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14 College Majors Where the Typical Graduate Is Making at Least $100,000 By the Middle of Their Careers Here are 14 majors that led to having a median wage of at least $100,000 a year by age 35.

Key Takeaways

  • The New York Fed analyzed the mid-career wages of college graduates with a bachelor's degree.
  • Those graduates aged 35 to 45 with one of 14 majors had a median wage of at least $100,000 a year.
  • Nine of those 14 college majors were related to engineering.
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REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi via Business Insider
Mid-career college graduates with one of 14 majors are earning at least $100,000 a year, per a New York Fed analysis.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

When undergraduate college students choose their majors, there can be several factors that go into their decisions.

But if maximizing one's future earnings is high on their priority list, some areas of study have a better track record than others.

A New York Fed analysis of 2022 American Community Survey data found that college graduates who majored in one of 14 areas of study had a median mid-career wage of at least $100,000 a year. The NY Fed defined mid-career as people between the ages of 35 and 45. The analysis only included people with a bachelor's degree — no additional graduate school education — and used what's noted as people's first major.

One general area of study accounted for nine of the 14 spots: engineering.

Chemical engineering majors had the top median mid-career wage of $133,000, per the analysis. Computer engineering, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering rounded out the top five.

Eight of the top 10 median wages for people aged 22 to 27 — defined as early-career wages — with a bachelor's were also types of engineering. Computer engineering just surpassed the median wage of chemical engineering for early-career professionals with a bachelor's. None of these median wages were six figures. Computer engineering came closest with a median of $80,000.

Median wages and unemployment of college majors

Table sorted from highest to lowest mid-career median wages

As college tuition rates have risen in recent decades, many Americans have taken on a considerable amount of student debt. The average list price for tuition at public and private colleges has grown from roughly $16,000 and $41,000, respectively in 2002-03 to $23,000 and $53,000 in 2022-23, according to a College Board analysis. The average American consumer with student loans had a debt balance of roughly $39,000 as of the third quarter of last year, per Experian data.

This changing landscape has caused some people to question whether college is a worthwhile investment. In response to these concerns, some high school graduates have gone straight to the workforce, while others have opted for alternative paths, like community college or trade schools.

Not all job openings require someone to have a particular level of education anymore. Kelli Jordan, vice president of IBMer Growth and Development, previously told Business Insider that "more than half of our US job openings don't have a bachelor's degree requirement."

Sometimes a college degree is preferred for a job seeker. Automaker Stellantis said in a previous statement that "most non-bargaining unit positions (salaried) require an associate's or bachelor's degree," but also noted that "for some positions, a degree might be a preferred qualification which would open those up to people who can demonstrate proficiency in other ways."

While many young people will continue pursuing four-year degrees, their future earnings potential could play a bigger role in some of their decisions.

The five non-engineering majors that came with the highest mid-career median wages in the New York Fed analysis were computer science, finance, economics, construction services, and business analytics.

Seventy-three majors were included in the analysis results. College graduates who majored in early childhood education had the lowest median mid-career wage, at $48,000 a year. Other types of education majors had relatively low mid-career median wages, such as the secondary education major.

Across all the majors, the median mid-career wage was $80,000 a year. Meanwhile, the wage for early-career workers was $50,000 a year.

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