• The top 25 college degrees by pay and demand are all in ‘STEM’ subjects, according to a new study.
  • Architectural engineering took the top spot, with graduates earning an average of $90,000 a year.
  • Visual and performing arts were the least valuable degrees, with average pay of $35,500.
  • The World Economic Forum says that 97 million new roles may emerge as the workplace becomes more digitized.

Are you studying science, technology, engineering or maths? If so, you’ve chosen one of America’s most valuable degrees – and could earn an average income of $93,000.

That’s according to a study of 159 college degrees by personal finance company Bankrate.

All 25 of its top-earning majors are so-called ‘STEM’ subjects.

a chart showing the most and least valuable college majors in terms of income
Incomes vary signifcantly following different majors.
Image: Bankrate

Number one – based on typical salaries and the ease of landing a job – is architectural engineering.

Architectural engineering is all about building sciences,” explained Rich Miller of the University of Cincinnati’s engineering school. “It merges the structural foundations part of civil engineering with mechanical and electrical engineering, specifically the parts that relate to building.”

Workers who said they majored in this subject earned an average $90,000 and only 1.3% of them were jobless.

a chart showing the most valuable college majors
Image: Bankrate
a chart showing the least valuable college majors
Image: Bankrate

The science of good pay

The other top 10 college majors are construction services, computer engineering, aerospace engineering, transportation sciences and technologies, electrical engineering, materials engineering and materials science, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and chemical engineering.

Of these, the highest average income is $107,000 for electrical engineers.

This is almost double the $54,000 average income for all Americans holding at least a bachelor’s degree in 2019, according to the Bankrate data.

At the lowest end of the table, the least valuable degrees are those in the visual and performing arts. Workers who said they majored in this area earned an average $35,500 – and 3.6% of them were unemployed. Other low-ranking degrees in the study include music (ranking 152 out of 159), clinical psychology (155) and miscellaneous fine arts (158).

Picking a degree subject that interests you – rather than one that pays most or has lots of jobs – is still the best way to become professionally satisfied, says Bankrate. But it’s worth checking what your future earnings might be – especially if you’re taking out a loan to pay for college.

“Education debt often leads to delaying financial milestones like buying a home and building an emergency savings fund,” Bankrate says.

Women still underrepresented in STEM subjects

In a separate study, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 takes a detailed look at STEM education and skills in 156 countries, and finds that women continue to be underrepresented.

Science and technology skills are also a key theme in the Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020. It predicts that the adoption of technologies like cloud computing, big data and e-commerce by companies will transform tasks, jobs and skills by 2025.

What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve digital intelligence in children?

The latest figures show that 56% of 8-12-year-olds across 29 countries are involved in at least one of the world's major cyber-risks: cyberbullying, video-game addiction, online sexual behaviour or meeting with strangers encountered on the web.

Using the Forum's platform to accelerate its work globally, #DQEveryChild, an initiative to increase the digital intelligence quotient (DQ) of children aged 8-12, has reduced cyber-risk exposure by 15%.

In March 2019, the DQ Global Standards Report 2019 was launched – the first attempt to define a global standard for digital literacy, skills and readiness across the education and technology sectors.

The 8 Digital Citizenship Skills every child needs
The 8 Digital Citizenship Skills every child needs
Image: DQ Institute

Our System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Media, Information and Entertainment has brought together key stakeholders to ensure better digital intelligence for children worldwide. Find our more about DQ Citizenship in our Impact Story.

The report finds that 97 million new roles may emerge as humans, machines and algorithms work together. There is already a growing demand for data analysts, data scientists, specialists in artificial intelligence and machine learning and robotics engineers.