5 Majors with the Highest ROI

The average cost of a bachelor’s degree is roughly $70,000 for a state university and the average graduating students debt was over $26,000 in 2012. With the impending costs of student loans, their high interest rates, it’s difficult for young adults to decide whether going to college is really worth the financial problems that come along with it.

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However, there are a few majors that have a high return on investment in college. Here are the 5 college majors with the highest return on investments according to US News.

1. Petroleum Engineering

Petroleum engineering is concerned with the production of natural gas or crude oil, and is mostly concerned with the recovery of these materials from subsurface reservoirs. Entry-level positions are some of the highest paid positions available, with the starting pay roughly around $97,900 and increases over time to around $155,000. Petroleum engineering does require a heavy focus in math, physics and geology, as well as geophysics and economics.

2. Chemical Engineering

Students majoring in chemical engineering open a lot of doors for themselves in employment. Chemical engineering applies the physical or life sciences to maths and economics in order to convert raw materials or chemicals into forms that are more useful and valuable to society. Such examples of chemical engineering include nanotechnology and fuel cells.

Students majoring in chemical engineering can also get jobs in the areas of healthcare, pharmaceuticals, medical manufacturing and agriculture. Starting pay is around $64,500 and get increase to about $109,000.

3. Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineering focuses in the area of the applications of electricity, electronics and electromagnetism, and also covers the areas of computers, radar and communications systems. Electrical engineering students can enter maintenance, manufacturing and design positions for power systems and electrical equipment. Graduates can expect to start off with a pay of about $61,300 and watch it increase to $103,000.

4. Materials Science And Engineering

Such an interesting major focuses on the application of the properties of matter to the fields of science and engineering. Materials Science and Engineering examines the relationship between the structure of materials at an atomic or molecular level and what their macroscopic properties are. College students interested in this major will have to concentrate on applied physics and chemistry, and a degree in this major will pay off, especially with the increasing attention on nanotechnology and nanoscience. Starting pay can be around $60,400 and can increase up to $103,000.

5. Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace engineering is the primarily concerned with the design, construction, and science of aircraft and spacecraft. It has two primary focuses: aeronautical engineering (craft that stays within the Earth’s atmosphere) and astronautical engineering (craft that operate outside of it). However, the area of aerospace engineering covers a variety of topics that can attract employment in a number of other fields, such as electrotechnology, aeroelasticity, avionics, astrodynamics and fluid mechanics. Income can start at $60,700 and increase to roughly $102,000.

Trying to find a degree that will increase the rate of investment in a career one can enjoy can be difficult, given the problems of the economy, but it doesn’t have to be impossible if one knows where to look. While there are colleges that offer free tuition, it’s often best to find a major that will provide you with the highest ROI possible (and hopefully it’ll be something you enjoy).

The additional cost of getting the above degrees is marginal compared to the increased lifetime earnings as shown on this student loan ROI calculator (calculator).

Picture by Flickr


  1. I see a theme going on here. It’s a good thing I became an engineer.

  2. I honestly wish students who are applying to college had access to the starting salary of the major they apply for, additionally with that information they should also be presented with how much debt they will have upon graduating.

  3. That’s pretty interesting. I’m curious though, why isn’t Computer Science or Computer Engineering on the list? Was it #6? I mean we’ve got quite the tech industry in this country and a lot of the big companies pay an arm and a leg for a good CS major. I’d be really interested to know what the starting salary would be for one of them.

  4. Alex says:

    This is the type of information that should be presented to students when they choose their majors. It might not change a lot of minds, but it could help a few students make a better paid choice in the long run.

  5. Wow, all of these majors are in engineering! I guess I’m not that surprised, considering how important of a field engineering is. I wonder if there are any statistics out there that show how many jobs there are in engineering and how difficult it is, after graduation from an engineering program, to get a job.

  6. Liquid says:

    These are great majors to have in today’s job market. I have some friends who are engineers, but I would probably perform poorly myself in these fields. You need to have a good work ethic and I’m too lazy haha.

  7. I would have been a terrible engineer. Too tedious. I think engineering would be appealing as you can get a good job without years of schooling like a doctor, but if you don’t have the personality for it, I wouldn’t do it just for the money.

  8. It certainly looks like engineering is the way to go at the moment. But I would imagine that there is a large swath of people for whom these careers are very poor fits for their personality.

    One thing I discovered in my extensive education journey is that the what you learn in class doesn’t necessarily equate to what you do on the job. And either class work or job tasks may not be a good fit for your personality. Unless you can get those three in sync, getting through school and finding a job that you enjoy is difficult.

  9. What about crane operator? That’s my dream job, and I bet it pays well. You know, those guys dropping huge containers onto barges. Anyways, I’d also love to be an aerospace engineer, that’d be wicked awesome.

  10. I know a lot of engineers who absolutely love what they do–but some of them have made the jump from electrical/computer engineering to IT. It’s interesting to see this list dominated by engineering disciplines!

  11. Jose says:

    Electrical Engineering majors often end up in IT. Now that I think about it, I know a few mechanical engineering majors that are in IT as well. It has a fairly good rate of return on you education investment. I would nominate a degree in Computer Science as a candidate for this list.

  12. I’ve never quite come to terms with the job title “Exploitation Engineer.” Haha. It’s usually for chemical or petroleum engineers… but it just sounds so wrong!

  13. Interesting that they are all engineering based. I don’t know how it is on ROI but I recently graduated in Business Intelligence and it seems like there is a huge need for people in this field. All of my coworkers recently got emails from LinkedIn saying that their profiles were in the top 1% of those viewed during the year. That must be a good thing right?

  14. If you focus solely on the money, you are garunteed to be miserable. Heck with engineering, even if you like it, you are probably going to be miserable. One of my best friends is an electrical engineer. It’s in his blood. When he goes home at night, he goes into his basement and tinkers with old computers. But I don’t know anybody who hates his job as much as he does.

  15. There seems to be an underlying theme here Jon. So, you are saying being an engineer is lucrative? It is well worth the cost for an engineering degree.

  16. Brian says:

    I have an aerospace engineering degree… a little over half way through I realized I HATE engineering. Finished off the degree and then went and got a masters in finance. Even though I haven’t done engineer for several years I still get head hunters wanting to speak to me about job opportunities, but I always have to say I am not interested which is hard to say when I know what those jobs pay!

  17. Well I’m screwed! lol! I couldn’t go back to engineering if I tried. I just don’t have that kind of mind. I do work in the heart of aerospace engineering where I live, and all my friends seem to do really well for themselves.

  18. Michelle says:

    I would not be the greatest in these majors, but I know of some friends who work in these fields.

  19. Pauline says:

    Only engineers! I would pick petroleum, for the possibilities to work abroad.

  20. Eddie says:

    These major’s aren’t for everyone. Having friends in all five of the above fields, they’re the first ones to tell me that most engineering fields are dry. And I often ask them why do they do it? Money of course.

    I’d rather earn less but rather enjoy what I do. But that’s just me though.

  21. AverageJoe says:

    I guess that engineering is the way to go, huh? My son was just accepted into the engineering program and the University of Texas. I’m gonna show this to him and remind him that I expect him to take care of his old man down the road….

  22. Good post Jon! I think it says something that all of these are engineering focused. My younger brother graduated with an ME degree a couple of years ago and was fortunate to get a fairly well paying job once done. He’s learned that there are different designations he can get in order to propel his earning capability.

  23. I work for an electrical engineering company and I can tell you that it isn’t for everyone. The pay is ok, but the work is a bit on the dry side.

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