Top 10 Best and Worst Paying College Degrees

If your kid’s about to head off the college, you may want to consider urging them to change their major. A new study by salary research company PayScale Inc. found that students who majored in math-focused fields of study go on to earn the highest salaries, while students who majored in education and child studies typically earn the least.

PayScale compiled the best and worst undergraduate college degrees in its 2010-11 College Salary Report. Petroleum and aerospace engineering were the top-earning degrees, bringing in a mid-career median pay of $157,000 and $108,000, respectively. Child and family studies and elementary education rounded out the bottom two worst-paying degrees, with median mid-career earnings of just $38,400 and $44,400, respectively. In comparison, the worst-paying job for doctors -- family practice -- earned $175,000, according to a recent study by Forbes magazine.

Here are the Top 10 best and worst paying undergraduate degrees, according to PayScale.

    Best Undergraduate College Degrees by Salary

Undergraduate Degree
Starting Median Pay
Median Pay
Petroleum Engineering $93,000 $157,000
Aerospace Engineering $59,400 $108,000
Chemical Engineering $64,800 $108,00
Electrical Engineering $60,800 $104,000
Nuclear Engineering $63,900 $104,00
Applied Mathematics $56,400 $101,00
Biomedical Engineering $54,800 $101,000
Physics $50,700 $99,600
Computer Engineering $61,200 $99,500
Economics $48,800 $97,800

       Worst Undergrad College Degrees by Salary

Undergraduate Degree Starting Median Pay Mid-Career
Median Pay
Child and Family Studies $29,500 $38,400
Elementary Education $31,600 $44,400
Social Work $31,800 $44,900
Athletic Training $32,800 $45,700
Culinary Arts $35,900 $50,600
Horticulture $35,000 $50,800
Paralegal Studies/Law $35,100 $51,300
Theology $34,700 $51,300
Recreation & Leisure Studies $33,300 $53,200
Special Education $36,000 $53,800

The median pay is based on graduates with bachelors who did not go on to acquire higher degrees. Typical starting graduates had two years of experience, while mid-career had 15 years of experience. To see the complete list of degrees, and the methodology for the ranking, click here.

Most Popular