Majors That Pay You Back

Choosing a major makes an even bigger impact on future earnings than deciding which school to attend. PayScale ranks the highest paying college majors for associate and bachelor’s degrees.

Top 5 Associate Degrees

A 4-year degree isn’t a requirement for career success. If you want a 2-year degree that leads to high pay, check out the associate degree majors on this list.


1. Instrumentation Technology
2. Radiation Therapy
3. Management Information Systems (MIS)
4. Nuclear Medicine Technology
5. Construction Management

Top 5 Bachelor’s Degrees

Your choice of major can have a big impact on your future salary. If salary potential matters to you, we have the data that will help you choose a major that leads to high pay.


1. Petroleum Engineering
2. Actuarial Mathematics
3. Actuarial Science
4. Nuclear Engineering
5. Chemical Engineering

When somebody tells you they are headed to a college or university, whether it’s for an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, MBA or PhD, the first question out of everybody’s mouth is “Where are you going to school?” In reality though, the choice of major can have a much bigger impact on your future earnings than the school you attend. PayScale ranks the top college majors by salary to help you figure out how much you can earn after graduation.

It’s no surprise that STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors are the top college majors by salary, but that doesn’t mean that we discourage students from studying majors in the humanities, social sciences, education or arts. In fact, some of those majors lead to high-paying careers as well – it just often takes a longer time for those graduates to reach their prime earning potential.

PayScale publishes this data to help students and their families make smart decisions about how much they can really afford to pay for an education in their intended subject matter. By knowing your future salary potential, you can know how much debt you can afford to take on, and set yourself up for a successful career in any field, instead of a lifetime shackled by overwhelming student debt.

What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.