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Best-Paying College Majors: Choose Your Major Wisely!

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There’s a good chance you know at least one college grad that moved back home with Mom and Dad after donning a cap and gown. He or she might even have a part-time job that barely requires a high school diploma, let alone a bachelor’s degree.

Last spring the Associated Press reported that over half of recent college graduates are unemployed or have jobs that don’t fully use their skills or knowledge.

College educated twenty-somethings are willing to work as waiters, bartenders, receptionists, and other positions that do not require degrees in retail in hopes of making ends meet until “something better” comes along. But it’s tough to get by as an hourly retail associate, let alone one who has $20,000 or more in student loans to repay, which is why so many are forced to live with their parents.

Top Paying Majors, Class of 2012

Want to avoid becoming a barista, waitress or cashier after college? You might want to become an engineer. A new survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers has found that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors are the best-paying. STEM grads have the highest starting salaries compared to both liberal arts and business majors. Engineering majors even experienced a 3.9% increase in average starting salary from 2011 to 2012, according to the Huffington Post.

So it might be a good idea to pass up your dream of majoring in art history or musical theater and choose one of these college majors instead:

  • Computer Engineering, average starting salary $70,400
  • Chemical Engineering, average starting salary $66,400
  • Computer Science, average starting salary $64,400
  • Aerospace/Aeronautical Engineering, average starting salary $64,000
  • Mechanical Engineering, average starting salary $62,900

If you can’t picture yourself studying engineering—it’s difficult and it’s not for everyone—you should still be able to earn a decent living after college, assuming you pick a college major that has available job opportunities.

Be realistic and do a bit of research before you rack up debt while earning that degree. How many open positions are there for museum curators, librarians, or opera singers in your town? College can be an incredibly fun experience, but you’re there to earn a degree that hopefully leads to a good-paying job.

Unemployment Rates Worse for Certain Degrees

The problem is, many young adults fail to realize or don’t want to admit that their choice of college major may put them at a big disadvantage during their job search. A new study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that recent college graduates with the highest rate of unemployment had degrees in the arts, humanities and architecture. Realizing this beforehand may be your key to success.

Many ambitious students think otherwise, believing that they will rise above the crowd, but study author Anthony P. Carnevale has some words of wisdom: “People keep telling kids to study what they love — but some loves are worth more than others.”

Is College Worth It?

If a STEM major isn’t your cup of tea and you’re wondering if going to college is even worth it, as many people are, most experts still say yes.

U.S. Department of Education statistics show that 2010 annual median earnings for young adults with a bachelor’s degree was $45,000, substantially higher than the median annual salary of $29,000 for those with high school diplomas.

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Wondering How to Choose Your Major? Check the Unemployment Rates

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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