The 20 Highest-Paying Majors in 2023, Ranked

Earning a bachelor’s degree can ensure a financially rewarding future career. On average, degree holders earn $1.2 million dollars more over their careers compared to peers with only a high school diploma. But not all majors are created equal — particularly in an evolving labor market. 

As you prepare to declare a field of study, carefully consider your major. Ask yourself important questions. For example, what are you passionate about? Is your university known for a specific major? And, of course, how important is future earning potential? 

Particularly if you’re taking on student loans to afford your degree, seeking a high-paying job after college could be important to you. And while performing arts might be a keen interest, pursuing a degree in nuclear engineering will help pay off those student loans faster. No matter your financial situation, we’ve put together a ranking of the highest-paying college majors to add more data to your decision.  

Top 20 College majors with the highest salaries

According to a study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, most of the top-earning college majors are in STEM fields. This study examined average salaries from early career workers to those in their field for twenty years or more. Alongside this data, they analyzed the percentage of degree holders experiencing unemployment. So, not only are these majors on the higher end of the pay scale, they’re also stable. (P.S. Looking for STEM scholarships? Start here.)

1. Chemical Engineering

Engineering degrees are a common theme on this list. Engineering involves the practical application of math and science, primarily physics, to solve everyday problems. Chemical engineering is a subset with a heavy focus on chemistry. This major is consistently one of the highest-paying. Chemical engineering students learn to create new technologies involving chemicals, drugs, and other products. Chemical engineering majors typically pursue jobs as chemical engineers and work in fields like technology, biotechnology, and business. 

  • Average starting salary: $75,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $120,000

2. Computer Engineering

Due to the continued boom of the tech industry, computer engineering ranks as the second highest-paying major. A combination of computer science and electrical engineering, computer engineering teaches students to understand, build, and innovate upon computer hardware and software. Graduates find jobs as computer engineers, hardware or software developers. Computer engineers can also work as data scientists, which is one of the highest-growing career paths according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • Average starting salary: $74,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $114,000

3. Aerospace Engineering

If you were a fan of “Top Gun: Maverick,” check out aerospace engineering. Aerospace engineers design and develop the technology and systems behind airplanes, spacecraft, and other airborne objects. Aerospace engineers work where these products are developed and improved, so airlines, NASA, or defense-focused companies.

  • Average starting salary: $72,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $112,000

4. Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering students get a crash course in practical science with a concentration on electricity. In the workforce, electrical engineers design, develop, and oversee the creation of electronic products. In our increasingly tech-enabled world, that can be anything from computers to cars. If you have an interest in manufacturing, telecommunications, or transportation, electrical engineering can be a foray into any of those fields. 

  • Average starting salary: $72,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $109,000

5. Computer Science

What’s the difference between computer engineering and computer science? The answer is nuanced. One distinction is that computer engineering focuses more on hardware, whereas computer science concerns theory and software. But there is a lot of overlap. If you enjoy solving problems with technology, computer science might be right for you. Students take classes in programming, data analytics, web design, and math. Many computer science majors go on to pursue advanced degrees or work as developers or data scientists. At the height of their careers, top performers earn annual salaries of around $300,000

  • Average starting salary: $73,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $105,000

6. Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest subsets of engineering and has a variety of applications. Mechanical engineers are involved in the creation of the physical things we use everyday. This degree program involves materials science, motion, thermodynamics, and includes a lot of lab work. Mechanical engineers are in high-demand at companies where physical products are developed. Common industries include automobiles, energy, household products, robotics, technology, and transportation.  

  • Average starting salary: $70,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $105,000

7. Civil Engineering

No matter who you are, at some point you’ve benefitted from the work of civil engineers. Civil engineering is a concentration that involves the design and maintenance of the infrastructure of the physical world around us. While there are subsets of civil engineering, civil engineers can be involved in designing, building, and maintaining things like roads, bridges, dams, canals, sewage systems, railways, and other public places. 

  • Average starting salary: $65,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $100,000

8. Industrial Engineering

College students with an interest in efficiency should explore industrial engineering. This specialization focuses on devising and improving systems to integrate workers, machines, and technology. Industrial engineering combines engineering concepts with social sciences to think outside the box. Industrial engineers can apply their skills to work on product improvement as a quality engineer or in a field like business consulting to optimize the functionality of a workforce. 

  • Average starting salary: $70,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $100,000

9. Economics

Thought economics was strictly about money? Think again. Economics is a far-ranging field in the social sciences that combines math and history to study how goods are consumed. Students pursuing a college degree in economics will examine the history of markets, current events, and how these forces impact the global economy. If you enjoy reading the news and even trying to predict the future, check out the economics department. Future economists tend to find entry-level work as financial analysts, investment banking analysts, or accountants. 

