Most Meaningful College Majors

Money isn’t everything. Some majors lead to more meaningful jobs than others. If you want to change the world with your education, check out the most meaningful college majors (and we’ll tell you the earning potential as well).

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Major 
Degree Type 
Early Career Pay
 
Median salary for alumni w/degrees in this subject; 0-5 years work experience
% High Meaning
 
% alumni who say their work makes the world a better place
Mid-Career Pay
 
Median salary for alumni w/degrees in this subject; 10+ years work experience
Accounting & EconomicsBachelors$59,50046%$116,800

Accounting & Economics
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$59,500
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$116,800
Industrial Engineering (IE)Bachelors$67,30046%$110,000

Industrial Engineering (IE)
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$67,300
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$110,000
Materials Science & EngineeringBachelors$68,60046%$109,000

Materials Science & Engineering
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$68,600
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$109,000
Chemical & Biomolecular EngineeringBachelors$74,20046%$115,000

Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$74,200
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$115,000
Physics & MathematicsBachelors$60,80046%$112,300

Physics & Mathematics
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$60,800
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$112,300
Global & International StudiesBachelors$45,20046%$85,000

Global & International Studies
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$45,200
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$85,000
Advertising & PromotionBachelors$42,00046%$84,600

Advertising & Promotion
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$42,000
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$84,600
Business Management & MarketingBachelors$45,70046%$87,300

Business Management & Marketing
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$45,700
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$87,300
Technical & Scientific CommunicationBachelors$47,80046%$86,400

Technical & Scientific Communication
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$47,800
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$86,400
Organizational PsychologyBachelors$48,20046%$83,300

Organizational Psychology
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$48,200
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$83,300
Food Science & TechnologyBachelors$49,20046%$94,500

Food Science & Technology
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$49,200
% High Meaning46%
Mid-Career Pay$94,500
Mass CommunicationBachelors$42,20045%$73,200

Mass Communication
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$42,200
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$73,200
Fine ArtsBachelors$39,90045%$64,900

Fine Arts
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$39,900
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$64,900
ArtBachelors$39,50045%$62,000

Art
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$39,500
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$62,000
Arts ManagementBachelors$37,60045%$62,300

Arts Management
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$37,600
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$62,300
Textiles & ClothingBachelors$40,90045%$61,700

Textiles & Clothing
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$40,900
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$61,700
MathematicsBachelors$57,50045%$102,200

Mathematics
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$57,500
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$102,200
Information Systems ManagementBachelors$55,00045%$102,600

Information Systems Management
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$55,000
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$102,600
GeophysicsBachelors$56,60045%$127,200

Geophysics
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$56,600
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$127,200
Physics & AstronomyBachelors$53,00045%$116,300

Physics & Astronomy
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$53,000
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$116,300
TelecommunicationsBachelors$41,50045%$85,400

Telecommunications
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$41,500
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$85,400
Business Technology ManagementBachelors$53,70045%$84,200

Business Technology Management
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$53,700
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$84,200
EntrepreneurshipBachelors$50,80045%$81,100

Entrepreneurship
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$50,800
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$81,100
HistoryBachelors$44,40045%$80,000

History
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$44,400
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$80,000
Operations & Supply Chain ManagementBachelors$56,80045%$91,600

Operations & Supply Chain Management
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$56,800
% High Meaning45%
Mid-Career Pay$91,600
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When it comes to choosing a career and picking a college major that will help you achieve your goals, money isn’t everything. Job meaning counts for a lot too. That’s why PayScale asks everybody who takes our survey if they feel like their job makes the world a better place. This list ranks college majors by the percentage of graduates in each major who answer that question with a resounding “yes.”

Careers that involve directly helping people are generally perceived as the most meaningful, so majors that prepare students for a career working with people to improve lives rank highest on this list. If you look at our study of the Most and Least Meaningful Jobs, you also see that jobs in the health sector generally feel that their jobs are very meaningful.

Another job type that leads to a high sense of job meaning is Community and Social Service. So it makes sense that a high percentage of workers with a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry say that their work definitely makes the world a better place. Graduates who chose this path definitely sacrifice income potential for good karma, since the median mid-career salary for pastoral ministry majors is quite low.

That doesn’t mean that all meaningful majors lead to low salaries. Many of the health-related majors on the top of this list have high earning potential as well as job meaning. Workers who majored in subjects like Medical Laboratory Science, Respiratory Care, Clinical Laboratory Science, Nursing, Dental Hygiene and Diagnostic Medical Sonography have salaries above $60,000. And people with one of the highest-paying majors on our list, petroleum engineering, don’t seem to feel like they’ve sold their souls for a high income; the majority of them report high job meaning.


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