Monday, March 14, 2011

What college majors will make me the most money after I graduate?

Annual pay for Bachelors graduates without higher degrees. Typical starting graduates have 2 years of experience; mid-career have 15 years. See full methodology for more.

Question:  I’m a senior in high school and I just got accepted into a few schools and I’m so excited to start college!!! I’m researching different majors and I’m still deciding what to choose.  I’m debating on whether I should major in something that will earn me lots of money after I graduate.  What are some majors that guarantee big $$$?  (Washington, DC)

Social Shrink:  Congrats on getting accepted in college!  Get ready for some of the best years of your life!  Of course that means studying and choosing a major, so it’s great that you are thinking ahead and weighing your options.

According to, it looks like the majors with the top earning potential after graduation involve engineering, physics, math and economics.  Petrolium engineering has a starting median pay at $93,000.  Other starting salaries include: Applied mathematics ($56,400), Physics ($50,700), and Economics ($48,800).

On the other end of the spectrum, majors involving art, social work and history are at the lower end (see graph above).  Some starting salaries for these majors include Social Work ($31,800), Art ($33,500), and Humanities ($38,600). 

If you’re leaning more towards the liberal arts side – DON’T LOSE HOPE!  Because it’s not WHAT you major in, but WHAT YOU DO with your major that is important.  Just because you major in Applied Mathematics does not guarantee that you will get a cushion-y job crunching numbers and making tons of dough.  It also doesn’t mean that if you major in Social Sciences that you will be eating Ramen for the rest of your life.  If you apply your major in a variety of jobs, your earning potential is limitless if you have the right work ethic, discipline and perseverance to maximize your career growth in any job.

Let’s also not forget that once you get your Bachelor’s, there is always Graduate School.   Think of college as a time to really dive in to many different classes and experiences.  This is a time where you will grown and learn what you are truly passionate about.  You have four years to take art, math, learn a new language, take a theology class on about a new religion, learn the history of a country, or to take a music class to learn how to play the piano.  Soak this time up!

Don’t take college so seriously that you have to feel like you have a formulated outline of classes you must take to achieve a certain criteria.  Similarly, don’t major in something that you THINK will make you rich, but that you feel moderately passionate about.  Major in what excites you, that will get you up out of bed for your 9 am class, and will make you eager to get to the library and dive into your textbook.

Good luck in college and live it up!  You will have no regrets if you find a major that truly represents what you’re passionate about.  Once you do that, the money will follow.