Top 25 Highest Paying Majors (Hint: Get a Degree in Engineering!)

There's nothing wrong with earning a college degree that will actually help you make money. For students who are interested in earning a good salary without pursuing a graduate degree a major from this list is a good place to start. 

 Interested in making a good salary fresh out of college? Choose a major from this list. Keep reading for more information.*

Interested in making a good salary fresh out of college? Choose a major from this list. Keep reading for more information.*

1. Petroleum Engineering

A degree in petroleum engineering can be lucrative as it sits on the top of our list of highest paid college majors with an average early career salary of $89,000 and an average mid-career salary of $160,000. Petroleum engineers require a complex mix of mathematics and analytical skills in order to be successful at finding and extracting petroleum. With just under 1,700 graduations per year, graduates in petroleum engineering are nearly as rare as the “black gold” they are trying to harvest.

2. Mining and Mineral Engineering

If you love geology and getting your hands dirty in the field, a degree in mining and mineral engineering may be a good fit for you. Although there are very few yearly graduates with a mining and mineral engineering degree – 357 to be exact – they are very handsomely compensated for this difficult line of work. The average early career salary is $68,500 with an average mid-career salary of $104,600.

3.  Nuclear Engineering

Nuclear energy may still be a good prospect for keeping our planet running – a degree in nuclear engineering can help you understand this important alternative fuel system. Nuclear engineers need to have a strong background in mathematics and various science. Only 545 students graduate each year with a degree in nuclear engineering. The average early career salary is just over $66,100 with an average mid-career salary of under $100,000.

4. Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering

Want to help build the next great naval ship? A degree in naval architecture or marine engineering can set you up with the education to do just that. Teamwork and problem solving skills, along with a healthy knowledge of advanced mathematics are critical to a successful marine engineer. Although there are only 384 graduates each year, they are richly rewarded with an average early career salary of $64,500 and average mid-career salary of $112,700.

5.  Chemical Engineering

If you have a love for chemistry but want to apply that knowledge into creating useful compounds that can be turned into products, chemical engineering may be for you. Students need to have a love for complex mathematics and chemistry and be able to work well in groups. There are about 9,000 chemical engineer graduates each year. The average early career salary is $64,200 with an average mid-career salary of $109,000.

6. Ocean Engineering

A degree in ocean engineering will prepare you for a number of careers related to the largest biome on earth. From working on studies of the ocean to developing new ways to harness the ocean’s power, ocean engineering can be a very rewarding career. Only 179 lucky graduates earn degrees in ocean engineering each year. Graduates can expect an early career salary of $63,200 and an average mid-career salary of over $118,000 per year.

7. Systems Engineering

Systems engineering is a bit of a generic term for someone who primarily solves problems for their career. Whether they are a software developer, robotics designer or a device manufacturer, a degree in systems engineering can open wildly different doors depending on your interest. About 774 graduates earn degrees in systems engineering each year. Although career options vary wildly, the average early career salary is $63,000 with an average mid-career salary of just over $101,000.

8. Aerospace, Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering

A degree in aerospace and aeronautical engineering will prepare you for a career designing and developing aircraft and their systems. Approximately 3900 students graduate each year with these degrees. The average starting salary is $61,500 with an average mid-career salary of $106,900.

9. Electrical, Electronics & Communications Engineering

Electrical engineering is one of the more popular STEM majors with just under 15,000 graduates per year. A degree in electrical engineering will offer you career opportunities working with, researching and developing new electrical systems. Average starting salary is $61,400 with an average mid-career salary of $103,000.

10. Metallurgical Engineering

Metallurgical engineering deals with metals and how they can be used in various material production. Only about 130 students graduate with a metallurgical engineering degree each year making job prospects good. The average starting salary is just over $60,500 with an average mid-career salary of $98,000 making this one of the top 10 highest paying majors.

11. Computer Engineering

If you love working with computers and are interested in how hardware and software meld to form a cohesive system, a degree in computer engineering may be appropriate for you. About 6,500 students graduate with a computer engineering degrees. Average starting salary is $60,300 with an average mid-career salary of $101,000.

12. Materials Engineering

A career in materials engineering requires a complex mix of problem solving skills and a breadth of knowledge on the properties of various materials to create products and solutions. The average starting salary for a materials engineer is just under $59,800 with an average mid-career salary of $86,700. About 1,300 students graduate with a materials engineering degree each year.

