Majors related to computers, math and engineering pay college graduates the highest, according to an analysis by Glassdoor. This contradicts the doom and gloom from some lawmakers who, in their effort to argue against immigration, have at times wrongly discouraged Americans from entering science and technology fields.
“A college degree has become an essential stepping stone to landing a great first job,” notes Glassdoor. “Through an analysis of hundreds of thousands of resumes and corresponding salary reports, Glassdoor has determined which majors pay the most during the first five years out of college.”
The data could not be clearer: Go tech. Computer science is the highest paying major, with a median base salary 5 years out of college of $70,000. That does not include bonuses or other forms of compensation and salaries vary by area. Second on the list is electrical engineering, with a median base salary of $68,438. Third and fourth places on the list are mechanical engineering and chemical engineering, with respective median base salaries of $68,000 and $65,000.
Industrial engineering ($64,381 median base salary) is the 5th highest paying major, followed by information technology ($64,008), civil engineering ($61,500), statistics ($60,000), nursing ($58,928) and management information systems ($58,000).
Note that 9 of the 10 highest paying majors are in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), with nursing the only exception. The salaries illustrate the demand for talent in STEM fields relative to other majors.
The Glassdoor analysis is consistent with calculations available on the website Launch My Career Colorado, a web-based tool endorsed by the state of Colorado. That website shows degrees in computer science and electrical engineering have the highest “return on investment” (ROI) of any degrees other than a degree in petroleum engineering.
A degree in computer science at UC-Boulder would bring a return on investment of $875,930, while a degree in psychology at UC-Boulder would bring a return on investment of only $131,154. Return on investment is “the estimated additional income during the next 20 years earned by a college graduate over and above the earnings of a high school graduate.”
Some have argued that government statistics show young Americans are not able to get jobs in science and technology fields. However, such arguments rely on a federal government definition of a STEM “occupation” that is narrow and fails to count millions of people who work in jobs that use their science and engineering (S&E) degrees. For example, a professor of physics would not count as working in a STEM occupation but instead would be listed in Census data as a postsecondary teacher. An engineer promoted to management no longer counts as working in a STEM occupation. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, is considered not to be working in a STEM occupation.
“According to the 2013 National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG), nearly 17.7 million college graduates reported that their jobs required at least this level of technical expertise in one or more S&E fields; this figure is almost three times as large as the nearly 6 million college graduates employed in S&E occupations,” explains the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2016.
In other words, nearly 12 million people with a STEM degree are not classified by the federal government as working in a STEM occupation but report “their jobs required at least this level of technical expertise in one or more S&E fields.”
The good news today is that young Americans with the ability to major in computer science, electrical engineering and other technology-related fields are doing well. The Glassdoor analysis shows such young Americans should continue to follow their dreams.