Very few college freshmen are ever really certain about their post-collegiate plans. Some may start college believing they want to pursue one career path, only to find out by their sophomore or junior year that they’d rather major in something else — something that will return the high cost of their educational investment with a handsome starting salary.
1. Computer Science
If your goal is to become one of the tech billionaires that make up Washington State, then be prepared for a starting median salary of $55,900 before you can cash in on stock options. As a computer scientist, you’ll be finding ways to make life easier by creating new and exciting technological advancements.
“Computing now penetrates into just about every line of business and academic discipline,” educator Zhigang Xiang told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s hard to find one field where you don’t need it.”
Image via Flickr by Emmanuel Huybrechts
$57,300 is the median starting salary for anyone who aspires to enter Wall Street, where you’re likely to triple that salary within a short timeframe. With an understanding of the science and art behind money management, your finance degree open doors at investment firms and hedge funds.
Although economics is the more popular business major, not majoring in finance can be a costly mistake. “There are very few entry-level jobs as economists,” Carol Barash, founder and CEO of Story To College, a company that helps college students write standout college essays, told “Yahoo Education.” “An economist is someone who analyzes and predicts trends. Most people right out of college don’t have enough analytical experience to work as economists.”
Michael Staton, partner at venture capital firm Learn Capital, adds,”Economics teaches market forces, but finance teaches you how to manipulate spreadsheets, package and evaluate financial products, and handle operational concerns of companies.” This makes you a more valuable candidate.
3. Actuarial Mathematics
Are you good with numbers? $58,700 is the starting number you’ll have with an actuarial mathematics degree. As problem solvers, actuaries apply their mathematical training to estimate the probability and financial cost of a certain course of action. Actuaries are the rock stars that keep the insurance industry profitable.
Speaking with the “Wall Street Journal,” Joseph Swedish, CEO of Wellpoint, one of the nation’s largest insurers, rates the work of actuaries as being “the critical ingredient in terms of how our business operates…. without actuarial analysis, we are shooting in the dark.”
4. Physician Assistant
At a median starting salary of $74,300, physician assistant is one of the few high paying degrees that doesn’t involve engineering. It takes a lot less time to earn a physician assistant degree than it does a medical degree. In an article for “Forbes.com,” Katie Bardaro, Payscale.com’s lead economist, shared that physician assistants are in higher demand than doctors.
“As fully capable medical professionals, physician assistants are able to alleviate the pressure on doctors by performing important and necessary health care tasks to this increasing pool of patients.”
Image via Flickr by Richard Masoner
An engineering degree will always earn you the highest starting salary. Starting median salaries for engineering degrees range from $60,900 as a mechanical engineer to $103,000 as a petroleum engineer. Salary-wise, you really can’t go wrong majoring in any engineering field, albeit as a petroleum engineer, you’re virtually guaranteed unlimited job security because of the increasing importance of oil.
If big oil isn’t your thing, a chemical engineering degree will start you at around $68,200; a nuclear engineering degree at $67,600; and as an electrical engineering degree, you’ll be in starting in the $64,300 bracket. If you ever watched footage of Neil Armstrong’s first moon landing and dreamed to one day go where few men ever do, an aerospace engineering degree will get you one step closer — and a starting salary of $62,800.
Regardless of which of these degrees you choose from (whether the relatively low-starting finance degree or the top-of-the-line petroleum engineering degree) know that your income potential exponentially increases as you gain more experience. An entry level finance job will eventually exceed the $160,00 mid-career salary of someone with a petroleum degree to reach upwards of $195,000 mid-career.