The formula I used is pretty simple: The 75th percentile income, plus the 25th percentile income, divided by two, times the employment rate (100% minus unemployment).

The Top Twenty Majors:
Petroleum Engineering ($124)
Mathematics & Computer Science ($99)
Nuclear Engineering ($97)
Pharmacutical Sciences & Administration ($96)
Military Technologies* ($92.2)
Mineral Engineering ($91.8)
Marine Engineering ($87)
Chemical Engineering ($85)
Actuarial Science ($84)
Aerospace Engineering ($82)
Materials Science ($73.4)
Electical Engineering ($72.7)
Mechanical Engineering ($73.5)
Astrophysics ($78.5)
Geological Engineering ($78.5)
Metallurgical Engineering ($70.6)
Materials Engineering Science ($62.3)
Pharmacology ($74.5)
Computer Engineering ($63.2)
Civil Engineering ($66.5)

The Bottom Twenty Majors:
School Student Counseling** ($30.0)
Library Science ($30.6)
Counseling Psychology ($30.8)
Miscellaneous Fine Arts ($31.4)
Visual & Performing Arts ($32.7)
Clinical Psychology ($34.6)
Early Childhood Education ($35.0)
Educational Psychology ($35.2)
Community Organization ($36.8)
Botany ($37.7)
Studio Arts ($37.7)
Social Work ($37.8)
Theology ($37.9)
Interdisciplinary Social Sciences ($37.9)
Teacher Education ($38.6)
Language/Drama Education ($39.0)
Elementary Education ($39.0)
Communication Disorders Sciences ($39.6)
Interdisciplinary Studies ($39.7)
Art & Music Education ($39.8)

* – Military Technologies has a notably high unemployment rate of above 10%. If I factored unemployment in more, it would fall down on the list considerably.

** – School Student Counseling has a listed uneployment rate of 0.0%. If I factored unemployment in more, it would fall down (or is that up?) on this list.

I ran three calculations, weighing employment/unemployment more in each one. I decided to go with the first listing because it was the most straightforward. The pattern holds regardless. You can access the spreadsheet here. It uses the ODS file format. OpenOffice and LibreOffice can read it. GoogleDocs inexplicably cannot. I am not sure where Microsoft Office stands on it at the moment.


Category: School

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11 Responses to Winning & Losing College Majors

  1. Peter says:

    It would be interesting to see the best major for people who can’t do math. My guess it that it’s accounting.

    • trumwill says:

      I wonder if Military Technologies required much math? I can’t find a good description that doesn’t involve “preparing to join the army.”

      Which doesn’t make sense, if it pays well. Maybe that’s what people in the army major in and then go work for Blackwater or something?

  2. Mike Hunt Rice says:

    1) In your simple formula, you also divided by 1000.

    2) A number of the bottom majors require a masters in order to get a good job. One quick example is library science. You generally need an MLS to get anywhere.

    • trumwill says:

      1) Indeed I did.

      2) Good point. But it doesn’t say anything about whether they went on to get a higher degree and how that might factor in. Political Science does really well. It seems to me that going to law school later might have something to do with that.

      • David Alexander says:

        Political Science does really well.

        While some end up going to law school, I suspect a decent number end up going into civil service or grad school to become wonks in the government.

        • trumwill says:

          Yeah, that occurred to me as well. I think poli sci may be off the list of majors I will try to block for Lain and any future siblings.

          • David Alexander says:

            I think it depends on your children’s personalities. If they’re active Type A personalities, then poli sci would be great for them, especially if they can maximize their internship potential. If they’re Type B, send them somewhere else as they’ll languish and never meet their full potential unless your plan is for them to marry their college sweetheart at 21.

          • Mike Hunt Rice says:

            David Alexander makes an excellent point about PoliSci majors. It’s like the normal metrics by which you judge a college graduate don’t apply. Perkiness and willingness to work long long hours for little little pay are a big help.

          • trumwill says:

            Well, I sort of view “becoming a wonk in the government” as one of those things that it’s a poor choice to bet on. The civil service angle is interesting to me, though.

  3. superdestroyer says:

    One of the reasons that petroleum engineering pays so much is that many of the jobs are in remote locations. The same can be said for entry level for any chemical engineers.

    Starting positions are not in cubicle in Houston for either career field but are on drilling platforms for petroleum engineering or in Beaumont Texas for the Chemical Engineers.

    • trumwill says:

      I can speak less of petroleum engineering than chemical engineering, but in the latter case I know people who have gone directly to office jobs in Mobile, Lafayette, and Houston (also Beaumont, which you mention, and Texas City). My school had an aggressive ChemE program (which is why I know as many as I do), so maybe they got the primo spots.

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