Major matters

Popular majors aren’t the best paying, according to this infographic from
Infographic: Degree value : Degrees by salary

About Joanne


  1. I thought there was a shortage of RN’s and that nursing was projected to grow much faster than average (at least that’s what the Occupational Outlook Handbook claims)? The 25th percentile to 75th percentile wage range is $51.6k to $76.6k, which is quite a bit higher than the overall median for females with a bachelor’s degree ($40k).

    I’m not worried about the BSN grads. The popularity of that particular college major strikes me as a fairly intelligent decision upon the part of those students.

  2. Many of the majors on the left are taken because someone is interested in that field. Then they find they can’t do anything in that field without a doctorate, but as they need to get a job, they generally go into some type of sales (which generally doesn’t care about your background, as long as you have a degree to show you got through school) or office work. I can cite numerous examples I’ve seen of this over the years.

    I’m glad you posted all these statistics. They are very interesting to consider.

  3. SuperSub says:

    What I would like to see added to this information is a measure of the scarcity of jobs in these fields. Sure, Metallurgical Engineering might make good money, but if there’s only 1/50th (made that number up) of the number of open positions compared to nursing, then it loses its luster.

  4. GoogleMaster says:

    I don’t know anything about pharmaceutical sciences, but I can tell you that engineering and computer science are hard and require many hours of work outside the classroom. Not only that, but the majors frequently require 134 or 140 credit hours instead of 120 for psych or soc. That, plus the fact that you absolutely have to be able to do math, makes those majors unpopular. That they are unpopular, yet there are jobs going unfilled for those majors, makes them pay highly.

    I live in Houston, and I can tell you that they can’t find enough petro engineers to fill all the jobs here. A lot of the old-guard geo and petro engineers took early retirement in the last downturn, and new ones aren’t coming along to fill the jobs that are opening up. I’m in software, and we can’t find people to fill the job openings at my company either.

    YMMV for other locations, but Houston is an odd place with a lot of tech jobs but a huge un-/under-educated population that can’t fill those jobs.

  5. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Holy crap on a popsicle stick! Who would have thought that the laws of supply and demand applied to education and labor, too?

    In other words, GoogleMaster is entirely correct.

    If everyone majored in Engineering, journalism majors would make more money.

  6. superdestroyer says:

    People should also remember what a starting job in petroleum engineering or chemical engineering is. It is not a Monday through Friday job that one does from a suburban office park.

    I am sure that there are very high paying jobs in petroleum exploration but the job in on a drilling rig in Indonesia or Kazakhstan.

  7. this poster should be up in every high school couselor’s office and copie of the article should be handed out to all high school seniors. i wish i had know this type of info before i went to college (history major, french minor- fat lot of good that did me!)

  8. tim-10-ber says:

    I would post these in middle school and start sharing them with high school freshmen and with all students throughout their high schools years…

    Guidance counselors should know this cold…we need better guidance counselors and more of them…

  9. I’m with tim-10-ber, this type of information needs to hit kids when they reach at least middle school (grades 6-8) so they can get an idea of what they’ll need to do in order to have a career in one of these industries…

  10. Actually, a lot of jobs in the sciences these days are not 9-5, Monday through Friday jobs, and that probably needs to be taken into account. Some people don’t deal well with that kind of life.

    Also, petroleum engineers, the work can be very boom-and-bust. My father was a geology professor and he says there were years when he discouraged students from going into the petroleum field because jobs were so hard to come by.

    I suspect Botany is unpopular because lots of students think it’s an outmoded field, or they think plants are “boring,” or they figure botany is for people who want to be florists or horticulturalists….

  11. I know this is a very popular piece of content, but you are helping out a scam organization which is ripping students off to the tune of thousands of dollars a year, by linking to their website. See Dan Meyer’s blog for some clarification.

  12. Sigh. Contrast this post and the comments to the ones in the “Tutored Rich” post.

    Anyone else see the contradictions?

  13. superdestroyer says:

    There are only 19 undergraduate programs for petroleum engineering in the U.S. including 16 public and 3 privates.

    I doubt if anyone majoring in petroleum engineering attended a private high school unless it was outside the U.S. Most of the undergraduates are probably foreign students or recent immigration who have zero interest in fraternities, football games, or spring break. If a white student from the suburbs decided to major in petroleum engineering, there college experience will be better different than most college students.