Everyone can't stop talking about STEM majors, and with good reason. These majors tend to lead to high-paying and in-demand careers.
However, not every student is cut out to study science, technology, engineering or math. What are you to do if you want to make a good living without committing yourself to four or more years of studying a major you don't like?
Try this list of the ten highest paying non-STEM majors. Salaries are estimates made with data from Payscale. Majors are ranked by early-career salary which covers the first 5 years in the workforce.
Note that this is a ranking of bachelor-degrees only. Students who pursue a higher degree typically will have better earning potential.
We define STEM as those majors that fall into the categories of Agriculture, Architecture, Biological & Biomedical Services, Communications Technology, Computer & Information Science, Engineering, Mathematics & Statistics, Natural Resources & Conservation, Physical Sciences, Science Technologies.
Some sources consider majors in the medical fields and social sciences as STEM, but for the purposes of this article, we did not.
Nursing is one of the best college majors for students who want to graduate immediately into a well-paying career. It is also one of the most popular majors students choose to study with over 154,000 graduates yearly.
The average early-career salary of a nurse is $53,300 while the average mid-career salary is just over $70,000. Nurses can specialize in a number of areas giving you the opportunity to become a nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner or registered nurse.
If you enjoy working one on one with people and want to help them prevent and fight illness while working on the front-lines of healthcare, a career in nursing may be for you. Top-ranked schools for nursing include Molloy College, New York University and Drexel University.
2. Construction Management
Although construction management isn’t a popular major choice with only 1,736 yearly graduations, it is a highly paid non-STEM major. Students graduating with a degree in construction management can expect an average starting salary of $49,200 and an average mid-career salary of $83,300.
Top-ranked colleges include Wentworth Institute of Technology, Arizona State University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute. If you have a love of building and a knack of managing complex projects, problem-solving and expecting the unexpected, a degree in construction management may be for you.
Do you love working with money and mathematics? Like to track trends in spending and how governments spend money? You may want to consider majoring in economics. With an average early career salary of nearly $46,000 and average mid-career salary of $88,000 – economists can earn a great wage. Top schools include the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and Harvard University. US colleges graduate about 37,000 students with degrees in economics per year.
A degree in finance will let you work within a company’s financial team helping manage business assets and capital for long-term investments. You’ll need to have a good background in mathematics and enjoy problem-solving. Similar to economics majors, there are about 38,000 graduates in finance each year. Salaries are also similar to economists as well with an early career salary of $45,000 and average mid-career salary of just over $81,000. Top schools include the University of Pennsylvania, Boston College, and Bentley University.
5. Real Estate
If you are a people person and like working on a bit of everything from law to finances, and you love seeing houses, you may want to consider a major in real estate. Although the real estate agent might be the first thing you think of, real estate is a broad industry with many different career opportunities from financial services, insurance sales, and appraisals. Salaries will vary depending on the market you are in. However, an average early career salary for students graduating with a real estate degree is $44,500 with a mid-career salary of $76,500.
Attention to detail is the name of the game when considering a career in accounting. Whereas finance deals mostly with investments and transitory numbers, accountants deal with fact-based numbers. Accountants work with budgets, accounts payable and accounts receivable to ensure the flow of money within a business is tracked. About 60,000 students graduate with a degree in accounting each year. The average starting salary is $44,500 with an average mid-career salary of just over $75,000. Top schools include Bentley University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Bryant University.
7. Public Policy
Working in the field of public policy requires a natural inquisitiveness and desire to dig in and get to the bottom of your topic of study. A degree in public policy will help prepare you to work in the political arena as an analyst or scientist. Careers in the in the social sciences are also available to public policy graduates. Top colleges for public policy include Princeton University, Duke University, and Brandeis University. Graduates can expect an early career salary of $43,400 and an average mid-career salary of $73,700.
8. Business/Managerial Economics
A degree in business and managerial economics applies the principles of economics to businesses. Business economists may help the business by analyzing certain external factors to determine how they may impact the business’s bottom line. The average early career salary is about $43,000 with an average mid-career salary of $78,000. Top schools include Bentley University, Lehigh University and the University of California – Los Angeles.
9. Dietetics & Clinical Nutrition Services
Students graduating with majors in dietetics and clinical nutrition services can find careers helping both individuals and groups of people plan for and evaluate their nutritional needs. Dieticians can work in large-scale settings such as schools or business cafeterias or in a one on one clinical setting. Graduates earn an average early career salary of $42,500 and an average mid-career salary of just under $54,900. Top dietetics schools include the University of Delaware, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, and California State University – Long Beach.
