Deciding on a college major can be a difficult process, but there’s a reason popular STEM degrees attract students year after year. If you’re looking to maximize your salary potential, then science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees should be at the top of your list for potential fields of study. This set of college majors consistently command the highest salaries and greatest employee demand.
Biology and Biomedical Sciences
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, biology was the most popular STEM degree awarded in 2014. Many pre-medical, pre-dental and pre-veterinary students study biological sciences as a clear-cut path to graduate school. Biology students can expect to take multiple lab-based courses, general and organic chemistry and a handful of advanced mathematics classes. Graduates have plenty of job options besides further education; hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and laboratories are always eager to hire biological sciences majors.
Mathematics and Statistics
If you’ve ever wondered when you would ever use algebra in the real world, you might be surprised to see mathematics listed as one of the most sought-after STEM degrees. At the college level, math programs go far beyond algebra, using numbers to solve complicated business and scientific problems with the help of analytical software. Mathematics majors are heavily recruited for high-level positions as data analysts, actuaries and statisticians. With your degree in math, you’ll be needed in almost every industry, giving you great career flexibility. Don’t be daunted by this program’s tough reputation or a negative experience with math in high school. Universities are offering better student services for STEM majors, including tutoring, review sessions led by graduate teaching assistants and special summer programs to help keep your GPA in good shape.
Computer Science and Information Technology
With the ever-increasing importance of computer-based technology in the American workforce comes a need for skilled computer scientists and data managers. A bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science or software engineering gives a wide range of highly marketable skills including programming in multiple languages, troubleshooting hardware and software issues and organizing data sets with millions of entries. Silicon Valley has made computer science the most profitable STEM degree with new graduates often earning six figures plus sign-on bonuses. If you’re interested in the high earning potential and fun atmosphere of start-up companies, majoring in computer science is a smart way to tap into that world. Many programs let you graduate with a two-year associate’s or finish your classes online if you find a great job opportunity and don’t want to finish your degree on campus.
STEM degrees traditionally encompassed theoretical fields like biology, chemistry and physics. In recent years, healthcare degrees have been included under the STEM umbrella as their popularity has grown. Earning your associate’s or bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy, nursing or physical therapy will now let you join the group of college degrees with the highest initial earnings. If you’re willing to work in rural or underserved areas, you can tap into government programs that help pay for your schooling.
With the wide range of STEM degrees available for universities, you can easily find the right program for your skills and interests. Take the time to think about the most popular STEM degrees and how they fit into your long-term plans.