260.


#5. Visual Arts

As an artist you will help to create things in the world around you. You can focus on a variety of concentrations some of which include teaching, fine arts and multimedia arts and animation. Artists employ a variety of techniques to a variety of materials and mediums to create and craft works of art often for exhibit or sale.

While becoming an artist of any kind does not necessarily require any formal education, many choose to pursue at least a bachelor’s degree in order to learn the principles of art theory and experiment with different media.

However, the return on this investment will be very low with an average salary of $30,000 a year.


#4. Cosmetology Services

As a cosmetologist you care for and beautify clients hair skin and nails. Education typically comes in the form of an associate of Applied Science or certificate in the field, teaching the principles of cosmetology work.

Manicuring, hair treatments, sanitation and first-aid are among some of the common topics of study. Cosmetologist must be licensed in the specific service trained in such as hairdressing.

Annual salaries range from $15,530 to $42,460. The average full-time cosmetologist earns about $11.13 or $23,140 over the course of a year. It’s more than minimum wage but not by much.


#3. Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychologists diagnose people with mental health and substance abuse problems and treat these issues with talk therapy also known as psychotherapy. Psychologists need at least a master’s degree in psychology and must be licensed in their state of practice.

As of 2011 the median yearly wage of clinical psychologists was $73,090 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the fact is most people who get a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology never get their master’s degree, effectively wasting four years of tuition.

Without the master’s degree grads only make $32,000 a year.


#2. Composition and Speech

Speech majors can find jobs in many different fields including speech language pathology, journalism and public relations among many others. Speech language pathologists work with people who have physical problems talking.

Journalists need excellent communication skills in order to create both written news stories and scripts for live TV news reports. Public relations managers work directly with clients and the public and need speech skills so they can think act and talk on the fly while managing an employer’s public image.

However, don’t expect this major to pay off financially. Grads only make a median of $29,000 in the United States.


#1. Miscellaneous Fine Arts

Bad news for those who go to college and find they have the passion to pursue a fine art degree. A study found that among U.S. college graduates those who major in Miscellaneous Fine Arts have an unemployment rate of 9.1%, the absolute highest of all 162 majors ranked.

What’s more? The saddest statistic is that high school dropouts had a lower unemployment rate than fine arts majors. At least many of them use their time to pursue something lucrative. It is extremely difficult to get a job with this degree and if you can manage your median salary will only be $18,000 a year.



Yes, getting a college degree certainly gives you an opportunity to increase your earning potential. However, considering the amount of hours you need to put in to earn that degree, not to mention potential student loan debt, you may want to seriously think about how much you will be paid when you finally come out as a grad.

The list of highest paying college degrees is certainly not exhaustive but it gives you an idea of which area of study and specialization will give you the best return on your investment in higher education.

Got any questions, suggestions of college majors that must be on this list best college degrees for employment? Let us know in the comments section below.

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