Highest Paying Degrees – A 2019 Guide

Why is it important that we talk about the highest paying degrees?

Today we are fortunate enough to choose from a variety of the best college majors. There is no sense of failure when that decision to pursue a degree is made. In fact it’s an accomplishment.

With the vast growing of information being thrown in our face it is challenging to make the commitment though and feel strong and confident about it. For those who feel that out there who have felt confused and want to avoid risk as much as possible, it is okay you’re normal.

The vast majority feels the same. Take a deep deep breath and relax and we are going to blow away some smoke and really bring some clarity to help you with your decision.  

College Degree Return on Investment (ROI)

Why on earth am I talking about the return on investment for your degree? Isn’t this just a list of highest paying majors? Well yes it is however, college degree ROI intertwines with the highest paying degrees.

This is because what you can potentially make will directly equate to your return on invest for your degree. Meaning is it financially worth it at the end of the day?

It’s becoming more of a talking point and my only hope is that it continues to be that way.

Why Degree ROI Matters?

College Degree ROI matters because it will ensure that your hard work has paid off.

Let’s think about that for a second. You are making a financial sacrifice by taking out federal student loans. You place yourself automatically in a whole with student loan debt. Now if the degree you choose has a high return on investment then not only are you able to make a nice salary but you will able to pay back your loans quicker. It becomes worth it.

If your degree choice has a lower return on investment then you will struggle to make sizable payments on your student loan.

This will more than likely be a constant as your degree choice doesn’t lead to jobs where the salary trajectory is high.

For example, one of the highest paying college degrees can result in a 30 year NET ROI of $1.5 million. The cost of your degree may be $90,000 but you can see with the NET will be able to make decent sized payments towards your loan.

On the flipside, one of the lowest paying college degrees can result in a 30 year NET ROI of $250,000. The cost of that degree may be anywhere between 90-$100,000. And with that we have a problem.

Highest and Lowest Paying Degrees

There is a lot of pressure on recent graduates from college to ensure that that they find high-paying jobs.

With the average student loan debt of $29,800 per student it makes sense right?

The average salary for graduates hovers around the $50,000 mark. Although this number tends to fluctuate either way.

With that said I think it’s important to showcase all the 2019 highest paying college degrees and then of course in contract the lowest paying.

Highest Paying College Degrees

Below are the 2019 highest paying degrees and their average salary:  

  1. Petroleum Engineering // $169,680
  2. Applied Mathematics // $95,351
  3. Engineering Mechanics // $90,085
  4. Geosciences // $89,799
  5. Actuarial Science // $84,104
  6. Mining Engineering // $83,754
  7. Economics // $82,560
  8. Business Economics // $80,048
  9. Chemical Engineering // $79,086
  10. Materials Science // $78,883
  11. Aerospace Engineering // $78,544
  12. Computer Engineering // $78,114
  13. Computer Science // $77,699
  14. Industrial Engineering // $77,684
  15. Biological Engineering // $77,331
  16. Finance // $77,251
  17. Electrical Engineering // $77,219
  18. Public Policy // $76,207
  19. Mechanical Engineering // $76,019
  20. Engineering Management // $73,780
  21. Nuclear Engineering // $73,157
  22. Engineering // $72,996
  23. Biomedical Engineering // $71,902
  24. Mathematics // $71,024
  25. Information Sciences // $71,004
  26. General Engineering // $70,301
  27. Electrical Engineering // $70,115
  28. Engineering Technology // $69,606
  29. Management Info // $68,957
  30. Construction Services // $67,989
  31. Food Science // $67,888
  32. Molecular Biology // $67,757
  33. Statistics Science // $67,757
  34. Pharmacology // $67,307
  35. Civil Engineering // $67,161
  36. Miscellaneous Business Administration // $66,390
  37. Environmental Engineering // $65,893
  38. Materials Engineering // $65,717
  39. Agricultural Engineering // $65,490
  40. Transportation Sciences // $65,050
  41. International Business // $64,792
  42. Architectural Engineering // $64,358
  43. Operations Logistics // $63,015
  44. Mechanical Engineering // $62,957
  45. Political Science // $62,631
  46. Computer Systems // $62,486
  47. Marketing Research // $62,413
  48. Accounting // $62,272
  49. Physics // $62,192
  50. Engineering Tech // $61,819

Lowest Paying College Degrees

On the flipside let’s review some of the worst-paying college majors and their annual salary:

  1. Early Childhood Education // $39,000
  2. Human Services // $41,000
  3. Social Work // $42,000
  4. Elementary Education // $43,000
  5. Drama and Theater Arts // $45,000
  6. Family Studies // $41,000
  7. Studio Arts // $42,000
  8. Visual and Performing Arts // $42,000
  9. Special Needs Education // $45,000
  10. Teacher Education: Multiple Levels // $42,000

The top 12 and most popular jobs

Let’s dig deeper into the highest paying degrees and in particular the top twelve.

