With student loan debt and the economic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic weighing on their minds, prospective college students may want to dig into the data on which majors pay the most after graduation. The U.S. News and World Report, for example, said that "all 10 of the college majors with the highest starting salaries based on PayScale data are in STEM fields, with computer engineering and computer science the top-paid." Stacker's top 25 highest-paying college majors also include social science and medical majors, such as political economy, pharmacy, and econometrics.
While the highest-paid college majors are in those science, technology, engineering, and math subject areas, there's disagreement among college and workforce professionals if there's a workforce shortage of STEM careers.
For instance, Dr. Ron Hira, a Howard University scholar of offshoring and job development, looked at Bureau of Labor Statistics data to determine that the "U.S. is producing far more [STEM] graduates than the incremental number of jobs being predicted." Hira also mentioned wage stagnation as evidence there's no workforce shortage of STEM careers.
On the other hand, the Chamber of Commerce Foundation in 2022 wrote that "[t]here are currently more than 16 million skilled technical jobs requiring an associate degree or similar level qualification, and the number of jobs requiring substantial STEM expertise has grown nearly 34% over the past decade."
Stacker used PayScale's 2021-22 College Salary Report to rank the 25 majors that lead to the highest-paying jobs. Rankings are based on the median mid-career salary for those who earned bachelor's degrees in each major, or the salary that is expected after 10 years of continuous employment within the field. Ties are broken based on median early career salaries, pay within the first five years of employment.
Salary calculations are adjusted for inflation and do not include equity or stock compensation, retirement plans, and noncash benefits such as health care. Payscale's College Salary Report is a compensation survey based on the responses of 3.5 million college graduates. Check out the survey's full methodology here, and continue reading to learn if your major is among the highest-paying.
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