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
Petroleum EngineeringBachelors$82,70060%$183,600

Petroleum Engineering
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$82,700
% High Meaning60%
Mid-Career Pay$183,600
Environmental BiologyBachelors$42,20060%$75,700

Environmental Biology
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$42,200
% High Meaning60%
Mid-Career Pay$75,700
Supervision & ManagementBachelors$39,20060%$59,800

Supervision & Management
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$39,200
% High Meaning60%
Mid-Career Pay$59,800
Applied PhysicsBachelors$61,40060%$104,300

Applied Physics
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$61,400
% High Meaning60%
Mid-Career Pay$104,300
Foreign LanguagesBachelors$45,30059%$76,000

Foreign Languages
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$45,300
% High Meaning59%
Mid-Career Pay$76,000
Wildlife BiologyBachelors$39,70059%$56,800

Wildlife Biology
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$39,700
% High Meaning59%
Mid-Career Pay$56,800
Wildlife, Fish & Conservation BiologyBachelors$37,20059%$43,900

Wildlife, Fish & Conservation Biology
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$37,200
% High Meaning59%
Mid-Career Pay$43,900
International EconomicsBachelors$53,60059%$105,900

International Economics
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$53,600
% High Meaning59%
Mid-Career Pay$105,900
Nuclear EngineeringBachelors$70,70059%$121,700

Nuclear Engineering
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$70,700
% High Meaning59%
Mid-Career Pay$121,700
AstrophysicsBachelors$60,70059%$110,800

Astrophysics
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$60,700
% High Meaning59%
Mid-Career Pay$110,800
Electrical & Electronics Engineering (EEE)Bachelors$69,20059%$112,000

Electrical & Electronics Engineering (EEE)
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$69,200
% High Meaning59%
Mid-Career Pay$112,000
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) & Spatial AnalysisBachelors$53,50059%$87,100

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) & Spatial Analysis
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$53,500
% High Meaning59%
Mid-Career Pay$87,100
CybersecurityBachelors$61,20059%$91,900

Cybersecurity
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$61,200
% High Meaning59%
Mid-Career Pay$91,900
Biochemistry (BCH)Bachelors$46,50059%$92,300

Biochemistry (BCH)
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$46,500
% High Meaning59%
Mid-Career Pay$92,300
Interpersonal & Organizational CommunicationBachelors$40,30058%$74,400

Interpersonal & Organizational Communication
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$40,300
% High Meaning58%
Mid-Career Pay$74,400
Philosophy & ReligionBachelors$41,90058%$76,500

Philosophy & Religion
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$41,900
% High Meaning58%
Mid-Career Pay$76,500
Marine BiologyBachelors$37,20058%$77,100

Marine Biology
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$37,200
% High Meaning58%
Mid-Career Pay$77,100
Urban StudiesBachelors$46,90058%$77,400

Urban Studies
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$46,900
% High Meaning58%
Mid-Career Pay$77,400
CeramicsBachelors$40,90058%$53,000

Ceramics
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$40,900
% High Meaning58%
Mid-Career Pay$53,000
ReligionBachelors$41,70058%$62,700

Religion
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$41,700
% High Meaning58%
Mid-Career Pay$62,700
Electronics EngineeringBachelors$64,80058%$106,200

Electronics Engineering
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$64,800
% High Meaning58%
Mid-Career Pay$106,200
Construction ManagementBachelors$59,00058%$100,400

Construction Management
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$59,000
% High Meaning58%
Mid-Career Pay$100,400
Financial PlanningBachelors$50,00058%$102,000

Financial Planning
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$50,000
% High Meaning58%
Mid-Career Pay$102,000
EngineeringBachelors$64,20058%$112,500

Engineering
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$64,200
% High Meaning58%
Mid-Career Pay$112,500
French LiteratureBachelors$42,70058%$92,600

French Literature
Degree TypeBachelors
Early Career Pay$42,700
% High Meaning58%
Mid-Career Pay$92,600
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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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