In an uncertain job market, it’s not uncommon for workers — current and prospective — to turn to the sure thing. And while there are no guarantees in life, a new report reveals the 10 majors that lead to the highest paying jobs for fresh graduates in their first four years after school. Knowing who earns relatively more Gen Z could provide a guiding light for college students who are nervous about entering a turbulent economy with layoffs and, according to some experts, on the precipice of disruption.
The top-paying majors won’t come as a surprise—STEM fields reign supreme, according to a report from HEA Group, a higher education research and consulting agency. The report also takes a look at how the most popular majors tend to pay – using data from the US Department of Education that shows average salaries four years after graduation – and only three in early careers. Salaries exceed $50,000 per year. average.
Operations research—leading to jobs for analysts who use math to evaluate and improve company performance—makes for the highest average starting career earnings of just over $112,000 per year. There are only 104,200 jobs for operations research analysts according to BLS data, but the field is expected to grow 23% faster than the average this decade.
Computer science is one of the most popular among highly paid majors, and degree-earners bring in approximately $105,000 per year – more than the median US income of approximately $57,000 for full-time workers. Meanwhile, the most popular major that pays the most is nursing, averaging over $76,000 per year, while a communications major can expect to earn around $49,000.
Any comprehensive list will give an incomplete description of what graduates can expect to earn. There are other factors that go into starting salary, including location and company (a communications professional may earn more right out of school at a tech company than at a non-profit, for example).
“College isn’t just about money. There are many intangible aspects that salary data won’t easily measure,” notes the HEA Group. But “this new salary data allows prospective students to make more informed decisions as they investigate individual programs at the colleges they are considering.”
Although there is an ongoing debate about the value of a college degree to the American workforce when it is often accompanied by a growing student loan balance, research has found that it is still usually worth it, and the HEA The group’s report also shows that those with bachelor’s degrees tend to outnumber holders of associate degrees and post-secondary certificates.
That said, there are always shades of gray. A graduate with an associate’s degree in a STEM field can still do very well for himself: A physics associate’s degree can lead to early career earnings of close to $85,000 per year. And close to nursing bachelor’s degree holders with an associate’s degree in nursing earn an average of less than $67,000 per year.
Average salaries for the highest paying majors for bachelor’s degree recipients are:
- operations Research: $112,000
- Naval architecture and marine engineering: $109,000
- computer science: $105,000
- sea transport: $104,000
- computer Engineering: $99,000
- animal treatment: $97,500
- Petroleum Engineering: $97,000
- systems Engineering: $95,000
- pharmacology: $94,000
- Electrical, Electronics & Communication Engineering: $92,000
The average salaries of the most popular majors for bachelor’s degree recipients are (in descending order from most popular):
- business Administration: $58,000
- nursing: $76,500
- Psychology: $43,000
- criminal justice: $47,000
- accounting: $64,000
- Communications: $49,000
- teacher education: $42,000
- the biology: $49,000
- liberal arts and humanities: $44,000
- health and physical education: $47,000