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College Degrees Worth the Most Money

Concerned about your earning power after college? Read on to learn which degrees typically lead to the highest salaries, both immediately after graduation and in the long term.

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Top-Earning College Majors

There are lots of intangible benefits to going to college, such as lifelong friendships, building a professional network, learning more about the world and simply enriching your life. But as college costs continue to rise, many students are wondering if the financial benefits are still worth the investment.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), earning a college degree does still lead to improved economic outcomes (www.nces.ed.gov). In 2008, NCES reported that the median annual income for individuals who had earned a bachelor's degree or higher was $55,000 for men and $45,000 for women. By contrast, adults with only a high school diploma or GED earned a median salary of $32,000 for men and $25,000 for women.

But what if you truly want to maximize your earning power? The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) tracks the average salary offers for college graduates each year (www.naceweb.org). In 2011, NACE found that engineering and computer science majors dominated the list of the highest-earning college grads:

Major Average Salary Offer
Chemical Engineering $66,886
Computer Science $63,017
Mechanical Engineering $54,915
Electrical & Communications Engineering $60,646
Computer Engineering $60,112
Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering $58,549
Systems Engineering $57,497
Engineering Technology $57,176
Information Sciences & Systems $56,868
Business Systems Networking & Telecommunications $56,808

Source: NACE, www.naceweb.org

Long Term Salary Prospects

Of course, these figures reflect offers designed to attract the best and brightest young college graduates. When considering your long term earning prospects, it's also valuable to know what the average salary is for all professionals in the field.

Profession Average Salary in 2010
Chemical Engineer $94,590
Computer & Information Scientist $100,900
Mechanical Engineer $82,480
Electrical Engineer $87,770
Computer Hardware Engineer $101,600
Industrial Engineer $78,450
Engineers (General) $91,770
Mechanical Engineering Technician $51,450
Computer Systems Analyst (Information Science) $81,250
Computer Systems Administrator $72,200

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov

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