Annual Income by College Major

The Wall Street Journal published an article that touches on the annual income of college graduates by major over a career (ages 25 – 59). It’s astounding to see that while going to college pays off in the long run, its value is heavily dependent on the area of study.

In fact, top paying college majors earn $3.4 million more than the lowest paying majors over a lifetime.

annual income by college major 2015


There is an interactive chart in the Wall Street Journal article that allows you to sort through majors. For example, you can find the top 10 majors according to the 25th percentile wage. I highly recommend sorting through the data to get a better sense of the information.

One of the most interesting things to note are the little tidbits of information the data shows.

Graduates of architecture programs may have higher salaries than teachers, as the latest paper shows, but the February report noted that they’re also likely to see unemployment rates twice those of education majors.

…just choosing a major in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, known as the STEM fields, doesn’t secure a hefty paycheck. Mr. Carnevale’s team found that biology majors have median annual wages of $56,000 over their careers from age 25 to 59, or about one-third less than physicists.

Yet once biologists finish graduate programs—and more than half of them do—their median annual earnings jump to $96,000, roughly on par with physicists who have advanced degrees.

There are also wide ranges in salaries for specific majors. The top 25% of earners who majored in finance can expect annual earnings of more than $100,000, while the bottom quartile may bring in just about $50,000 a year.

…lifetime earnings for economics majors at the 90th percentile are nearly triple those at the 10th, reflecting the range of destinations for such experts in government and the private sector.

Although I’m strong proponent for working in a field that you love, I also believe that life is substantially easier with more money. Striking a balance between the two is key.

If you know of any young individuals entering college this fall who are unsure of a field of study I strongly urge sharing this article with them.


The original data that the WSJ is from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown 


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