Best & Worst College Majors in the U.S. for High-Paying & Stable Jobs


Selecting a college major is a momentous decision that can significantly shape your future career prospects and financial well-being.

Early Career Money-Makers

In the initial stages of your career, your choice of major can have a substantial impact on your earnings.

According to the Labor Market for Recent College Graduates, a report based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (IPUMS), here are the top-paying majors and their median wage at early career:

  1. Chemical Engineering: Early-career median wage is $75,000.
  2. Computer Engineering: $74,000.
  3. Computer Science: $73,000.
  4. Aerospace Engineering: $72,000.
  5. Electrical Engineering: $70,000.
  6. Mechanical Engineering: $70,000.
  7. Industrial Engineering: $70,000.
  8. Miscellaneous Engineering: $68,000.
  9. Business Analytics: $66,000.
  10. Civil Engineering: $65,000.

Best College Majors for High-Paying and Stable Jobs

MajorUnemployment RateUnderemployment RateMedian Wage Early CareerMedian Wage Mid-CareerShare with Graduate Degree
Animal and Plant Sciences4.40%52.50%$42,000$67,00034.70%
Environmental Studies5.10%50.20%$45,000$68,00032.50%
Ethnic Studies4.40%53.70%$45,000$66,00049.70%
Mass Media8.40%51.70%$40,000$75,00021.20%
Advertising and Public Relations4.60%39.20%$50,000$80,00019.00%
Information Systems & Management6.40%24.70%$54,000$90,00025.60%
Computer Science4.80%19.10%$73,000$105,00031.80%
General Education1.80%22.90%$40,200$51,00050.10%
Early Childhood Education3.10%24.50%$40,000$43,00040.80%
Elementary Education1.80%15.20%$40,000$48,00049.00%
Secondary Education2.60%27.00%$40,400$52,00051.20%
Special Education2.70%17.70%$40,000$52,00060.70%
Miscellaneous Education0.60%16.70%$40,000$56,00056.60%
General Engineering5.90%25.30%$60,000$100,00037.00%
Aerospace Engineering6.60%27.70%$72,000$112,00049.40%
Chemical Engineering4.10%19.60%$75,000$120,00047.40%
Civil Engineering3.40%15.10%$65,000$100,00038.60%
Computer Engineering3.70%17.80%$74,000$114,00040.00%
Electrical Engineering3.20%15.40%$70,000$109,00047.70%
Industrial Engineering4.60%18.30%$70,000$100,00036.90%
Mechanical Engineering5.30%15.80%$70,000$105,00039.20%
Miscellaneous Engineering3.40%22.90%$68,000$100,00045.80%
Foreign Language7.80%50.10%$43,000$65,00050.50%
Family and Consumer Sciences8.90%47.90%$37,000$60,00032.90%
English Language6.30%48.70%$40,000$65,00047.50%
Liberal Arts6.20%55.20%$40,000$63,00030.00%
Miscellaneous Biological Science6.30%48.60%$42,000$70,00060.90%
Interdisciplinary Studies4.80%46.30%$41,800$70,00037.70%
Nutrition Sciences1.80%45.00%$45,000$60,00046.30%
Leisure and Hospitality5.30%58.60%$38,000$60,00034.10%
Theology and Religion3.60%35.50%$36,000$52,00044.90%
Earth Sciences3.60%38.80%$40,000$70,00043.80%
Miscellaneous Physical Sciences5.50%23.20%$52,000$104,00057.10%
Criminal Justice4.50%71.30%$43,900$70,00024.10%
Public Policy and Law7.40%49.40%$45,000$70,00046.10%
Social Services3.00%27.70%$37,000$52,00052.40%
Political Science6.90%49.20%$50,000$80,00053.60%
General Social Sciences5.40%50.60%$43,000$65,00038.50%
Construction Services1.40%17.70%$60,000$100,0009.90%
Art History5.30%48.80%$48,000$64,00041.80%
Fine Arts12.10%55.40%$40,000$65,00023.20%
Performing Arts7.60%64.00%$39,000$62,00038.50%
Commercial Art & Graphic Design7.90%33.50%$43,000$70,00011.80%
Health Services5.20%45.60%$40,000$60,00051.80%
Medical Technicians5.80%59.50%$51,000$71,00024.60%
Treatment Theraphy5.70%41.30%$48,000$69,00050.70%
General Business5.30%52.40%$50,000$80,00025.20%
Business Management5.00%55.10%$46,000$75,00024.60%
Business Analytics2.20%24.80%$66,000$99,00024.70%
International Affairs7.10%49.30%$50,000$86,00045.60%
Engineering Technologies7.10%39.60%$62,000$90,00024.30%
Miscellaneous Technologies5.90%48.40%$48,000$80,00018.50%

