The 10 Highest Paying College Majors (and 10 Lowest)

Engineering degrees took nine out of 10 spots on the list of the 10 highest paying college majors, five years after graduation.

Pink and white books with college graduation cap and lightbulbs
(Image credit: Getty Images)

No surprise, majoring in engineering and finance yields the biggest paydays five years after graduating college, while majoring in liberal arts or performing arts pays the least. But which specific majors result in the highest and lowest paydays? A recent New York Federal Reserve survey takes a look.

Looking at the broader jobs picture, over 275,000 jobs were added in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The strongest growth was in healthcare, food service and local governments, but retail and e-commerce delivery got a boost from warmer weather. Some jobs require no college education, while others require a four-year degree or more.

If you are curious about analytical and technological concepts and enjoy math and science, then you might consider choosing a career in a STEM industry where you can earn some of the highest salaries after five years of graduating. On the other hand, if you prefer to pursue a major in performing and liberal arts or theology, you will likely earn some of the lowest salaries. That's according to the New York Federal Reserve analysis.

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Let's take a closer look at the ten highest and ten lowest paying college majors to see what to expect upon graduation.

College majors that pay the most five years after graduation

Swipe to scroll horizontally
MajorMedian Wage Early CareerMedian Wage Mid Career
Chemical Engineering$79.000$133,000
Computer Engineering$80,000$125,000
Aerospace Engineering$74,000$120,000
Electrical Engineering$72,000$112,000
Mechanical Engineering$70,000$111,000
Computer Science$78,000$110,000
Industrial Engineering$71,000$100,000
General Engineering$68,000$100,000
Miscellaneous Engineering$68,000$100,000

College majors that pay the least five years after graduation

Swipe to scroll horizontally
MajorMedian Wage Early CareerMedian Wage Mid Career
Liberal arts$38,000$65,000
Performing arts$38,000$64,000
Theology and religion$38,000$56,000
Leisure and hospitality$39,700$67,000
General social sciences$40,000$70,000
Miscellaneous biological science$40,000$68,000
Fine arts$40,000$68,000
Treatment therapy$40,000$67,000
Nutrition sciences$40,000$65,000

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey-2022 data]

With a number of U.S. job seekers considering a career change in 2024, it makes sense to find out which jobs give you the best chance to make the highest wages and show the most or least potential for growth. No matter your passion, or if you plan to pursue a college degree or not, there is a job out there for you.

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Kathryn Pomroy

For the past 18+ years, Kathryn has highlighted the humanity in personal finance by shaping stories that identify the opportunities and obstacles in managing a person's finances. All the same, she’ll jump on other equally important topics if needed. Kathryn graduated with a degree in Journalism and lives in Duluth, Minnesota. She joined Kiplinger in 2023 as a contributor.