10 Highest Paying Majors in 2024 and One to Avoid

So you want to make money? Check out the most paying majors this year.
January 23, 2023
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Think of your major as a Hogwarts sorting hat for the real world. It doesn't just determine your classes, it also maps out the realm of jobs that'll welcome you with open arms.

Majors in high-demand fields, such as engineering or computer science, often lead to coveted roles with fat paychecks. On the flip side, some majors might nudge you toward positions where money isn't the biggest benefit of the job.

Your major shapes the narrative of your career and influences the digits on your salary slip. It's not just about the diploma but the lifestyle and financial path it brings along. So, we're giving you a pick behind the curtain— here's what salaries to expect based on your major, starting with the highest paying majors:

Highest-earning associate's degrees

  1. Computer Science & Mathematics: $45,500-$106,000
  2. Nondestructive Testing: $49,900-$99,800
  3. Radiation Therapy: $65,300-$95,700
  4. Software Engineering: $53,600-$94,000
  5. Instrumentation Technology: $51,300-$90,800
  6. Instrumentation & Control Engineering: $54,700-$88,800
  7. Electrical & Computer Engineering: $47,200-$87,600
  8. Project Management: $50,900-$85,800
  9. Network Engineering: $52,500-$85,300
  10. Instrumentation & Control: $61,100-$84,200

Highest-paying bachelor's majors

  1. Petroleum Engineering: $93,200-$187,300
  2. Operations Research & Industrial Engineering: $84,800-$170,400
  3. Electrical Engineering & Computer Science: $108,500-$159,300
  4. Interaction Design: $68,300-$155,800
  5. Public Accounting: $59,800-$147,700
  6. Operations Research: $83,500-$147,400
  7. Applied Economics & Management: $66,100-$146,400
  8. Business Computing: $73,000-$143,600
  9. Actuarial Mathematics: $64,300-$143,400
  10. Electrical Power Engineering: $76,100-$142,600

Highest-earning master's degrees

  1. Nursing Anesthesia: $176,386
  2. Information Technology: $121,769
  3. Business Administration: $114,083
  4. Finance: $108,518
  5. Software Engineering: $107,366
  6. Nursing: $107,076
  7. Electrical Engineering: $104,119
  8. Statistics: $104,009
  9. Physician Assistant Studies: $103,648
  10. Economics: $94,319
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

For the most part, the best majors for earning potential are in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Scared about getting a low-paying job? 

Then, you might want to reconsider majoring in Theology—a degree in theology results in the lowest payout of all majors right after college.

Graduates who major in theology and religion earn median salaries of $36,000 five years after college, according to a New York Federal Reserve analysis. An hourly wage for full-time work comes out to just over $17 per hour.

Curious if your major made the low-paying list? Click here for the Top 10 Lowest Paying Majors.

As with life, nothing's ever black and white. There's a lot to consider in the grey space, like benefits, company culture, work-life balance, etc., but if you have your mind on your money, this is something you'll definitely want to keep in mind.

And of course, none of this is set in stone. Some influencers, like Emma Chamberlain, have yet to go to college and are making bank—it's all about finding what makes the most sense for you. 

Before deciding, here are some things to keep in mind besides majors that make money: 

Income Can Grow

Are numbers looking low? Some fields potentially offer much more income growth by mid-career (when workers are 35 to 45 years old).

For instance, industrial engineering and chemical engineering majors start their careers at similar median annual incomes — $70,000 and $75,000, respectively. But by mid-career, the chemical engineering major will have a median pay of $120,000 — $20,000 more annually than an industrial engineer. 

Don't Be Afraid to Negotiate

When you're offered a job, don't be shy—negotiate. Remember, the first number employers throw at you isn't set in stone; it's more like a starting point in a grand negotiation dance.

Entry-level base salaries are usually subject to adding around 10 percent of the original wage offered. While Mid-level positions have even more leverage with a negotiation range of between 10 and 20 percent.

Factor In Benefits

 It's not just about the zeros on that paycheck. Benefits are the sidekicks that make the hero (you!) shine even brighter. From health insurance and retirement plans to flex time and remote work options, these perks can seriously pump up the value of your compensation package.

These perks are the secret sauce that can turn a good job into a fantastic one, and we have the numbers to prove it. According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a whopping 92% of employees consider benefits to be crucial to their overall job satisfaction. 

You're Not Just Picking a Job; You're Picking a Life

In a world where we spend a significant chunk of our lives at work, it's no longer a luxury to seek a job that aligns with your passions. It's a necessity. 

Work-life balance boosts your creativity, productivity, and mental well-being. So, when weighing your options, don't just consider the job description and salary; factor in the joy it brings and the balance it allows.

Remember, a job you love isn't just about earning a living; it's about living a life worth loving. Your happiness is your compass – let it guide you to a career that makes your heart skip a beat, and your work-life balance sing.

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