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The 10 Highest and Lowest-Paying College Degrees

posted by Mark on May 13th, 2010

The 10 Highest and Lowest-Paying College DegreesMoney shouldn’t be the biggest reason you choose a career path, but it’s certainly up there. With that in mind, here are the college majors that lead to the highest and lowest-paying careers, according to recent surveys by PayScale.com. It should come as no surprise that math, science and engineering degrees dominate the best-earning subjects, while fine arts and education populate the low-earning degrees. That said, people generally don’t enter those careers for the money. On the bright side: even if your desired degree isn’t a high-paying one, the US Census has shown that the median salary for college graduates as a whole is more than $20,000 higher than what people earn with just a high school diploma.

Notes: These stats are for graduates with bachelor’s degrees only and no higher degrees (thus, no doctors, lawyers, etc.). “Starting salary” = 5 years of experience or less. “Mid-career salary” = 10 years of experience or more.

10 Highest-Paying College Degrees (Best to Worst)

1. Engineering: Median starting salary: $58,963. Median mid-career salary: $100,475. (Average of eight different engineering subjects, ranging from the high end of Aerospace Engineering [$59,600/$109,000] to the low end of Civil Engineering [$55,100/$93,000].)

2. Economics: Median starting salary: $50,200. Median mid-career salary: $101,000.

3. Physics: Median starting salary: $51,100. Median mid-career salary: $98,800.

4. Computer Science: Median starting salary: $56,400. Median mid-career salary: $97,400.

5. Statistics: Median starting salary: $48,600. Median mid-career salary: $94,500.

6. Biochemistry: Median starting salary: $41,700. Median mid-career salary: $94,200.

7. Mathematics: Median starting salary: $47,000. Median mid-career salary: $93,600.

8. Construction Management: Median starting salary: $53,400. Median mid-career salary: $89,600.

9. Finance: Median starting salary: $48,500. Median mid-career salary: $89,400.

10. Information Systems: Median starting salary: $51,400. Median mid-career salary: $87,000. (Average of Management Information Systems [$51,900/$87,200] and Computing and Information Systems [ $50,900/$86,700].)

10 Lowest-Paying College Degrees (Best to Worst)

1. Drama: Median starting salary: $35,600. Median mid-career salary: $56,600.

2. Fine Arts: Median starting salary: $35,800. Median mid-career salary: $56,300.

3. Hospitality and Tourism: Median starting salary: $37,000. Median mid-career salary: $54,300.

4. Education: Median starting salary: $36,200. Median mid-career salary: $54,100.

5. Horticulture: Median starting salary: $37,200. Median mid-career salary: $53,400.

6. Spanish: Median starting salary: $35,600. Median mid-career salary: $52,600.

7. Music: Median starting salary: $34,000. Median mid-career salary: $52,000.

8. Theology: Median starting salary: $34,800. Median mid-career salary: $51,500.

9. Elementary Education: Median starting salary. Median mid-career salary: $42,400.

10. Social Work: Median starting salary: $33,400. Median mid-career salary: $41,600.

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2 Responses to “The 10 Highest and Lowest-Paying College Degrees”

  1. Grants for School Says:

    Very interesting article. I would have expected to see the education degrees being in the lower top10.

  2. BLC Says:

    I feel like Kinesiology should be in there. I have yet to be paid for a job involving my Kin degree.

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