Choosing a Major Based on Outcomes

As college students soon discover there is more to any career than a paycheck, but it is one big thing to consider when choosing a major, as it will influence your future salary. Most academic fields have at least one major with relatively higher earnings.    The infographic shown below offers a color-coded graph representing 85 majors over the course of 45 years and the income generated. There are also colored graphs representing the highest paid jobs in 10 different fields at entry level, mid-career, and late-career to see how they change or progress. Other graphs illustrate the top and bottom 10 majors based on peak career earnings. Lastly a graph charts earnings over career years based on the level of education received.


Academic Fields:

Advertising and Communications
Business, Management, and Finance
Fine Arts
Math, Engineering, and Computer Science
Natural Sciences
Social Sciences
Top earners from every category

Entry Level:

[major/average starting salary]

Marketing and Marketing Research: $31,440
Operations and Logistics: $41,920
Math and Science Teacher Education: $32,488
Film, Video, and Photographic Arts: $16,362
Nursing: $41,920
Art History and Criticism: $21,271
Electrical Engineering: $49,791
Physics: $31,440
Construction Services: $34,338
Political Science and Government: $21,461

Don’t fret if you don’t top the list, not all earnings follow a linear progression.

Mid Career (your 21st year of work):

[major/average mid career salary]

Marketing and Marketing Research: $65,059
Economics: $83,417 (newcomer)
Physical and Health Education Training: $51,729 (newcomer)
Film, Video, and Photographic Arts: $61,436
Nursing: $63,509
Philosophy and religious studies: $56,717 (newcomer)
Computer Engineering: $102,535 (newcomer)
Physics: $89,157
Construction Services: $87,609
Criminology and Criminal Justice: $61,335 (newcomer)

Late Career (your 36th year of work ):

[major/average late career salary]

Marketing and Marketing Research: $62,486
Operations and Logistics: $82,668
Social Science or History Teacher Education: $50,519 (newcomer)
Film, Video, and Photographic Arts: $54,217
Nursing: $67,053
Mass Media: $52,765 (newcomer)
Aerospace Engineering: $120,134 (newcomer)
Biochemistry and molecular biology: $82,726
General Agriculture: $52,376 (newcomer)
Political Science and Government: $60,101

In general peak income for engineering is the highest while educators and artists make the least.

Top 10 Majors by Peak Earnings:

93233.99544 Physics
95415.65403 Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
95799.40539 Construction Services
99152.47667 Civil Engineering
106519.947 Electrical Engineering
106685.3666 Mechanical Engineering
109654.1672 Computer Engineering
115240.5595 Chemical Engineering
115778.0809 Energy and Extraction Engineering
120336.5767 Aerospace Engineering

Bottom 10 Majors by Peak Earnings:

39604.65508 Early Childhood Education
39837.28494 Family and Consumer Sciences
42491.37015 Social Work
43465.24648 Elementary Education
44871.22933 Art and Music Education
45513.11587 Fine and Studio Arts
47039.65444 Language and Drama Education
47439.93231 Music
47830.56831 Special Needs Education
47912.65169 General Education

Most Americans switch careers at least once. The most important thing is just to have a degree.

Guest Author:

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