Where Does Your College Major Fall on the Spectrum?

John Krautzel
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Going to college is a way to enhance your future earnings, and graduating from college shows employers you are dedicated to seeing a long-term project through to the end. Choosing a college major can have a huge impact on your future earnings potential. Take a look at the majors on the upper and lower ends of the earnings spectrum and what to do if you fall on the lower end of things.


A college salary report from PayScale reveals the highest-paying jobs for varying degrees, from an associate's up to a master's degree. The company lists 10 degrees and the ranges of salaries they pay in the early and middle stages of a career. The lowest earnings potential for a college major is an associate's degree in engineering that starts at just under $40,000 per year for a two-year degree. Starting salaries for master's degrees range from two to three times higher than those of an associate's degree.

Associate's Degree

Three of the top majors at the associate's degree level are in health care, and four are in engineering fields. Two majors revolve around management. An associate's degree in nursing management, radiation therapy or nuclear medicine technology can land you a job at $57,900 in an entry-level position. Electrical engineering majors start at around $40,000 a year, while a college major in management information systems begins at an average of $45,000.

Bachelor's Degree

One of the most lucrative prospects for a bachelor's degree is petroleum engineering. The starting salary for this opportunity is a whopping $94,600 after earning a four-year degree. By his late 20s, someone with this college degree may earn more than $135,000 per year, which is the top in many categories. You may want to consider a college major needed by the oil industry, such as chemical engineering or geophysics, that can earn a lot of money. Accounting, engineering in general, and computer-based fields can land you a job making between $60,000 and $70,000 per year as soon as you graduate.

Master's Degree

Master's degrees in health care, accounting, computer science and engineering all give you the chance to make a six-figure salary by the middle of your career. Opportunities abound for college degrees as a nurse anesthetist, computer scientist, chemical engineer, computer engineer and technologist.

Low-Paying Degrees

Following your passion rather than a paycheck in a college major can also pay dividends. Kiplinger says some of the lowest-paying majors include art, graphic design, photography, music and anthropology. You can take calculated risks while you build up your career in these fields. Consider having a higher-paying job at first and working on these passions on the side until you can focus on what you love full time. You might combine skills in a higher-paying field with a lower-paying one, such as becoming a graphic designer for someone who writes engineering manuals.

You can obtain a high-paying career with the right college major by planning and following a course of study. Even if you pick a major with lower-paying prospects, you can still find a rewarding career that pays more with the correct moves.

Photo courtesy of COD Newsroom at Flickr.com


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