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Most and Least Lucrative College Academic Majors

These lists of the highest and lowest-paying college majors for Bachelor’s degree recipients are based on U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by the Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. 

These lists are more or less in agreement with similar data published by and the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Engineering fields rank near the top and education and social work near the bottom.

Students who major in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) can expect to earn the most after graduation, and students who major in the arts and humanities can expect to earn the least.

In general, students should aim to keep debt at graduation in sync with their expected starting salaries. Some of the lowest-paying fields of study, however, may qualify for loan forgiveness programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness, making it possible for college graduates to pursue careers in related occupations despite the low pay and high debt.

Highest-Paying College Majors




Petroleum Engineering

Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration

Mathematics and Computer Science

Aerospace Engineering

Chemical Engineering

Electrical Engineering

Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering

Mechanical Engineering

Metallurgical Engineering

Mining and Mineral Engineering


Lowest-Paying College Majors




Health/Medical Preparatory Programs

Visual and Performing Arts

Communication Disorders Sciences

Studio Arts

Drama and Theater Arts

Social Work

Human Services and Community Organization

Theology and Religious Vocations

Early Childhood Education

Counseling Psychology

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