10. International Business
Students graduating will be prepared to travel internationally and conduct business. You’ll have to have a love of travel and willingness to learn other cultures and customs – doing so can be very rewarding. International business students can attend a number of top-ranked schools including Georgetown University, Villanova University, and Bryant University. Graduates can expect an average early career salary of $42,000 with an average mid-career salary of $79,000.
11. Public Health
Until recently Public Health was typically offered as a Master's Degree, but the popularity of it as a bachelor's degree has grown significantly. Students who achieve an undergraduate degree in public health are well prepared for an advanced degree in the same subject or may enter the workforce as a healthcare administrator, social worker, or health educator. The average graduate earns $41,400 in their early career and $77,200 in their mid-career.
12. Business Administration & Management
Business Administration and Management has been the most popular college major for years. This is the standard major most students take who are interested in running a business or working their way up the corporate ladder. The average early-career salary for graduates of this major is $41,200 and the mid-career salary is $70,700. Some students choose to pursue an MBA which can raise salary prospects.
Marketing is a popular major within the business field that lets students focus on advertising and promotional aspects of a business. This can lead to prosperous careers in public or private organizations as marketing creatives, directors or advertising agents. Early career salaries average $39,600, and mid-career salaries average $75,300.
14. Geography & Cartography
A major in Geography & Cartography can lead to careers in security, government, business, and education. This is the perfect subject for students who loved geography classes in high school, who can pay close attention to detail, and are good with technology. Average early career salaries in this field are $39,400 and mid-career salaries are $67,800.
15. East Asian Languages
Students who major in East Asian language usually pick a concentration to focus on such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Tibetan. Classes will include writing, grammar, and literature, and will touch on East Asian philosophy, religions, politics, business, and technology. This could be excellent preparation for a student who whishes to launch a career in international relations specializing in East Asia, or who may be considering moving to the region to work as an educator, translator, business-person, or government representative. The average graduate earns $39,400 in their early career.
16. Entrepreneurial Studies
Students who have an interest in starting and running their own business can major in Entrepreneurial Studies. The more creative and diverse the program, the better. The average graduate earns $39,100 soon after graduation and $85,300 in their mid-career.
17. Public Administration
This major is for students who love the idea of making a difference in public life with their administrative and organizational skills! Classes will be a mix of political science, government, policy, and sociology. Graduates earn an average of $38,900 in early career and $64,000 in mid-career.
18. Political Science & Government
Political Science & Government is an ideal major for students interested in getting into politics, and can also pave the way for further education in law, education, or public policy. For students who stick with just a bachelor's degree, their average expected earnings are $38,700 in their early career and $74,200 in the mid-career.
19. Area Studies
A student who majors in Area Studies usually picks a specific geographic location, culture or group to focus on such as the U.S., Africa, Russia, China, Native Americans, African Americans, etc. This major is excellent preparation for careers in education, politics, social work, or even business. Graduates earn $38,700 in their early career and $64,800 in their mid-career.
20. International Relations & National Security
Students who study this major may be interested in diplomacy, trade, travel, culture, international business, politics and national security, and their classes may cover all of those subjects. After college, graduates may find themselves working for public or private organizations, in the military, or as a teacher. The average graduate earns $38,400 in their early career and $82,900 in mid-career.
Gerontology majors focus on the medical issues associated with aging. This important degree prepares students for a variety of careers in the healthcare field. Some students go on to earn an MD or another advanced degree, while some go into careers as a nurse-aid, occupational therapist, social worker, or healthcare administration. Early career salaries average $38,300.
Despite being the butt of many jokes, philosophy majors do pretty well for themselves after graduation. A philosophy degree will empower you with sharp critical thinking skills, the ability to write and reason well, and a broad skill-set that can translate to many different career fields. The average graduate earns $38,200 in their early career and $69,600 mid-career.
23. Business/Corporate Communications
Want to specialize in business communications? This is the major for you. Understand how large and small businesses operate, and how effective methods of communication can improve relations and better your bottom-line. Less than a thousand students a year graduate with this major that can be fairly profitable. In their early career graduates earn $38,000, and in their mid-career $64,100.
Music is a fairly popular major that can prepare students for a wide number of fields. Some students become teachers working in public or private schools or run their own home studio giving music lessons. Students with a music background can also find work as a singer or songwriter, in music production, music leaders or directors, and creative professionals in many industries. Graduates with bachelor's in music often earn $36,900 in their early career and $57,900 in their mid-career.
25. Urban Studies
Urban Studies is an interdisciplinary major that can include classes from many different subjects such as history, economics, sociology, public policy, and law. Most students who pursue this degree are interested in getting into government or law, but it can also be excellent preparation for teachers or lawyers. Graduates with a degree in Urban Studies average $35,500 as a starting salary with a mid-career salary of $64,100.
Do you know which major is best for you based on your natural strengths and interests?