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Choosing a college major can be tough. You may not have any idea what type of career you want to pursue, or you may feel overwhelmed by all the available options. Whatever the case, it’s important to choose your major carefully, especially since college is so expensive.
Your major should be something you’re actually interested in and excited to study. With that in mind, here are some of the best degrees to get right now, and some other factors to consider when deciding on a major.
Figuring out how to pay for your degree can also be a challenge. But Credible makes it easy to compare private student loan rates to help you fund your education.
What are the best degrees to get right now?
Once you’ve figured out which major interests you, consider a few other key factors, including the median salary for that career, future job prospects, and how meaningful the work will feel to you. The majors in this guide have a high return on investment, according to Payscale’s 2021 College Salary Report.
- Median starting salary: $93,200
- Median mid-career salary: $187,300
As a petroleum engineering major, you’ll study geology, mathematics, drilling engineering, chemistry, petroleum field operations, and more. With this degree, you can get a job as a reservoir engineer, completions engineer, or a production or drilling engineer. Petroleum engineers typically develop plans for extracting oil and gas from the earth, design drilling equipment, and evaluate the production of wells.
Petroleum engineering job openings are expected to rise 8% from 2020 to 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A large number of graduates with this degree — 67% — say their work makes the world a better place, according to Payscale’s report.
- Median starting salary: $84,800
- Median mid-career salary: $170,400
If you choose this major, which shares some overlap with mechanical engineering, you’ll study a combination of systems theory, computer engineering, economics, and mathematics. Once you finish the program, you can get a job in multiple industries, like finance, technology, and manufacturing.
As an industrial engineer, you’ll help organizations design systems for managing industrial production, among other things.
The BLS expects industrial engineering jobs to grow 14% from 2020 to 2030, and 28% of graduates say their work makes the world a better place.
Electrical engineering and computer science
- Median starting salary: $108,500
- Median mid-career salary: $159,300
As an electrical engineering major, you’ll learn how to use science, mathematics, and engineering to design electronics or solve electrical problems. A computer science major, on the other hand, will teach you how to develop and test software systems and solve computing problems in numerous fields, like business and healthcare.
You can use your electrical engineering degree to get a job designing, developing, testing, and directing the manufacturing of electrical equipment.
With a computer science degree, you can get any number of jobs. For example, you could manage an organization’s computer systems as a system administrator, manage a database as a database administrator, or build and maintain networks as a computer network architect.
The BLS predicts electrical and electronics engineering jobs will grow by 7%, and computer and information technology jobs will grow by 13%, from 2020 to 2030.
Almost half of electrical engineering and computer science graduates surveyed (46%) believe their work makes the world a better place.
- Median starting salary: $68,300
- Median mid-career salary: $155,800
When you study interaction design, you’ll learn how to design tech products (like mobile phones and virtual reality headsets) with users in mind. You’ll take programming and user design courses to earn your degree. Once you graduate, you can get a variety of jobs, including (but not limited to) web developer, product designer, mobile designer, and user experience (UX) designer.
The BLS doesn’t have any statistics for interaction design job growth, but more than half of all interaction design graduates (55%) say their work makes the world a better place.
- Median starting salary: $59,800
- Median mid-career salary: $147,700
As a public accounting major, you’ll study auditing, taxation, accounting systems, and different types of accounting. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll understand how to prepare and analyze financial records for individuals and corporations.
You can get a variety of jobs after completing your bachelor’s program in accounting. For example, you can become an internal auditor, staff accountant, or financial analyst.
The BLS expects accounting jobs to rise 7% from 2020 to 2030. Almost half of degree holders surveyed (47%) believe their work makes a positive impact on the world.
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- Median starting salary: $83,500
- Median mid-career salary: $147,400
Do you like to solve complex problems using math? In this degree program, you’ll learn how to use models, statistics, math, and other tools to determine how to solve an organization’s problems. Once you’ve completed your degree, you can get a job as an operations research analyst, mathematician, or statistician.
The BLS predicts jobs for operation research analysts will grow by 25% from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster than average. More than half of graduates surveyed (54%) say their work makes the world a better place.
Applied economics and management
- Median starting salary: $66,100
- Median mid-career salary: $146,400
As an applied economics and management major, you’ll study how economic theory works in the real world and in business management. With this degree, you could become a financial analyst or chief financial officer (CFO).
As a financial analyst, you analyze assets like stocks and bonds to help individuals and businesses make decisions about spending money to earn a profit. And as a CFO, you’d oversee a company’s finances.
Economist jobs are expected to rise by 13% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS. Most graduates in this field (67%) say their work has a meaningful impact on the world.
- Median starting salary: $73,000
- Median mid-career salary: $143,600
With a business computing degree, you’ll study business and computer science, which will prepare you for several types of business and computer jobs after graduation. For example, you could become a business data analyst to help companies make better decisions by performing business analysis.
The BLS expects computer and information technology jobs to rise 13% from 2020 to 2030. Meanwhile, the bureau predicts business and financial jobs will grow 8% during the same time.
- Median starting salary: $64,300
- Median mid-career salary: $143,400
As an actuarial mathematics major, you’ll study statistics, mathematics, and financial theory to evaluate the financial costs associated with certain risks. With this degree, you can get a job as an actuary with an insurance company, government entity, or private corporation.
For example, if you choose to work for an insurance company, you’ll set the price for insurance policies to ensure maximum profitability. Or you could work as a pension and retirement benefits actuary, where part of your job is to design pension plans to ensure a company has enough money to pay all its retirees.
The BLS predicts that actuary job openings will rise 24% from 2020 to 2030. A little over half of actuaries (51%) say their work has a positive impact on the world.
Aeronautics and astronautics
- Median starting salary: $77,000
- Median mid-career salary: $139,600
In this degree program, you’ll learn fundamental engineering, math, and physics principles used to design, test, and operate space vehicles and aircraft. Once you graduate, you can get a job as an aeronautical engineer or astronautical engineer. Aeronautical engineers design and test aircraft that fly within Earth’s atmosphere (think helicopters and planes). Astronautical engineers, on the other hand, design and test spacecraft like satellites and spaceships.
Aerospace engineering jobs are expected to grow 8% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS. More than half of graduates surveyed (56%) say that their work makes the world a better place.
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