“Study what you love,” says your English, history or music professor. Unfortunately, the data suggests taking a different path. Using 2014 data from PayScale, we ranked the 25 college majors that pay the most right after graduation. There’s still some variety here (hint: you don’t have to be a software developer in Silicon Valley), but just know that concert violinists will have a bit less to celebrate than mechanical engineers.

In order to keep the focus on broad, popular subjects, we limited the list to majors offered by at least 100 colleges (leaving us with 76 total majors). Already snagged a bachelor’s degree in anthropology? Congratulations for sticking to what you love. Just don’t think too hard about what could have been.

Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology

25th percentile: $36,288
Median: $44,596
75th percentile: $53,959

This research-intensive major can be lucrative, but just as often, it results in a more academic or theoretical career. Still, students with this major edge their way into the top third of earners in their first year out of college.

*All figures on this list represent starting salaries straight out of college.


25th percentile: $37,219
Median: $44,946
75th percentile: $52,545

Technical, challenging and in demand, chemistry majors make a solid starting salary straight out of college. That said, the major’s academic tilt might lower the average a bit, as some students will start in low-paying teaching roles.

International Business

25th percentile: $37,659
Median: $45,250
75th percentile: $55,267

International business becomes more relevant every year, as the world becomes increasingly more connected. Incidentally, international business majors make a little less, at least at first, than standard finance or economics majors, which we’ll see later on this list.


25th percentile: $37,711
Median: $45,363
75th percentile: $54,406

Widely regarded as one of the safest, most secure career paths, new accountants tend to rank among the top third in salary, compared to their fellow recent grads.

Computer Software and Media Applications

25th percentile: $40,671
Median: $45,565
75th percentile: $53,271

Many students go into this major expecting to make video games, and a few end up doing so. More often, graduates discover that big, enterprise software companies will provide much more reliable work than a game studio, and so they settle by making educational software, tutorials and other business-to-business applications.

Geological and Earth Sciences

25th percentile: $39,667
Median: $46,168
75th percentile: $54,870

Geological and earth science majors learn how to study the Earth and collect data about its various geological phenomena. These skills allow students to tackle global environmental challenges, which can often be applied in high-paying careers.

Business/Managerial Economics

25th percentile: $39,385
Median: $46,959
75th percentile: $57,480

A business and managerial economics major will allow students to secure solid pay out of college. Surprisingly, however, students with this more specialized major don’t make quite as much as those with a straightforward finance or economics degree, on average.


25th percentile: $38,454
Median: $46,973
75th percentile: $56,860

Finance majors tend to go one of two directions: either they pursue more of a general business career, or they go into a high-risk, high-reward Wall Street job. Both are respectable, but the latter will make you more money (at the cost of your time).


25th percentile: $39,565
Median: $48,018
75th percentile: $59,203

A highly practical major, economics majors learn the key principles of money, markets and incentives. These students tend to have a lot of flexibility in their job selection, as almost any company can benefit from an employee with solid economic instincts.


25th percentile: $42,628
Median: $48,420
75th percentile: $63,791

If you have “mathematics” somewhere in your major, the data says you’ll secure a good salary. That said, a pure “mathematics” major will be the most theoretical…and slightly less lucrative as a result. Some math professors will joke that a math major has two possible career paths: teaching or code breaking.

Construction Management

25th percentile: $42,464
Median: $51,173
75th percentile: $58,887

You won’t make six figures as a day-to-day construction worker, but construction management is much more lucrative. The major combines strategic thinking (what’s the best design?), critical safety instincts (how do you keep workers and structures safe?), and management skills (how can you properly train and challenge your team?).

Mathematics and Statistics

25th percentile: $45,211
Median: $51,420
75th percentile: $60,072

A mathematics & statistics major is still a highly theoretical, academic choice, but it’s a little more practical than a pure math major—and it tends to pay a bit more as a result. Students in this discipline will be able to help businesses assess chance and risk, which are highly marketable skills.

Computer Information Systems (CIS)

25th percentile: $41,558
Median: $51,629
75th percentile: $59,401

The CIS major is broad and practical, allowing students to master a variety of complicated computer systems, most of which help structure and organization data. Note that students will not learn much about writing code or solving abstract problems, but rather, they will learn about which technology should be implemented in which situations.

Applied Mathematics

25th percentile: $49,442
75th percentile: $67,476

The biggest knock against a pure mathematics major—at least in the business world—is that it is less immediately applicable for practical, day-to-day problem solving. The applied mathematics major is the answer, a discipline that focuses on mathematical problems businesses face everyday.

Management Information Systems (MIS)

25th percentile: $44,656
Median: $53,162
75th percentile: $63,910

MIS majors learn how to effectively organize employees and management structures at big companies. They major is both strategic and technical, as students will also design computer applications to support their organizational solutions.

Civil Engineering

25th percentile: $47,527
Median: $53,638
75th percentile: $61,157

Unlike some of their more electronic or digital counterparts, civil engineers have been around for centuries. The major still pays off today, cracking the top 10 overall.


25th percentile: $45,789
Median: $53,847
75th percentile: $65,704

Many physics majors choose to pursue graduate degrees after college, but the major allows for flexibility. Students who choose to go straight into a career will make a solid starting salary, on average.


25th percentile: $48,561
Median: $55,033
75th percentile: $63,321

Nursing is a popular major with an attractive starting salary. It’s also moved far beyond its past stigma to be recognized as one of the most important jobs in healthcare.

Biomedical Engineering

25th percentile: $48,968
Median: $57,110
75th percentile: $66,634

Medicine and engineering are a natural fit. The former helps save lives, while the latter creates broad, scalable solutions to difficult problems. The biomedical engineering industry is growing quickly, and a series of high-paying jobs await upcoming graduates.

Industrial Engineering (IE)

25th percentile: $51,241
Median: $58,147
75th percentile: $67,045

Less prevalent than most other engineering majors, industrial engineering is nonetheless still lucrative. Students learn to optimize complex systems or processes, and can be involved in any number of fields, from manufacturing to business management.

Mechanical Engineering

25th percentile: $51,583
Median: $59,062
75th percentile: $67,493

Coding apps and programming websites might be trendy, but building machines is still a huge industry. As a result, mechanical engineering majors enjoy the fifth-best starting salaries.

Mathematics & Computer Science

25th percentile: $56,100
Median: $60,614
75th percentile: $73,100

Unlike a standard computer science major, this major provides students with a mathematical anchor, which can help differentiate the average software developer from a highly analytical one.

Computer Engineering (CE)

25th percentile: $54,152
Median: $44,596
75th percentile: $62,056

Computer engineers learn how to build both hardware and software, and in many cases, how to integrate the two. The combination allows for students to pursue key, lucrative positions at today’s biggest tech companies.

Electrical Engineering (EE)

25th percentile: $54,902
Median: $62,563
75th percentile: $71,787

Even if computer science is all the rage in Silicon Valley, electrical engineers still edge out their software-based counterparts. This also makes sense given the more dangerous nature of electrical engineering. You’re much more likely to accidentally kill yourself rewiring your house than rewriting an application’s code.

Chemical Engineering

25th percentile: $57,591
Median: $67,270
75th percentile: $76,481

The best-paying major right out of college is chemical engineering, a field that combines the analytical attributes of an engineer with the intellectual rigor of a chemist. Specifically, chemical engineers tend to work on large-scale environmental challenges like energy production, which makes careers in the field both scalable and lucrative.

Explore More Colleges and Majors on StartClass