The conventional wisdom about college grads earning more is true (and it’s backed up by data from the U.S. Census Bureau): on average, a worker with a bachelor’s degree will earn nearly 70% more than someone with only a high school diploma.
But the job market is always changing, and some degrees are set to be more lucrative in the coming years than others.
(This is not to discourage you if your heart is set on a humanities or arts degree—in fact, you might be surprised by where your degree could take you.)
Actuaries work in the insurance and finance industries to help companies and nonprofits analyze costs, risks, and uncertainties. Recent changes in finance and healthcare laws have meant demand for gifted actuaries to increase—in fact, job growth for actuarial mathematics is projected to increase 21.9% over the next decade.
If you’re a skilled mathematician who likes the prospects of a high salary, relative job security, and a whole lot of spreadsheets, consider majoring in economics, statistics, or actuarial sciences.
English and Communications
You might be surprised to see writing and literature programs make the list, but it’s true: the pen is (sometimes) just as mighty as the STEM degree.
Poets, journalists, and bookworms are now landing jobs in marketing, content strategy, public relations, social media, advertising copywriting, and human resources for major finance, tech, and medicine companies.
That’s because English graduates are finding new ways to put their knowledge of the written word to work in new fields—and companies are recognizing their own need for quality communicators.
(Note: If this sounds like you, we strongly encourage you to think about finding an internship or externship while in school—it helps to make connections early and often!)
Including tech-savvy majors in this list almost feels like cheating. (Maybe that’s because careers in technology are expected to grow 18.1% by 2025.)
Applications and systems software developers enjoy comfortable salaries with a lot of options for where they want to work, ranging from the tech titans of Silicon Valley to small start ups in their garages.
Of course, if you’re interested in software engineering, majoring in computer science, computer engineering, or programming is the logical choice—but you might also consider taking a few business and communications classes, too, in case you ever want to strike out on your own with the next great app idea.
Speaking of engineering, the future looks pretty bright for the next generation of designers, builders, and creators—so bright, in fact, that they count for nine of the top ten majors with the highest midcareer salaries for 2016.
Engineering programs can be competitive, but the rewards can be huge. Whether you focus on civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, or another engineering field altogether, you’re likely to enjoy a high salary with a lot of flexibility with regards to where you work.
Engineering is a broad discipline, though, and has a ton of sub-disciplines to focus on. Talk to your guidance counselor, admissions team, or the engineering department at the colleges on your list to learn more about what type of engineering you could study. If you’re only a junior in high school, you might want to get your feet wet by using an interactive learning site like Treehouse or CodeAcademy.
Teaching and Education
This one goes out to our Indiana readers: you might have heard in recent years that there is a shortage of qualified teachers in the Hoosier state. Legislators and educators are working together to turn the shortage around and offers incentives for aspiring classroom leaders.
If you’re passionate about helping young minds grow, sharing your knowledge, and inspiring the next generation, a career in teaching might be a great fit for you. Don’t believe everything you’ve heard about teacher salaries: teachers in Indiana make a very comfortable $51,000 a year, on average.
You might also consider a degree in school administration or counseling, if you want to do your part in helping school systems attract and retain more qualified educators in the future.
Remember, no matter what you decide to major in, your future successes are largely up to you—with the right amount of networking, preparation, and determination, you can find and follow the career path that’s right for you.
And if you’re still undecided, you can check out IPFW’s new Pathway Program, or download our free guide to choosing your college major.