Most soon-to-be college students will be looking at these degrees and will wonder what they can do with them. So let’s see…

Petroleum Engineering

Average salary: $169,680

Most popular jobs: Architectural and Engineering Managers, Civic Engineers, Management Analysts.

Applied Mathematics

Average salary: $95,351

Most popular jobs: Computer and Information Analysts, Software Developers & Programmers, Computer & Information System Managers.

Engineering Mechanics

Average salary: $90,085

Most popular jobs: Civil Engineers, Aerospace Engineers, Mechanical Engineers.  


Average salary: $89,799

Most popular jobs: Environmental Scientist, Junior Geologist.   

Actuarial Science

Average salary: $84,104

Most popular jobs: Actuarial Analyst, Reporting Analyst, Quantitative Analyst.

Mining Engineering

Average salary: $83,754

Most popular jobs: Mining Engineer, Underground Metals Engineer, Mine Production Manager.   


Average salary: $82,560

Most popular jobs: Accountants & Auditors, Financial Managers, Management Analysts.

Business Economics

Average salary: $80,048

Most popular jobs: Marketing & Sales Managers, Financial Analysts, Securities, Commodities, & Financial Services Sales Agents.  

Chemical Engineering

Average salary: $79,086

Most popular jobs: Chemical Engineers, Industrial Engineers, Civil Engineers.   

Materials Science

Average salary: $78,883 Most popular jobs: Industrial Engineers, Materials Engineers, Physical Scientists.   

Aerospace Engineering

 Average salary: $78,544

Most popular jobs: Aerospace Engineers, Civil Engineers, Mechanical Engineers.     

Computer Engineering

Average salary: $78,114

Most popular jobs: Software Developers & Programmers, Computer & Information Analysts, Computer Hardware Engineers.

The Trend

It’s to no surprise that the majority of these are in the STEM or STEAM category.

Common skill sets for these would be management skills, advanced mathematical, technical, research, and engineering knowledge.

These are very particular skill sets and the jobs mentioned above carry a lot of responsibility for those who are employed in them.

On the lower side, the trend is many of them are in the fields of humanities and education. The job satisfaction year over year continues to decrease. Why? Well the first reason is the salary potential.

Why does the trend exist?

So why does this trend exist? What is it that attracts so many to the highest paid degrees that we mentioned above?

Perhaps it’s because:

  1. They are some of the top paid professions
  2. There is high demand
  3. Many CEO’s possess the degrees mentioned above
  4. Has many open doors for professional advancement
  5. Blends the love of science and math
  6. High job satisfaction
  7. They make an impact
  8. Have long-term salary sustainability
  9. Ability to scale to the masses

What’s the Colleges Responsibility in all of this?

If you were to research some of the most expensive public universities in the United States and search for the tuition prices, some of those colleges have the tuition at the same price point for the higher paying degrees as they do for the lowering paying degrees. Not all of them, but some of the colleges do.

Now the colleges without a doubt have access to this same data and they push and promote these degrees and all it does is end up in massive student loan debt.

So SHAME ON THE COLLEGES for doing this to students. I personally feel these needs to be more responsibility for them to educate students from the early stages to even when they are in the middle years of their college tenue.

The more one is educated, the better the decision they can make.

The colleges have career services departments that can review the potential with the students. Their man responsibility in fact is to help you get employed after you have graduate.

Maybe they are spread thing (actually I’m sure of this) but they are a valuable resource and it’s a service there for students to take advantage of.

It’s not all about the money….or is it?  

Now I want to be clear here. It’s not all about the money. You have to find happiness in what you do and there has to be a passion that fuels it. But that’s one piece of it.

After your time in college you should be able to at the very least upkeep a quality of life with the education you receive.

Not be in a constant vortex of survival.

The colleges know this and this adds to the stress of everyone when trying to pick a degree, a college, a path. They should do a better job at educating students and parents of the students on what we have been talking about.

Relative poverty is something that’s real and it matters. We can make all the best decisions but still end up in a situation where we can never get ahead.

My professional experience

To share in my experience, I know many people that have the degrees that were on the lower paying side as previously mentioned.

What are the common threads with them?

  • They are not working in the field related to their major
  • If they once did they got out because there was no sustainable earning potential.

In contrast those that chose the majors that are highest paying are:

  • In the actual field
  • Making money and are able to support their family.

The “aim” in what you are trying to do is vital. In my own personal situation, I know that I would of liked to of done more research and perhaps go into a field that had a higher upside financially.

To some students it may not matter at the ages of 18 or 19 but when you start getting older and try to think of ways to elevate your salary, sometimes you just can’t do to your degree.

Tuition Drop Podcast

You can check out below the episode below of the Tuition Drop Podcast where we discuss the 2019 Highest Paying College Degrees.

Tuition Drop Podcast – Highest Paying Degrees 2019
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