Which graduate degrees lead to the highest salaries?


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The pursuit of knowledge is worthwhile under any circumstances, but many people attend college not just to learn but also to increase their earning potential. 

It costs a lot of money to pursue a higher education, so it’s understandable if college students want to choose a major that will help them meet their education, career, and financial goals in one fell swoop.

This is why it can be helpful to understand what the average college graduate salary is and what majors tend to earn more than others. Here, you can learn more about this topic. You’ll find five average college graduate starting salaries highlighted that are at the high end and five that are at the low end. This can help you know which fields of study tend to lead to these incomes. 

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What Is the Average College Graduate Salary?

To better understand what the average salary for college graduates is, consider some recent data. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the median earning for graduates with a bachelor’s degree is $59,600. Those who attended graduate school and earned a master’s or higher degree tend to earn 17% more at a median salary of $69,700. Workers who earned a bachelor’s degree earn 63% more than those who only have a high school degree (a median salary of $36,600). 

That being said, it can be really hard to predict what the average starting salaries for college graduates are. Salaries will vary based on location, for instance, and it’s normal to make less money in the early days of a career. 

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What Impacts College Graduate Earnings?

Many factors can influence the average salary of college graduates. It can be helpful to keep these factors in mind — especially when making decisions regarding which school to study at (particularly when considering schools with high tuition prices) and what to study, as well as what career path to pursue.  

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Area of Study

Earning a college degree doesn’t guarantee a high salary, and what major someone chooses can greatly impact their earning potential. For example, engineering majors have a median annual salary of $93,000, whereas theology majors only earn $40,000 a year. 

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As briefly noted earlier, average starting salaries for college graduates can be on the lower side due to the fact that workers tend to earn less in the earlier days of their careers. As workers gain more experience in the working world, their income increases. 

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Gender can also impact the average salary for college graduates. According to the Social Security Administration, men with bachelor’s degrees have a median lifetime earning that is $270,000 greater than what women receive. And men with graduate degrees earn $400,000 more than women with graduate degrees. 

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Ethnicity all too often also impacts earning potential as well. The following table outlines the average weekly earnings and earnings per dollar of different ethnicities according to Department of Labor Data. 

ethnicity and earnings

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University or College

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that the university or college someone chooses to attend can also play a role in how much money they earn. Graduates from well-known institutions and more selective schools typically earn higher wages. 

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5 Majors That Can Expect to Make More After Graduating

If someone needs help paying for college and is worried about repaying a student loan, it’s easy to see why they may want to know more about what majors can earn the most money. Anyone hoping to choose a lucrative major may want to turn their attention to one of these majors. All typically offer a high median annual salary. 

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1. Engineering

Engineering makes the world go round, so it’s no surprise that engineering majors can earn a high median annual salary of almost six figures. 

Median annual salary: $93,000

Employment: 4,775,560

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2. Computer and Information Technology

The modern world is a digital one, which helps explain why computer skills can translate to high salaries.

Median annual salary: $85,000

Employment: 2,442,370

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3. Construction

If pursuing a more technical education, know that construction can be a great way to earn a solid living. 

Median annual salary: $78,000

Employment: 1,360,560

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4. Mathematics

Remember when you were a kid and asked why you needed to learn math in school? A lucrative career path with close to a million jobs is why. 

Median annual salary: $75,000

Employment: 887,590

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5. Architecture

Architecture combines math skills with creativity and, as an added bonus, comes with a high median annual wage. 

Median annual salary: $70,000

Employment: 452,250

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5 Majors That Can Expect to Make Less After Graduating

It’s important to follow one’s passions in life and realize that any major has the potential to lead to a high paying career. However, the following majors do tend to have lower median annual salaries. This earning power can, in turn, make a person wonder how long does it take to pay off student loans they took on. 

It can also be a challenge to pay bills and repay any loans if you are living through a recession and earning a lower income.

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1. Communications Technology

Communications technology majors can pursue many different roles — from management to sales to design — but this flexibility may be a tradeoff for a lower salary. 

Median annual salary: $45,000

Employment: 116,000

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2. Education

For many, pursuing the field of education is a passion they feel strongly about, but unfortunately, educators aren’t compensated as highly as many people believe they should be. 

Median annual salary: $48,000

Employment: 5,505,250

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3. Fine and Performing Arts

A career in the fine and performing arts can lead to dream salaries if someone makes it big, but the median annual salary is on the lower side. 

Median annual salary: $42,000

Employment: 2,646,580

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4. Theology

Pursuing an interest in religious studies can be very fulfilling. That’s something that may outweigh a lower median annual salary. 

Median annual salary: $40,000

Employment: $387,740

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5. Recreation and Fitness

Helping people stay healthy and fit is a valuable reward, even if the pay grade isn’t top-notch. 

Median annual salary: $48,000

Employment: 796,370

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The Takeaway

The average college graduate salary in your field will likely vary considerably depending on your major. But remember, many different factors can influence the wage someone earns after graduating from college. In addition to your major, remember that things like gender and ethnicity are also at play. What’s more, what you choose to do with your degree (what role you take, where you live, how driven you are at work) can be very impactful on future earnings. 

With that in mind, it is important to note that college graduates tend to earn significantly more than high school graduates, which can give college students some peace of mind that their tuition payments (and the interest that comes with their student loans) are likely to pay off. 

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This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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