13. Mechanical Engineering

Do you like working with machines? Fixing them and designing them? A degree in mechanical engineering may be a good choice for you. Another popular STEM major – there are about 26,800 graduates in mechanical engineering yearly. The average starting salary is just under $57,800 with an average mid-career salary of $96,000.

14. Industrial Engineering

Industrial engineers work as a liaison between person and machine to study how industrial systems are used in order to make them more efficient and in the process save their business money. Starting salaries are about $56,700 per year with an average mid-career salary of $92,000. About 4,600 students graduate with an industrial engineering major each year.

15. Biomedical/Medical Engineering

Just as industrial engineers try to improve industrial systems for their users, biomedical engineers study and look to improve medical devices and systems to make their users more efficient or comfortable. About 6,000 biomedical engineering students graduate each year. The average starting salary is about $56,200 with an average mid-career salary of $105,000.

16. Agricultural Engineering

Although agricultural engineers are highly paid with starting wages around $56,100 and mid-career salary around $88,000, this career field is slowly growing. Agricultural engineers work to improve our food supply by using the latest technology to improve crop yields and efficiency in growing crops. About 1,000 students each year graduate from agricultural engineering programs.

17. Biochemical Engineering

Biochemical engineers need to have a strong background in both biology and chemistry while they try to solve various biological issues. Careers are available in pharmaceuticals, scientific research and work in universities. Only about 60 students graduate with biochemical engineering degrees making this one of the least popular STEM majors. The average early career salary for a biochemical engineer is about $55,400.

18. Environmental/Environmental Health Engineering

Students wishing to work with environmental issues helping solve problems such as pollution and global warming could study environmental engineering. With a renewed focus on the environment, the job outlook for environmental engineers is good. About 1,400 students graduate in this field and can expect to see early career salaries of $53,900 and average mid-career salaries of nearly $94,000.

19. Computer Science

If you have a love for programming and working with computers, a degree in computer science may be appropriate. Computer scientists develop programs to help humans overcome problems or improve their efficiency. Computer science is a relatively popular STEM major with about 17,000 graduates per year. Early career salaries are about $53,800 with an average mid-career salary of $94,000.

20. Nursing

Nurses work on the front lines of health care taking care of patients to comfort them and help heal them. Nursing is an extremely popular major with over 154,000 yearly graduates. A good background in the sciences such as biology, anatomy and psychology will prepare you to be a great nurse. The average starting salary of a nurse is $53,000 with an average mid-career salary of $70,000.

21. Civil Engineering

Do you want to help design the spaces and infrastructure around you? Buildings, bridges, roads and tunnels are all designed by civil engineers. A graduate of a good civil engineering program can earn about $52,700 as an early career salary and $89,000 as an average mid-career salary. There are about 13,000 yearly civil engineer graduates each year.

22. Applied Mathematics

Applied mathematics is the study and application of mathematics which are used in everyday scenarios. Many applied mathematicians will go on to careers in the software development field, or as statisticians or actuaries. The average early career salary is about $52,200 with an average mid-career salary of $102,000. Only 2,600 students graduate with an applied mathematics degree each year.

23.  Architectural Engineering

While architects design and construction teams build, the architectural engineer works with both teams to ensure the designed space is functional and has the proper systems and materials in place to ensure the project is a success. About 600 students graduate from architectural engineering programs each year. The average starting salary is about $51,600 with an average mid-career salary of $87,000.

24. Physics

Students who want to explore the natural world and learn how it works are perfectly suited for a major in physics. Many students continue their education with a masters or doctorate degree. However, even without getting an advanced degree physics graduates can expect an early career salary of $50,800 and average mid-career salary of $91,000.

25. Mathematics & Computer Science

This multidisciplinary major combines math and computer science together into one program. Students will learn how to translate abstract mathematical concepts into designing computer systems from the simple to the complex. A math and computer science major is a good fit for the student who loves math, but also wants to learn how to put their math skills to use in a practical way. This is a relatively niche major with only about 300 graduations per year. The average early career salary is $50,800 with an average mid-career salary of $106,000. 

Salaries are estimates made with data from Payscale and only include graduates with just a bachelor's degree.


What major is best for you based on your unique strengths and interests? 

Find out with Majors Matcher.