This Chart Reveals Which College Degrees Will Get You the Highest Salary


Certain advanced college degrees have long been reliable cash cows, which is why so many people think going to medical school or law school is their best shot at securing a high-paying job. But if you're only planning to get your bachelor's degree, it pays -- quite literally -- to pursue a major with huge future earning potential (sorry BFA-ers).

But exactly which programs are most likely to set you up with a fat paycheck for the rest of your working life? It just got a lot easier to figure out, thanks to this slick new visualization that charts the undergraduate degrees that earn the highest salaries

The graph, which was put together by Reddit user SportsAnalyticsGuy, uses data gathered from a year-long survey conducted by PayScale of 1.2 million people who graduated only with a bachelor's degree in the United States. More specifically, it looked at the degrees those people graduated with, as well as their earnings straight out of school, and then 10 years after graduation. With that intel, the chart is able to convey quite a bit about which degrees have the highest median starting salaries, and which have the highest median salaries once you're in the thick of your career. 

Unsurprisingly, people with engineering degrees of all varieties tend to have both high starting and mid-career salaries, while people with other math and science-heavy degrees in disciplines like economics, physics, and computer science also tend to earn more. Surprisingly, even philosophy majors do pretty well, falling in between International Relations and Management Information Systems degree-holders. 

If the mix of colors is throwing you off, it's actually fairly straightforward. The degrees themselves are ranked by median salary 10 years-in (green), while the other colors simply measure the lower end and higher end earners for a given degree. 

As the folks at Visual Capitalist note, there are a few interesting takeaways beyond the rankings. For instance, there are quite a few majors that see a huge increase, on average, of 90% of more from median starting salary to median mid-career salary (looking at you math, philosophy, marketing, economics, physics, political science, and international relations). Alternately, there are some majors with high starting salaries but relatively low earning potential as one's career takes off (e.g., nursing, physician assistants). 

Of course, where you get your degree from can also affect on how much you end up making, in case you're on the hunt for schools that turn out the highest-earning grads

h/tDigg, Visual Capitalist

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.