Majors with the Highest Earning Potential

Some of the more weighty economic challenges to have surfaced since the recession have forced many students and parents to reconsider their selection of a major before heading to a university. Suffice it to say that the social sciences and liberal arts are not quite as popular as they once were given the demand for degrees that will position the student to be financially stable following graduation. Although some liberal arts degrees do still yield opportunities for competitive salaries, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, are currently at the top of the totem pole. 

"STEM majors have a better chance to get a job right after graduation."

It is worth noting that STEM majors will also tend to have a better chance at getting a job right out of college as there is currently so much demand for individuals with these skills. The 2015 Talent Shortage Survey from Manpower Group revealed that engineering, technician, trade work and accounting acumen were the hardest to find last year, meaning that the outlook is strong for those who can handle these positions. 

The availability of employment opportunities and high initial salaries with plenty of potential for growth make these areas the safest to pursue for current and prospective undergraduates today. 

Here is a breakdown of the top few majors that come along with the highest earning potential post graduation:

1. Petroleum engineering
With the highest earning potential of all majors, petroleum engineering positions paid an average of $130,050 annually or $62.53 per hour in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. College students would learn skills related to extraction of oil and gas, as well as hydrocarbon management. 

It is worth noting that the industries in which these engineers would be operating are not necessarily burgeoning. Clean energy is consistently stepping in to replace fossil fuel-based commodities. As such, students who are just now entering higher education might want to look toward another major for the long-term. 

2. Computer engineering
The BLS splits computer and electronics engineers into two groups, with the former having a median salary of $108,430 per year and the latter $102,390. This might not be as high as petroleum engineering, but it still remains in the upper echelons of majors possessing the greatest earning potential in the United States today. What's more, computer and electronics engineers have a solid outlook through the end of the decade and beyond. 

With manufacturers increasingly looking for the most innovative minds to compete with trends such as the Internet of Things and enterprise mobility, workers possessing the know-how to get these jobs done properly will have plenty of opportunities for the foreseeable future. 

3. Mathematics
Actuarial mathematics is certainly not the most popular major out there, but it is essentially a golden ticket in the modern workforce landscape. Individuals who have a bachelor's degree in actuarial mathematics made an average of $46.49 an hour and $96,700 a year in 2014, which puts this major easily in the top 10 highest-earning degrees today. 

Mathematics degrees can be highly profitable for today's undergraduates. Mathematics degrees can be highly profitable for today's undergraduates.

Perhaps more importantly, this is one of the fastest growing areas of mathematics and skilled labor industries. Looking forward, the BLS estimated that actuaries will enjoy a rapidly accelerating job market between 2014 and 2024, with positions expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 18 percent throughout that time. This, the BLS noted, is significantly quicker than most other positions in the country. 

Setting students up for success
Now, while these three majors do indeed come with some of the highest earning potential out there, they might not always align with the specific goals and dreams of students. Parents should always remember that choosing the wrong major out of the gate can cost money and time when the student eventually moves into the right area of study. Getting an idea of which fields are profitable is great, but having more specialized guidance will be invaluable. 

Take a look at our Smart TrackTM Minute video or get in touch with a Smart TrackTM college funding expert to get more specialized support when trying to navigate the process of helping your child choose a major and school. These resources will also assist in maintaining an affordable college funding plan.