|1. Petroleum Engineering|
Petroleum engineering majors are among the very few who earn a near-six-figure starting salary; $93,000 is the median, says PayScale.com. So if you’re interested in earth science or geology, this may be a major to pursue. Petroleum engineers are responsible for finding crude oil and natural gas reserves beneath the earth’s surface. To do so often requires travel or living abroad. However, bachelor’s degree programs in petroleum engineering are less common than master’s degrees, so you may want to major in something like geology, math or physics as a stepping stone to a petroleum engineering career.
|2. Aerospace Engineering|
Aerospace engineers frequently apply their knowledge of math and physics to develop new forms of air and space travel. Newly-minted aerospace engineers earn just under $60,000-a-year. Entry-level aero engineers may be tasked with anything related to designing, constructing, operating and maintaining above ground aircraft. Students with a love of math and the mysteries of flight – but mainly a love of math – are an excellent fit with this college major.
|3. Chemical Engineering|
Are you seeing a theme yet with these top-paying college majors? Yes, most contain the word “engineering.” Chemical engineering is no different, and pays more than $60,000 right out of school. Here, too, math is a core skill, which is applied to the use of chemicals and the equipment that comes into contact with those chemicals. Determining the optimal mix and amount of substances is frequently the challenge.
|4. Electrical Engineering|
Just as it sounds, electrical engineering majors specialize in all things electrical. They work to design, develop and test electrical devices – anything from fuse boxes to MP3 players to trains. And because knowledge of electrical engineering can be applied to a wide range of industries, electrical engineering majors are in constant demand. Starting salaries are generally over $60,000.
|5. Nuclear Engineering|
Once again, math and science superstars are set with this major. Nuclear engineering is actually a relatively new field and major, as new applications of nuclear energy are still being discovered. Nuclear engineers often work around nuclear reactors and earn just under $65,000 at the outset.
|6. Applied Mathematics|
Finally, a well-paying major that doesn’t end in “engineering,” although those likely to study the field are still math whizzes. Applied mathematics involves using math theories and equations to solve problems in other fields, such as engineering or statistics. Essentially, you use abstract ideas to connect two seemingly unrelated topics, or to solve seemingly unrelated problems. And for that, you will typically be paid in the upper $50,000s.
|7. Biomedical Engineering|
Biomedical engineering applies fields like math, chemistry, physics and engineering to develop practical solutions to medical challenges. Those biomedical engineering students who do not go on to medical school can find success working with medical device companies, in medical instrumentation, diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, artificial organs or limbs or medical imaging. With our aging population, demand for this type of training is likely to continue to climb, along with the starting salary, which is currently in the mid-$50,000s.
Many physics majors go on to teach or to university and government laboratories to study the properties and interactions of matter and energy. For those of us who don’t really know what that means, physicists focus on discoveries such as black holes and the universe, as well as the use of energy, such as in lasers and semiconductors (which are in computers). Unlike some of the more specialized majors listed here, physics has broad applications in many types of organizations. Those hiring pay around $50,000 at the outset.
|9. Computer Engineering|
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, computer engineering is the fastest-growing engineering field. That should be good news for any student interested in designing computer software applications, which is what computer engineers do. Electrical engineers worry about the box on which the software sits and the computer engineers deal with the software inside. With increasing demand for such skills, which has increased with the debut of smartphones, salaries for computer engineering majors is on the rise. The median starting salary is just over $60,000.
One of the few liberal arts majors to be included on this list, economics is the study of how resources in our society are allocated. To better understand how consumers make purchase decisions, why stock values go up the first day of the year or how snow in the south will impact orange juice prices, you turn to an economist. Economics majors can work in companies, government agencies, colleges – you name it. And for that training many receive nearly $50,000 their first year out of school.
|11. Computer Science|
Computer science majors earn just a tad less than their computer engineering brethren, but still pull in more than $55,000-a-year, on average. In exchange, they work for companies that design programs that enable computers and humans to more effectively interact. That might involve speech recognition systems, graphical user interfaces or biometrics (recognizing characteristics that make us individuals, such as fingerprints and retinas), for example. With our increased reliance on computers for, oh, just about everything, job prospects – and already high salaries - can only improve.
|12. Civil Engineering |
If building things like bridges, tunnels, roads and airports is your thing, civil engineering may be the major to explore. In addition to developing newer, better approaches to long-standing infrastructure design principles, you could also work on repairing or replacing failing roadways or buildings. This real-world problem-solving will get you somewhere in the $53,000 range the first year.
|13. Mechanical Engineering |
Mechanical engineers are considered the generalists of their profession, because their skills are applicable to many different societal problems. However, a typical mechanical engineer will focus their attention on heat and power-generating devices, such as engines, generators and gas turbines. So they might design new products, work in research and development or manufacturing, to name a few potential employers. And the starting salary is just under $60,000.
|14. Mathematics |
Math majors adore numbers and the equations they form. However, since there are more people that hate math than love it, the few math majors out there are well-paid to think about numbers all day long. Pure math majors earn more than $46,000 to crunch numbers, while statistics majors – a subset of math – earn $50,000. Math majors ponder more theoretical and abstract topics than applied math majors, which may be why they earn a little less.
Government or political science majors are almost always destined for some post-college position within a government agency. After four years of studying the political process in countries around the globe, most government majors are chomping at the bit to get involved in one or more of those processes. They may go to work for a government representative, join the foreign service or even a lobbying firm. And they’ll earn a little more than $40,000 that first year
|16. Construction Management |
Where civil engineers may design a facility, construction management majors are the ones responsible for taking those blueprints and making a building reality. Often working for a developer or building owner, construction management majors oversee the entire process of construction from start to finish, and earn just over $50,000 at the start. For that they will deal with subcontractors, monitor the budget, double-check architectural models and more.
|17. Environmental Engineering |
Just as the major sounds, environmental engineering has to do with the study of our environment and the pollutants humans have introduced to contaminate it. Environmental engineering majors study how to reverse the damage that has been done and to prevent it in the future. This is one engineering field where you’ll study more than math and physics, but life and social sciences, too. As concern about our environment grows, you can expect the need for environmental engineers to grow, too. New graduates earn about $51,000.
|18. Chemistry |
Chemistry majors study matter – anything in the universe - and how it behaves, especially how it reacts, when combined with other substances. Their training can be applied in fields ranging from medicine to manufacturing to the environment. It can also be a stepping stone to graduate degrees in other fields, such as medicine, biotechnology or pharmaceuticals. Chemistry majors earn around $42,000 their first year out of college.
|19. International Relations |
International relations majors focus primarily on diplomacy and foreign policy. That is, how countries collaborate or oppose each other on economic, military and policy issues. Many international relations majors end up working overseas, in foreign lands, studying them or working to improve conditions there. When employed by a government agency, corporation or non-profit organization, international relations majors earn $42,000 and up.
|20. Urban Planning|
Urban planning majors study how cities were planned, designed and constructed in order to understand how changes in that design impact the community. An interest in history, design and anthropology can be an asset to urban planning majors, who may ultimately shape blocks, neighborhoods and towns with their approach. A typical urban planning major earns a little more than $40,000 at the outset, often working for a municipality or government agency.