  • Average starting salary: $60,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $100,000

10. Construction Services

A college degree in construction services goes far beyond manual labor on a construction site. This major encompasses architecture, structural engineering, accounting, people management, and quality control. Graduates in this field go on to work for construction or real estate companies as project managers, general contractors, or project estimators.

  • Average starting salary: $60,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $100,000

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11. Pharmacy

If you’re interested in the medical field but not the idea of seeing patients, pharmacy might be for you. A pharmacy degree combines biology, chemistry, and human physiology. Students learn about substances and how they interact with the human body and play a part in developing new pharmaceutical drugs. Upon graduation, students can work as pharmacy technicians or go into research and development. 

  • Average starting salary: $55,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $100,000

12. Finance

Like economics, a finance major is more than meets the eye. Finance encompasses the study of economics, banking, and trading. Finance majors learn how to invest in public markets (the stock market) and private markets (venture capital, etc.) College graduates with a degree in finance tend to enter the industry as financial analysts or investment banking analysts. Finance is one field where the sky’s the limit for your earning potential. On an extreme end of the spectrum, some fund managers make hundreds of millions of dollars each year. 

  • Average starting salary: $60,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $100,000

13. Business Administration 

Business Administration can be a broad major for students with interests in finance, marketing, and economics. A business degree is an opportunity to hone practical, business-related skills. Students learn about market trends and economics while also studying prominent companies. Upon graduation, business administration majors have a great degree of flexibility. Get an entry-level position at a Fortune 500 company, or go into consulting or investment banking. Again, top business leaders tend to have outsized annual salaries to the tune of millions.

  • Average starting salary: $66,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $99,000

14. Information Systems and Management

A degree in information systems and management can be another option for students with an affinity for computer science. Information systems (sometimes also called information technology, which is a subset of information systems) is a concentration on the technology network inside an organization. College graduates might start as network administrators or information technology analysts and go on to become a Chief Technology Officers

  • Average starting salary: $54,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $90,000

15. Mathematics

On this list, the word “math” pops up a lot. For students who aren’t sure of their specialization, a degree in mathematics is an opportunity to learn about math-related subjects ranging from actuarial science to economic theory. Mathematics degrees are applicable across a number of industries. You could become a financial analyst, delve into software engineering, or even pursue further education and become a math teacher or professor. 

  • Average starting salary: $59,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $88,000

16. International Relations

Are you always reading the latest news about politics and economics? Do you love to travel and learn the history of each place you visit? An international relations major can meld these interests together. Students often specialize in a part of the world (like Africa or Europe) and/or discipline (like human rights or global security). After college, you could pursue a career path in the public sector and work in the CIA, military, or as a politician. Or go into the private sector and work for a multinational corporation in marketing, business, or strategy. 

  • Average starting salary: $58,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $86,000

17. Architecture

Combining mathematics, engineering, creativity, and design, architecture is a rigorous discipline. Architecture students take courses ranging from physics to drawing. Upon graduation, degree holders in architecture can get jobs at architecture firms as an architect, CAD designer, or project designer or for real estate companies developing in-house projects. 

  • Average starting salary: $50,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $85,000

18. Biochemistry

Biochemistry is an interdisciplinary degree that blends the study of biology and chemistry and challenges students to understand life at a molecular level. You’ll take advanced courses like genetics and neurobiology and complete a lot of lab work, too. Graduates pursue careers in healthcare, pharmacy, or technology. If you love biochemistry but want to work as an engineer, add a biomedical engineering specialization or pursue an advanced degree in the field.

  • Average starting salary: $45,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $85,000

19. Chemistry

Chemistry majors get deep into the weeds of the elements that make up our world. Many chemistry majors have an interest in medicine and go onto medical school. But a chemistry major could also lend itself to a career in research and academia, drug development, or further training to pursue chemical engineering. 

  • Average starting salary: $47,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $85,000

20. Marketing

For liberal-arts-leaning students, marketing can be a higher-paying major with a focus on those skills. Marketing majors study topics like communications, business, and advertising. Many corporations across industries value good marketing and have their own marketing departments. Graduates can also pursue work at advertising firms that focus on the discipline. 

  • Average starting salary: $50,000
  • Mid-career median salary: $85,000

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If you’re still unsure about what to study, take a deep breath. Many people focus on one thing in college and do something different once they graduate. If you declare a major only to realize it isn’t for you, you can always pivot. Use your higher education as a time to learn, grow, and determine your interests. And try not to let the stress of choice overwhelm you too much. 

Between deciding what to study, completing your coursework, and affording your degree, college can feel like a full-time job. Going Merry is here to provide tools to help lessen the cost of your education, identify scholarships, and give you tips to succeed along the way. No matter your major, start earning money to put toward your higher education today. Sign up for Going Merry and let us bring high-quality scholarship awards straight to your inbox.


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