Top Paying Undergraduate Majors

March 26th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

As we previously reported, the cost of education has been on the rise for some time now. Especially as US state budgets are cut, colleges and universities are shifting their expenses to the student. Many students – be it US citizens or international students – are looking for ways to finance their education from scholarships to grants to loans. But you may wonder if your education is worth the cost.

While this question has to be individually evaluated and answered, a good starting point is to look at the expected income based on your major (which is your specialization in college or at a university). The path you select will train you in a specific field, which will ultimately determine your job prospects, and thus, your salary.

Not surprisingly, 13 out of the top 20 highest paying positions – whether looking at starting pay or mid-career pay – is engineering. Below is a graph outlining the top paying undergraduate majors in the US:

Looking at these results, it is no wonder why the second most popular field for international students is engineering followed by math and computer science (which ranked third) and then physical and life sciences (which ranked fourth). In fact, it is clear from the data that top paying undergraduate majors that prove more technical in nature are compensated accordingly. Below is a table that reflect the true figures from the graph above:

Starting Median Pay* Mid-Career Median Pay*
Petroleum Engineering $97,900 $155,000
Chemical Engineering $64,500 $109,000
Electrical Engineering (EE) $61,300 $103,000
Materials Science & Engineering $60,400 $103,000
Aerospace Engineering $60,700 $102,000
Computer Engineering (CE) $61,800 $101,000
Physics $49,800 $101,000
Applied Mathematics $52,600 $98,600
Computer Science (CS) $56,600 $97,900
Nuclear Engineering $65,100 $97,800
Biomedical Engineering (BME) $53,800 $97,800
Economics $47,300 $94,700
Mechanical Engineering (ME) $58,400 $94,500
Statistics $49,000 $93,800
Industrial Engineering (IE) $57,400 $93,100
Civil Engineering (CE) $53,100 $90,200
Mathematics $47,000 $89,900
Environmental Engineering $51,700 $88,600
Management Information Systems (MIS) $51,000 $88,200
Software Engineering $54,900 $87,800

*All data was collected from PayScale Salary Survey for full-time employees in the United States who possess a Bachelor’s degree (and no further degree) in order to determine which were the top paying undergraduate majors.


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