College Admissions: The Highest Paying Jobs By College Major 2013

Monday, June 10, 2013


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The latest ranking for highest-paying college majors is in... are you heading in the smart direction, money-wise?

Show me the money! Students and parents alike are paralyzed with fear regarding the availability of decent paying jobs for recent college graduates. Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers 

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surveys employers and ranks the highest paying jobs by college major. Despite what many parents may think, business majors and nursing majors are pretty far down the list. There is one very clear theme however: ENGINEERING IS KING.

Engineering: Dominates again

Of the 10 college majors that lead to the highest salaries, 7 are in engineering disciplines. Petroleum engineering tops the list by a long shot with a median starting salary of $93,500. The drop-off to #2 is severe, with computer engineers receiving a starting median salary of $71,700 and chemical engineers garnering the #3 spot at $67,600. The only non-engineering or computer science major to place in the top 10 (at #10) was finance with a starting salary of $57.400. The average starting salary for 2012 college grads was $44,928.

How to find out if engineering is for you

Sadly though, U.S. society is notoriously inept at getting students interested in engineering. While teens from the Middle East, Asia and northern Europe flock to engineering programs, U.S. students seem disinterested. High schools don’t do a great job of showing students possible engineering careers, and parents are left wondering how to expose their kids to the options. Robotics and Lego groups at the grade school level are a great start. In high school, summer camps  and college-based summer programs at schools like MIT provide a wonderful introduction to the world of engineering. Websites like provide examples of what engineers do each day and links to resource sites.

Women: you'll be courted like a D1 recruit

Women are courted by college engineering programs like recruited athletes. While medical schools and law schools have a preponderance of women, engineering is the one area where men still dominate the classroom. Nationally, only about 30% of college engineering majors are women. Websites like Engineer Girl  provide guidance and scholarship opportunities. Women can expect to slide into engineering programs with slightly lower grades and SATs than their male counterparts, and the sky is the limit when they leave college with employers hungry for female engineers.

Make sure your HS math and science are rigorous enough

One barrier to engineering for boys and girls alike may be the rigorous math and science courses that many engineering programs want students to have completed in high school. A strong Math SAT or ACT score is also a must. Calculus is a requirement for entrance to many engineering programs, and admissions likes to see 3 years of a lab science in high school. If you don’t have strong scores and missed out on math and science courses, consider a 3-2 engineering program. In this format, you attend a liberal arts college for the first 3 years and are then guaranteed admission to a larger engineering program for your last 2 years (there is a minimum GPA, but it is usually very reasonable). Washington U. in St. Louis, Dartmouth and Columbia are just a few of the prestigious universities that participate in the engineering portion of the 3-2 programs. A sample list of the participating liberal arts colleges for the Columbia program can be found here.

For those of you who think engineering is boring, think again. From the space shuttle to racing cars and wind power, engineering is one of the most cutting edge and interactive careers any student could choose—and the money doesn’t hurt either!

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students.


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