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More College Majors With the Best Earnings Potential

Cameron Huddleston

A new report shows which fields of study are most likely to lead to full-time employment with a big paycheck.



It's no surprise that the major students choose in college can greatly affect how much they earn in the real world. So which major should you (or your child) choose if you want to make the big bucks after graduation?

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Kiplinger's recently compiled a list of the 10 best college majors for a lucrative career. We looked at fields of study with graduates who enjoy an attractive combination of big paychecks and abundant employment opportunities and found that a pharmacy or pharmacology major led to the highest median salary.

Now there's another report on the relationship between college major and earnings potential. The Census Bureau recently released Field of Degree and Earnings by Selected Employment Characteristics: 2011, which found that an engineering major was most lucrative (this major was among our top ten).

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People who majored in engineering earned about $92,000, on average, in 2011 -- the highest earnings of any bachelor's degree field, according to the Census Bureau report. They also were among the most likely to be employed full-time.

Those who majored in fields such as communications, education, psychology, and visual and performing arts had the lowest annual earnings, at $55,000 or less, and had lower rates of full-time employment.

For the report, the Census Bureau surveyed adults 25 years and older with a bachelor's degree or higher. Respondents were allowed to report more than one major, but the report examines only the first field of study reported.

Here's a list of the five top-earning majors based on the Census Bureau report:

1. Engineering -- $91,611 (median annual salary)
2. Computers, mathematics and statistics -- $80,180
3. Physical and related sciences -- $80,037
4. Social sciences -- $70,197
5. Biological, agricultural and environmental sciences -- $70,025

The most-common major -- business -- ranked seventh in the Census Bureau's list, with average annual earnings of $66,605. Education and visual and performing arts majors had the lowest annual earnings, at $50,902 and $50,484 respectively.

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