The 10 majors and colleges that produce the highest-earning grads

Engineering-related degrees bring in high salaries, but employers still want well-rounded graduates

Institutions with a strong STEM focus produce some of the highest-earning graduates. And unsurprisingly, students in STEM fields also take home bigger paychecks than their peers in other disciplines, according to PayScale's College Salary Report

For its report, PayScale analyzed the early- and mid-career pay for more than one million college graduates from 963 institutions. Using data from the company's employee survey, PayScale divided the results by institution, degree, and college major.

The top 10 majors with the highest starting salaries by median early career pay and median mid-career pay are:

  1. Petroleum engineering (Early: $96,700, Mid-career: $172,000)
  2. Physician assistant studies (Early: $85,200, Mid-career: $103,000)
  3. Computer science and engineering (Early: $71,000, Mid-career: $116,000)
  4. Mining engineering (Early: $70,000, Mid-career: $107,000)
  5. Chemical engineering (Early: $69,800, Mid-career: $119,000)
  6. Computer engineering (Early: $69,600, Mid-career: $113,000)
  7. Nuclear engineering (Early: $68,500, Mid-career: $116,000)
  8. Electrical and computer engineering (Early: $68,100, Mid-career: $114,000)
  9. Electronics and communications engineering (Early: $68,000, Mid-career: $115,000)
  10. Electrical engineering (Early: $67,000, Mid-career: $110,000)

A number of institutions that emphasize STEM learning also turn out well-paid graduates. The top 10 colleges with the highest-paid graduates and their mid-career median pay are:

  1. State University of New York Maritime College: $147,000
  2. Harvard University: $141,000
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: $140,000
  4. Claremont McKenna College: $138,000
  5. Princeton University: $135,000
  6. Stanford University: $134,000
  7. Harvey Mudd College and United States Naval Academy: $132,000
  8. Babson College and University of Pennsylvania: $130,000

Lydia Frank, PayScale's editorial director, notes that the company has seen graduates with engineering-focused degrees earn the highest starting salaries since the College Salary Report first launched in 2008.

"Engineering is a lucrative field that crosses many different industries," she says. "But even if engineering is your field of choice, ensuring you receive a well-rounded education is important to future career success."

She notes that employers have told PayScale that they seek graduates who have strong communication skills. Therefore, "Grads who can bring employers both in-demand technical skills and a core liberal arts foundation are the ones who are going to stand out most," she says (Smith, Business Insider, 9/20; Lobosco, CNN Money, 9/20). 

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