Mid-Career High Earners

If you’re thinking long-term, consider these majors that yield substantial incomes in mid-career:

  1. Chemical Engineering: Mid-career median wage is $120,000.
  2. Computer Engineering: $114,000.
  3. Aerospace Engineering: $112,000.
  4. Electrical Engineering: $109,000.
  5. Computer Science: $105,000.
  6. Mechanical Engineering: $105,000.
  7. Miscellaneous Physical Sciences: $104,000.

Job Security Is Important

For those concerned about job security, these majors have some of the lowest unemployment rates:

  1. Miscellaneous Education: Unemployment rate is just 0.60%.
  2. Nursing: 1.30%.
  3. Construction Services: 1.40%.
  4. Nutrition Sciences: 1.80%.
  5. General Education: 1.80%.
  6. Elementary Education: 1.80%.

Avoiding Underemployment

If you wish to ensure full-time employment rather than part-time work, consider these majors with the lowest underemployment rates (ie. more people work full time rather than part time):

  1. Nursing: Underemployment rate is only 10.10%.
  2. Pharmacy: 14.70%.
  3. Civil Engineering: 15.10%.
  4. Elementary Education: 15.20%.
  5. Electrical Engineering: 15.40%.

Keeping It Simple

For those who prefer not to pursue a graduate degree, these majors have very low rates of graduate degree attainment:

  1. Construction Services: Only 9.90% of workforce have a graduate degree.
  2. Commercial Art & Graphic Design: 11.80%.
  3. Miscellaneous Technologies: 18.50%.
  4. Marketing: 18.60%.
  5. Advertising and Public Relations: 19.00%.

And here’s a gem for those who may not consider themselves academically inclined — Construction Services stands out as a compelling major:

  • It offers respectable pay with an early career median wage of $60,000 (ranked #12) and a mid-career median wage of $100,000 (ranked #8).
  • Job security is solid, with an unemployment rate of just 1.40% (ranked 3rd lowest) and an underemployment rate of 17.70% (ranked #8), which is still quite favorable.
  • Moreover, only 9.90% of graduates pursue a master’s degree in this field, making it highly competitive even without an advanced degree.

Fields to Avoid

If you aspire to live a financially secure life through your salary, without relying on financial windfalls, such as those from your parents, it’s important to carefully consider and maybe avoid these college majors:

  • Fine Arts: Unemployment rate as high as 12.10%, with a mid-career median annual salary of only $65,000.
  • Philosophy: Unemployment rate as high as 9.10%, with a mid-career median annual salary of $68,000.
  • Sociology: Unemployment rate is 9.00%, mid-career median annual salary is $61,000.
  • Family and Consumer Sciences: Unemployment rate is 8.90%, mid-career median annual salary is $60,000.
  • Mass Media: Unemployment rate is 8.40%, mid-career median annual salary is $75,000.
It’s a shame that early childhood and elementary school teachers have the lowest post-college incomes in America

Additionally, while these majors may not have high unemployment rates, their income levels are quite low, especially in the field of education:

  1. Early Childhood Education: Although the unemployment rate is only 3.10%, the mid-career median annual salary is only $43,000, which is much lower than many other industries’ starting salaries.
  2. Elementary Education: The unemployment rate is only 1.80%, and many places in the country have a shortage of elementary school teachers, but the mid-career median annual salary is only $48,000 (that probably explains the shortage).
  3. General Education: Unemployment rate is 1.80%, but mid-career median annual salary is only $51,000.
  4. Theology and Religious Studies: Unemployment rate is 3.60%, but mid-career median annual salary is only $52,000.
  5. Social Services: Unemployment rate is 3.00%, mid-career median annual salary is $52,000.
  6. Special Education: Unemployment rate is 2.70%, mid-career median annual salary is $52,000.
  7. Secondary Education: Unemployment rate is 2.60%, mid-career median annual salary is $52,000.


When choosing a major, remember that it’s not just about the numbers; your interests and passion should guide your decision. However, these insights can help you make a well-informed choice that aligns with your goals and aspirations.

Derek Yang

I'm an immigrant living with my family in a small town on the East Coast. I love classical music, enjoy a good cup of coffee, and have a soft spot for BMWs. I believe in lifelong learning and look forward to connecting with you to share our life experiences. Twitter @mrderekyang.

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