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Invest wisely in your college degree: Consider your earning potential


Concept of expensive education - dollars and diplomaIf you are a college student having a hard time choosing a major, perhaps you can use earning potential as a factor in narrowing down your options.

Money is a motivator. While it may not be your primary motivator in getting a college degree, it certainly is a factor to take into consideration.

Why? We all have bills to pay, and eventually you are going to have to pay off those student loans!

The time and money you are spending on your college degree is an investment. Invest wisely if you want a good return on that investment.

AdviserOne offers rankings based on data collected from 1,000 universities that highlight top highest-paying majors. Eighty-eight percent of the schools surveyed had more than 5,000 students. If money’s on your mind, you’ll probably want to avoid Child and Family Studies, which had an entry-level salary of approximately $37K, or roughly $18 per hour.

For more than $18 per hour, the following highly paid jobs may interest you and your future bank account:

Nurse Anesthetist

  • Average Hourly Pay: $67 per hour
  • A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is responsible for administering anesthesia to patients. They work with dentists, podiatrists and anesthesiologists to safely administer anesthesia and other related medications.

Electrical Engineering

  • Average Hourly Pay: $42
  • Pay for Top 10 percent: $63K
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes electrical engineers as professionals who design, develop and test the manufacturing of electrical equipment. This includes radar, motors, navigation systems and power generation equipment. Electronics engineers design, develop and test electronic equipment, including communications systems, such as global positioning (GPS) and satellite systems.

Mechanical Engineering

  • Average Hourly Pay: $40
  • Pay for Top 10 percent: $59 per hour
  • In this engineering discipline, engineering professionals apply principles of physics and materials science in order to analyze, design and develop mechanical devices and systems. It may also involve the production and use of heat and mechanical power.


  • Average Hourly Pay: $37
  • Pay for Top 10 percent: $60 per hour
  • Accountants keep track of an individual’s or company’s money and often provide tax preparation services. Most accountants focus on a specialty area. Accounting specializations include government accountants who assist enterprises conducting business with the government, internal auditors who validate the financial records within a company, management accountants who keep track of earnings and cash flow and personal accountants who keep track of tax and financial information for individuals and small companies.

Political Science

  • Average Hourly Pay: $33
  • Pay for Top 10 percent: $57 per hour
  • Two popular political science concentrations include American Politics and International Politics. According to North Carolina State University, American Politics courses help develop skills for students passionate about professional education, law school, political or administrative careers, and business careers in companies that work with the government. Students interested in the legal profession, advocacy, international corporate organizations and careers in government would be suitable for a concentration in international politics.

Computers and IT

  • Average Hourly Pay: $36
  • Pay for Top 10 percent: $56 per hour
  • This category includes database designers, computer programmers and computer security professionals. As our continued reliance on computers grows, so will the need for professionals in this industry.

Business Administration and Management

  • Average Hourly Pay: $32
  • Pay for Top 10 percent: $52 per hour
  • Business Administration professionals require a business administration and management degree as well as good organizational skills and communication abilities.

Management Information Systems and IT


  • Average Hourly Pay: $28
  • Pay for Top 10 percent: $49 per hour
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics communications category includes media and content writing, editing, photography and broadcasting.


  • Average Hourly Pay: $31
  • reports a high national demand for nurses. Many hospitals and other health care institutions are reimbursing nurses up to 100 percent of their tuition costs. Not only does nursing pay well and offer job security, it also provides personal job satisfaction because you’re helping ill patients in need.




  1. Vagelis Molchanov says:

    Is this a joke?? The only truth about salaries from that “true source of info” is Engineering. Political science and international politics $57 per hour????????May be if you graduated from Harvard or UCLA:)) That is just not true, that’s it. This is 2013, the country just started to recover from the severe economic downturn, there are not a lot jobs that pays $57 per hour with political science degree and no experience. Absolute joke:) Please be realistic, i did not major myself in political science but come on, it is hard to get a job nowadays, for everybody. Political science and communication major will qualify you to be a greeter at Wal-Mart. Top 10% percent??????Probably, the kids from affluent families, political and business elite of the country. It is a very misleading information regarding the majors and salaries.

    • mattberndt says:

      Vagelis – it is important to consume statistics carefully. The post does not say that those are the average entry-level earnings; it addresses earning potential. These numbers factor in professionals at all levels.
      There is an old saying: “there are lies, there are damn lies, and then there are statistics.” When you are looking at salary data and considering your career options, you should consult multiple sources before making any decisions. This is indeed a challenging employment market in many, many fields. But there are also many jobs that go unfilled because candidates do not have the necessary skill set or education.

      There are many variables that impact employment, employ-ability, earning potential and job satisfaction, and these variable are typically unique to each individual.

      Take these data – all data – with a grain of salt. They are one source of information, not THE source of information.

      The key message of the blog is that you should consider what you want to do when you graduate and how much you hope to earn BEFORE you start a degree program, not after you complete it.

      Best regards,


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