Major benefits: What degrees make the most money?
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) just released the results of their Winter 2010 Salary Survey, and the list of top-paid bachelor’s degrees is again dominated by engineers. Petroleum engineering takes the number-one spot at $86,220 as an average salary offer. Two computer-related degrees – computer science and information sciences and systems – also made the list.
Chemical engineering and mineral engineering took second and third place, respectively, with grads netting around $65,000 a year. Computer science grads took home about $61,205 a year, with computer engineers coming in a close fifth at $60,879.
According to Ted Djaferis, dean of the University of Massachusetts College of Engineering, a degree from his department allows “students to work on projects that have an immediate impact on society.”
“Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering can allow someone to work with companies that focus on clean water systems, and chemical engineering graduates can work in the field of alternative fuels (such as biofuels),” said Djaferis. “Electrical engineering graduates can find themselves working on the development of the next generation of medical imaging systems, and industrial engineers can contribute to improving the efficiency of health care systems. A mechanical engineering student can work on the design and construction of new medical instruments and devices. Certainly, advanced degrees in engineering would offer students additional opportunities but they can begin to make a contribution to society with BS degrees.”
When asked about the best aspects of studying engineering, Djaferis was sure to point out that all fields of study are great and have many positive attributes. He didn’t shy away from pointing out the benefits of the engineering field, however.
“In [engineering], in many cases one is able to construct devices, develop software and develop systems that can be relatively easy to prototype and test,” said Djaferis. “One is therefore able to see in a very short time the fruits of his or her labors, and this is particularly gratifying. Designing, creating or constructing something completely new allows one to express their entrepreneurial spirit innovation. It is very satisfying to be able to say that you are working on something that makes a difference in peoples’ lives.”
When asked about the potential difficulties of becoming an engineering major, Djaferis noted that any prospective engineering student should have taken the relevant high school courses in mathematics, sciences and writing, and needs to demonstrate strengths in these areas. He also noted that it is important that the prospective engineering student be motivated and excited about entering college, and being ready to invest time and effort into their studies.
“If you have the grades and the self-motivation necessary to complete the major requirements, the major is available to you,” said Djaferis.
“I believe any major or concentration with a narrow degree of flexibility is highly sought after,” said Carmen Lo, a UMass junior majoring in operations management and pre-med. “Engineering is not only very specific, but it’s also very technical. Students who study this major devote many hours practicing their skills in labs along with the intense classes they have to take. Therefore, I am not surprised their starting salary is the highest.”
“It’s at the top because engineering has a very demanding educational regimen,” said Elise Conde, a UMass freshman. “It requires top-notch science and math skills to be successful in the engineering industry, which a lot of people do not possess. Personally, I don’t feel like I would be cut out for the job, and I feel like a lot of people have a similar feeling towards themselves. However, due to the difficulty of the training for the job and the large demand for engineers, salaries are huge compared to other jobs.”
When asked if she thinks engineering will still be at the top of the salary list in spring of 2010, Lo said that “engineering will continue to be one of the highest salaried majors – but this does not mean other majors, such as business, will not take its lead [eventually]. The reason is that the economy is constantly changing, and at times, some job fields might be saturated.”
“America is always trying to advance in technology,” said Conde, “therefore demand for engineers will not be waning anytime soon.”
Jessica Jankowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.