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6 Top-Paid Majors for this Year's College Grads

6 Top-Paid Majors for this Year's College Grads

By Catherine Conlan
Monster Contributing Writer

There are a lot of great reasons to go to college, but the most important is to set yourself up for a successful career after graduation. If your definition of success includes making a lot of money, you’ll want to read on before you pick a major.

As part of its College Salary Report, PayScale looked into which majors “pay you back” with high salaries and good opportunities for increasing earnings as you advance through your career. PayScale surveyed employees whose highest level of education is a bachelor’s degrees and work in full-time, civilian positions and found majors in STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering and math -- are the most profitable after graduation.

“Year after year we see STEM fields dominate the top of the list,” says Katie Bardaro, lead economist at PayScale. “These jobs offer high pay for two reasons: There is a relatively limited supply of graduates in these fields, and there is a high demand for their skills. Both work together to drive up pay rates.”

Here are the six college majors that are most likely to bring in big money over the course of your career.

1. Petroleum Engineering

This major involves studying ways to find and extract petroleum from the earth, as well as production, environmental and safety issues, and other vital aspects of the petroleum industry. According to the study, the median starting pay for graduates is $103,000 a year and the median mid-career salary is $160,000.

2. Actuarial Mathematics

People who major in actuarial mathematics go on to work in the insurance industry, calculating financial risk and uncertainty. Median starting salary for these grads is $58,700 and the mid-career median salaries is $120,000.

This major is also a good pick because the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects actuarial jobs “to grow faster than average: 26.7 percent vs.14.3 percent for all jobs,” Bardaro says.

3. Nuclear Engineering

Students who major in nuclear engineering can go on to a wide variety of careers in medicine, energy, industry and defense, or may continue their studies in a research environment. If they don’t pursue an advanced degree, graduates will see a median starting salary of $67,600 and a mid-career median salary of $117,000.

4. Chemical Engineering

People with degrees in chemical engineering work in high-paid industries such as energy and medicine. They find jobs in manufacturing, testing, quality consulting and other fields. The median starting salary for this major is $68,200 and the mid-career median salary is $115,000.

5. Aerospace Engineering

The field of aerospace engineering is dedicated to designing and testing aircrafts and spacecrafts. They may be involved in flight testing or wind-tunnel design, or may serve as project engineers or managers. The median starting salary is $62,800 and the mid-career median salary is $109,000.

6. Tie: Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering

Electrical engineers study electricity and electronics. They may design and test components for computers, appliances, machines used in health care or defense, or a wide variety of other processes. The median starting salary is $64,300 and median mid-career salary is $106,000.

Computer engineers develop and test high-tech supercomputers, software and systems. They work with microprocessors, hardware and software. The median starting salary is $65,300 and median mid-career salary is $106,000.

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