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Your College Major Matters More than You Think


Stashed in: Young Americans, Jobs, College

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Going to college isn't really a get-rich-quick scheme — the opportunity cost of four years not on the job market takes care of that. 

But if your biggest ambition is to make a lot of money right away, you should be an engineer. Actually, you should be a petroleum engineer; the gap between that major and the rest is pretty astonishing. In general, though, jobs in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — are very well-compensated in the first years after college.

The picture doesn't look as different at mid-career for many majors as you might expect. The average person in this data set is 44 years old and has 15 years of experience. Petroleum engineering is still on top (getting oil out of the ground is, unsurprisingly, a very lucrative skill). But a few other majors have crept up the ranks, particularly economics. Still, the picture is pretty clear: if what's most important to you is a high salary without needing to pursue graduate education, engineering is a good choice.

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