Education and Skills

These are the degrees that will earn you the most money when you graduate - and the ones that won’t

this image shows a graduation ceremony

'STEM' subjects are the highest earning majors in the U.S. Image: UNSPLASH/Joshua Hoehne

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Education and Skills?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Education, Gender and Work is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Education, Gender and Work

  • 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.

Have you read?

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).

Loading...

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.

Discover

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

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.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Education and SkillsJobs and the Future of Work
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How to harness generative AI and other emerging technologies to close the opportunity gap

Jeff Maggioncalda

June 21, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum