STEM Fields Top Highest-Paying Careers

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STEM icon | Image by Fauzi Muda/Shutterstock

Prospective four-year college students seeking the greatest financial return on their education may want to consider majors in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Workers with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, electrical engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, economics, or finance can expect to earn an annual salary of $100,000 or more, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“The STEM majors tend to be the most lucrative, and that’s bringing people in,” said Eric Greenberg, president of Greenberg Educational Group, reported CNBC.

On the other hand, some of the lowest-paying college majors are in education, liberal arts, fine arts, social work, commercial art, and physical fitness. Workers in these fields typically average $60,000 per year or less.

Of course, many other factors aside from one’s college major affect a person’s income.

On average, a person with a high school diploma will earn about $1.6 million over the course of their lifetime, compared to $2 million with an associate’s degree. However, that differential does not always hold true. At least a quarter of high school graduates earn more than a person with an associate’s degree, according to a study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

A person with a bachelor’s degree is likely to earn 75% more over their lifetime than if they only had a high school diploma, earning a median of $2.8 million. The median lifetime earnings for a master’s degree holder is $3.2 million, and doctoral degree holders earn about $4 million. Still, the analysis showed that one-quarter of workers with a bachelor’s degree earn more than people with a master’s or doctoral degree.

Robert Franek, editor-in-chief of the Princeton Review, encouraged prospective students to consider their area of study carefully before taking out student loans for college.

“Just as a rule of thumb, students shouldn’t take on more debt than they expect to earn their first year after graduation,” Franek advised, per CNBC. Considering such guidance “forces the conversation of what is going to be the real return on my academic investment,” he said.

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