Which degree pays the most?

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Ambitious college bound students looking for a degree option that will help them land a high paying job upon graduation are in luck. Wages for college graduates rose 2.4% in the past year with certain disciplines and majors far exceeding the average. A recent study by the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) determined which degrees pay the most. The results are sure to have ambitious students lining up to get degrees in engineering, computer science, and business, to name a few of the high paying degrees indicated by the NACE study.

NACE, established in 1956, is a leading source of information on employment of the college educated. NACE connects more than 5,200 career services professionals at over 2,000 colleges with over 3,000 HR/staffing professionals that are focused on campus recruiting. NACE compiles data on starting salaries for college graduates on a yearly basis. NACE is also one of the foremost respected organizations in the education community.

According to the NACE study, the average starting salary for 2013 graduates with a bachelors degree rose 2.4% from 2012, great news for recent college graduates. The increase is widespread amongst different types of degrees, and provides evidence that college is still paying off for many graduates. According to Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director, “Bolstering the positive news for the Class of 2013 is the fact that salary increases are not limited to certain fields of study that are ‘carrying’ the class. In fact, they are evident in most disciplines.”

But which degrees pay the most? By disciplines, the highest paying bachelor degree was engineering, with a median starting salary of $62,100, an increase of 2.3% over the past year. Computer Science came in a close second, at $58,500, but showed a decrease in starting salary over the previous year. The decline is not universal amongst computer science graduates and depends upon which computer science degree the graduate obtained. Information systems and sciences graduates are faring far worse, for example, than graduates with pure computer science degrees, according to NACE’s employment information manager Andrea Koncz.

A bachelor of business came in third with a starting salary of $55,600. The big story here is the whopping 7.9% increase over the previous year in the starting salary for business majors. The demand increase for business majors has been especially good for those going into finance. “Those majors are typically top of the list for demand among employers,” said Koncz. “So they’re willing to pay more for employees.” Communications and Math & Science degrees came in a distant 4th and 5th, with starting salaries of $43,800 and $42,700, respectively. Communications majors enjoyed a 3.7% increase over the previous year while Math & Sciences eked out a gain of just 0.9%.

Education and humanities & social sciences came in at the lowest salary levels, with education majors starting at $40,300, a 3.2% increase while humanities and social sciences started at $37,800, a 2.6% increase.

By major, the highest paying bachelors degree for 2013 was petroleum engineering, with an astounding starting salary of $92,600. Computer engineering was a distant second at $70,300 and chemical engineering third with $66,900. Other high paying majors included:

Computer Science – $64,100
Aerospace – $63,900
Mechanical Engineering – $63,900
Electrical Engineering – $62,500
Engineering Technology – $60,900
Management Information Systems – $60,300
Logistics Management – $59,500

There is no shortage of high paying degrees for the technical or business minded. No doubt enrollment in engineering, computer, and business classes will be strong in the coming years.