By now you (or your child) have chosen a college, are getting ready for those great graduation parties and probably giving a lot of thought to your future. Have you decided on a college major or are you still vacillating? Truth be told you really don’t have to choose a major until you’ve been in school for at least a year as the courses you’ll be taking your freshman year will be mostly basic classes you’ll be required to take before moving into your major field of study.
We understand that when it comes to choosing a major you may want to follow your passion – be it working with preschoolers or becoming a world-renowned artist. There’s an old saying that a rising tide lifts all boats meaning that a rising economy will benefit everyone. Unfortunately, in the case of careers that’s not always the case. Our economy has certainly gotten much better but there are still careers that remain low paying. You may want to follow your heart but it’s important to also follow your bank account by knowing what you could expect to earn. This is especially true if you will borrow money to pay for your education. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce recently used census data to determine the 10 lowest paying college majors and you might want to know what they are before choosing a major.
The bottom five
You might want to make a difference in the world by teaching preschoolers and kindergartners but you should know that an early childhood education major would yield an average annual salary of just $39,000. Your passion might be community organization or human services but do understand that the average annual salary for people that majored in it is just $41,000 followed by studio arts with an average annual salary of $42,000.
Social work might be a very rewarding career emotionally but not monetarily as its graduates earn an average annual salary of just $42,000. Those who majored in teacher education have the same annual average salary – $42,000.
The next five
Visual and performing arts came in number six with an annual average salary of also $42,000. We can’t think of many careers more exciting and interesting than performing arts so long as you know that one of the rewards isn’t a salary. Of course, if you were to major in performing arts and became a star on Broadway or in Hollywood you would certainly be earning a great deal more than at $42,000.
Ranked number seven in low-paying jobs is theology and religious vocations at $43,000 a year. However, this is definitely an area where your annual salary would probably be a distant second to your “calling”.
As you have read a major in early childhood education would earn you an average of just $39,000 a year and elementary education does not fall far behind at $43,000 a year.
The ninth -ranked lowest paying college major is drama and theater arts at an average salary of $45,000 a year. Of course, this major holds the same potential as performing arts, which is that if you were to become a breakout star your earnings would far surpass that $45,000.
Finally, the 10th ranked lowest paying college major is family and consumer sciences with an average annual salary of $45,000. This major was formally known as home economics and is all about the economics and management of the home and the community. In addition to preparing its students for homemaking or professional careers it also teaches about real-life responsibilities at home. This means it could actually be a good choice for people whose goal is to juggle a career with being homemaker.
If your passion is more about money than making a difference in the lives of young children, you might be interested in knowing the highest paying majors. As you might imagine, nine of the top 10 are in engineering fields. Petroleum engineering leads the pack with an annual average salary of $136,000. The second highest paying major is all about drugs but in a good way as it includes pharmacy, pharmaceutical administration and pharmaceutical sciences where these majors earn $113,000 a year. This is the only area in the top 10 that doesn’t have anything to do with engineering.
Ranked number three with an average annual salary of $98,000 is metallurgical engineering followed by mining and mineral engineering at $97,000 a year. Chemical engineering ranked fifth as its graduates have an average annual salary of $96,000 followed closely by electrical engineering at $93,000 a year.
It clearly pays to be a rocket scientist or at least to major in aerospace engineering as its graduates have an average annual salary of $87,000. Computer engineering continues to rank well at number eight with an annual average salary of $87,000. While geological and geophysical engineering ranks last in the 10 highest paying majors its graduates still earn an average of $87,000 a year or almost $50,000 more than those that majored in early childhood education.
The school you choose also makes a difference
Maybe you or your child has already chosen your school but if not you might be interested to know which ones can have the biggest effect on your salary.
For example, if you were to choose the California Institute of Technology
(Caltech) you increase your annual earnings by 49% just by attending it versus attending comparable colleges. Colgate isn’t just toothpaste as it’s also a school you might want to attend as its graduates enjoy an annual average boost of 46% vs. comparable schools.
It will probably come as no surprise that graduates of the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology enjoy a salary boost of 45% and Rose-Human Institute of Technology graduates get a boost of 44%. However, here comes one that might shock you. The graduates of little Carrollton College, a liberal arts school located in Northfield, Minnesota, enjoy a salary boost of 43%. Graduates of Washington and Lee University also see a 43% boost vs. comparable schools.
If you’re thinking you might like a maritime career there is the SUNY Maritime College whose graduates also enjoy a 42% salary boost over comparable schools, plus they have the opportunity to earn licensure as a ship’s third officer
The remaining schools you might want to attend to boost your salary are Clarkson University, Manhattan College and Stanford University. Graduates of Clarkson University enjoy a 42%salary boost as do graduates of Manhattan College and Stanford grads see a 41% boost over comparable schools.
Putting all this together the bottom line is that if you have the right prerequisites and want to maximize your potential earnings, you should go to Caltech and major in petroleum engineering or major in pharmaceutical sciences at Colgate University. A third the choice would be to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology and major in metallurgical engineering. If none of these appeal to you there’s always Carlton College where you can earn a Bachelor of Arts degree but still do well vs. graduates of equivalent liberal arts colleges.