If you’ve heard any of the dismal stats on student loan debt—like that 44 million Americans owe more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt—then suddenly that college degree might not seem like the great idea it once did. (As a former English major, I feel that pain.) You shouldn’t let that scare you away from higher ed, though. If you’re a student deciding where to focus, or if you’re thinking about going back to school, the best asset you can have is knowledge of what your game plan is. That means finding a post-school job that will let you pay off your school debt. It also means picking a field of study that will set you up well after you walk off with that hard-earned degree. Salary isn’t the only thing to consider when you’re planning you’re future, but let’s face it—it’s awfully important.
While there is some diversity among the highest-paying majors, the main theme is that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers are among the hottest out there right now. Let’s look at 10 of the highest-earning majors, based on a survey conducted by Glassdoor, and what you can do with them. Spoiler alert: most of them are in the sciences and technology.
1. Computer Science
Median salary: $81,430
Spotlight job: Web Developer
Web developers design and create websites, as well as maintain the day-to-day operations, improvements, performance, and traffic. Developers need to have strong skills in design and computer programming. The median salary for web developers is $64,790 per year, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the field will grow 27% by 2024 (much faster than average).
Spotlight job: Software Developer
Software developers handle the creative side of computer programming. They design apps, programs, interfaces, and the underlying systems. Software developers work with user feedback and teams of other computer specialists to create, refine, and improve programs. The median salary for software developers is $100,960 per year, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 17% growth by 2024.
2. Electrical Engineering
Median salary: $68,438
Spotlight job: Electrical Engineer
Electrical engineers are responsible for designing, developing, and testing electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, and power generation equipment. They work in many different industries, from manufacturing to telecommunications to government agencies. The median salary for electrical engineers is $95,230 per year, and although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting gangbusters growth between now and 2024, the field is expected to stay steady.
Spotlight job: Systems Engineer
3. Mechanical Engineering
Median salary: $68,000
Spotlight job: Mechanical Engineer
Mechanical engineers are true multidisciplinarians—this is one of the most versatile and varied engineering fields. Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical devices, including tools, engines, and machines. The median salary for mechanical engineers is $83,590, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 5% growth by 2024.
Spotlight job: Industrial Designer
Industrial designers create designs for manufactured products (including cars, appliances, toys, and consumer products). Industrial designers combine concepts from engineering, business, and art/design perspectives to create user-friendly and attractive products. The median salary for industrial designers is $67,130, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts modest growth of 2% by 2024.
4. Chemical Engineering
Median salary: $65,000
Spotlight job: Chemical Engineer
Chemical engineers work on the production and use of chemicals, fuel, drugs, food, and many other products, as well as designing processes and equipment for manufacturing, planning and testing production methods, and directing facility operations. They apply chemistry, physics, and engineering principles to their products and processes. Chemical engineers can be found in research facilities, industrial plants, and other laboratory settings. The median salary for chemical engineers is $97,360, and the field is expected to grow about 2% by 2024.
5. Industrial Engineering
Median salary: $64,381
Spotlight job: Industrial Engineer
Industrial engineers work to make production and manufacturing processes more efficient. They create systems that coordinate resources (people, machines, materials, information, and energy) to make a product faster, cheaper, and more effectively. The median salary for industrial engineers is $83,470, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts modest changes of about 1% by 2024.
6. Information Technology
Median salary: $64,008
Spotlight job: Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts are the first line of defense for an organization’s computer network and information. They devise and implement security strategies to guard against data theft, cyberattacks, and other digital threats. The median salary for information security analysts is $90,120, and as the number of cyber threats rise, so do job opportunities: the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 18% growth by 2024.
Spotlight job: Network and Computer Systems Administrator
With everything going digital these days, network and computer systems administrators have key roles in nearly every organization. They are responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and development of a company’s digital infrastructure. The median salary for network administrators is $77,810, and the field is expected to grow at least 8% by 2024.
7. Civil Engineering
Median salary: $61,500
Spotlight job: Civil Engineer
If you’ve traveled on a road, been through an airport, or used a public water system, you’ve enjoyed the handiwork of a civil engineer. These engineers design and supervise construction projects in both the public and private sectors. This can include roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and public utilities like water supply and sewage treatment. The median salary for civil engineers is $82,220, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that there will be 8% more civil engineering jobs by 2024.
Median salary: $60,000
Spotlight job: Statistician
Statisticians collect and analyze data, and use it to help solve real-world problems in business, finance, healthcare, engineering, or other areas. Statisticians are in high demand in both the private and public sectors—for example, insurance companies and government agencies. As we move more and more into a data-driven society, the need for qualified professionals to make sense and strategy out of that data grows by the day. The median salary for statisticians is $80,110 per year, and the field is expected to grow rapidly—34% by 2024.
Spotlight job: Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts are the ones who can tell you if your product is likely to be a hit or a flop. They analyze complex market factors, and predict sales for a particular good or service. Their research leads to decisions about what products should be, who would buy them, and what price the market will bear. The median salary for market research analysts is $62,150, and the field is expected to grow by 19% by 2024.
Median salary: $58,928
Spotlight job: Registered Nurse
The healthcare field is as strong as ever, and excellent nurses are always in high demand. Nurses coordinate and provide direct patient care, working with patients in many different healthcare settings (hospitals, clinics, schools, facilities, home care, hospices, etc.). The median salary for nurses is $67,490, and demand will grow by 16% (much faster than average) by 2024.
Spotlight job: Nurse Anesthetist
Nurses in this highly specialized area can administer anesthesia before procedures, monitor patients’ vital signs, and oversee patients’ recovery after surgery. They work with surgeons, physicians, an anesthetists as part of the surgical care team. The median salary for nurse anesthetists is $160,250, and the field is expected to grow much faster than average, in line with other nursing careers.
Median salary: $54,900
Spotlight job: Financial Analyst
Financial analysts are often the voice of financial reason, providing expertise on markets and business to help clients and companies make investment decisions. They monitor the financial markets very closely, particularly the performance of stocks, bonds, funds, and other investment types. The median salary for financial analysts is $80,310, and by 2024 the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects there will be 12% more jobs for financial analysts.
Spotlight job: Accountant
Accountants are responsible for preparing and analyzing financial records, including taxes and daily financial operations. They oversee day-to-day financial operations to ensure that a company is running efficiently and on budget. The median salary for accountants is $67,190, and the field should grow by at least 11% by 2024.
If you’re already in college, or just thinking about it, these majors could be a great option for you if you’re seeking a stable, well-paying career path.
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