Best-Paying Majors for a Career for 2019

The College Degrees That Pay the Most

Hands using digital tablet for business and education
••• Ade Akinrujomu / Getty Images

Which college majors have the best earnings potential? How much can the class of 2019 expect to make when they start their first professional jobs? It’s always a good idea to know what you’re worth when you’re about to start a job search.

When you’re evaluating offers for your first job after college, it’s much easier if you have salary benchmarks to review. It also makes sense to look at how majors relate to earning when you’re considering career options as an undergraduate. For students who are interested in a well-paid career, consider some of the best-paying majors when you're looking at degree options.

There is currently a strong job market for college graduates, so the candidates with the right educational background, skills, internship or other experience, and an in-demand major will be well-positioned to start a career with a decent paycheck at a company that’s a match for their career objectives.

Hiring Is Up for 2019

A tighter job market has increased demand for college graduates to meet the requirements of employers for additional labor to support business expansion. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports that graduating seniors from the Class of 2019 are experiencing the best job market for new college graduates since 2007, according to NACE’s Class of 2019 Student Survey.

Survey results show that graduating college seniors who had applied for full-time jobs received an average of 1.10 job offers, the highest rate of average job offers in 12 years.

In addition, data from the Class of 2019 Student Survey support the findings of other NACE surveys. For example, the Job Outlook 2019 Spring Update reported that employers plan to hire 10.7 percent more graduates from the Class of 2019 than they did from the Class of 2018.

The projections from the Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI) from Michigan State University were also very optimistic. 93% of employers responding to surveys indicated that prospects for college graduates in their industry were good to excellent. CERI cites business growth, retirements, and turnover as key factors impacting expanded hiring plans. This increased demand for college graduates is anticipated to put pressure on salaries, and CERI expects overall salaries for college graduates to increase by 4.3% percent.

Best-Paying Majors for 2019

The National Association of Colleges and Employers conducted a survey for the highest paying majors of 2019. STEM degrees have the highest salary bracket, followed by business degrees, social science majors, humanities degrees, agriculture/natural resources, and finally communications majors.

STEM Degrees: As in past years, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines are expected to be amongst the highest compensated majors. According to NACE, employers expect to pay the highest salaries to engineering graduates - $69,188, followed by computer science graduates-$67,539. Math and Science graduates are expected to earn an average of $62,177.

Career Options to Consider:

Business Degrees: Business graduates are expected to receive an average starting salary of $57,657.

Career Options to Consider:

Social Sciences and Humanities Degrees: Social science graduates are projected to receive an average salary of $57,310, while the estimate for humanities graduates is $56,651, for agriculture and natural resources, $55,750, and for communications grauates, $52,056.

Career Options to Consider:

2019 vs. 2018 Highest Salaries

Salaries for engineering and agriculture/natural resources majors showed the greatest year over year increase with a gain of 4% and 4.1% respectively. Projections for computer science and business salaries were up by 2.3% and 1.7% while communications, social science, and math/science, were only 1.2%, 1.1%, and .5% higher.

Best-Paying Industries

NACE reported that the highest paying industries for 2018 (2019 data unavailable) were expected to be management consulting—$67,569, chemical manufacturing—$65,669, information technology—$63,902, finance, insurance and real estate—$63,826, and engineering services—$63,624.

Jobs College Grads Want the Most

LinkedIn's Guide to Getting Hired in 2019 references entry level salaries in a diverse series of entry level jobs that are popular with graduates.

1.   Software Engineer

2.   Registered Nurse

3.   Salesperson

4.   Teacher

5.   Accountant

6.   Project Manager

7.   Administrative Assistant

8.   Account Executive

9.   Financial Analyst

10. Account Manager

Factors That Impact Earnings Potential

Keep in mind that all salary these figures represent averages and that many other factors will determine the actual offers tendered to graduates in various majors.

Students with high academic achievement, strong internship experience, a profile of campus or community leadership, and awards will tend to receive higher offers.

Students from highly selective and elite colleges will often receive above-average offers.

The cost of living in your target geographic area will also influence offers, with employers paying a higher differential for expensive locations like California, Metropolitan New York, Boston, and Chicago.

It’s important to keep all these factors in mind when you’re looking at job options and what you can expect to earn. In some cases, recent and soon-to-be graduates have unrealistic expectations and are disappointed when they get a job offer that’s much lower than they anticipated.

It’s Not All About the Money

Selecting a college major can be a challenging task for students who are confronted with a plethora of choices. A sound decision requires an assessment of many factors including your skills, personality orientation, interests, personal values, lifestyle choices, the opportunity for growth in various careers, as well as the availability of jobs. Some of the jobs that pay the most may not rank well for other factors like job satisfaction or work/life balance.

Of course, starting salary is often a consideration as is income potential over time. Keep in mind that success in your college major and your marketability to employers will be influenced by how well your skills and interests match the demands of your major. However, it makes sense to consider the salary implications of whatever major you choose.

How to Get Hired

Are you ready to get going on a job search? It’s never too early to position yourself for a successful search for a job for after graduation. If you're an undergrad, there are things you can do now to prepare to get hired for a post-graduate job. On the other hand, if you’ve been busy with school and extra-curricular activities, it’s never too late to get into job hunt mode. You can fast-track your job search to land your first job after college quickly.