The Ivy Coach Daily

June 24, 2023

What Are the Most Profitable College Majors?

College hall and quad covered in snow during winter
Choose a university, not a major (photo credit: Chensiyuan).

Are you thinking of majoring in art history? If so, and if you’re interested in a high-paying career after college, you might reconsider. That said, who’s to say that you’re not the next David Zwirner or Larry Gagosian, behemoths among the world’s art dealers? Who’s to say that an art history major can’t make big bucks?

The Prestige of the University Matters More than Major

At Ivy Coach, we firmly believe that it is not one’s college major that matters most when it comes to career-earning potential, but rather the college one attends. Of course, there are graduates of our nation’s top universities who don’t go on to achieve all that much — just as there exist graduates of less selective universities who don’t accomplish much.

High Career Achievers Often Attended Top Universities

That said, unaccomplished graduates are fewer and farther between at the top institutions. It’s why a disproportionate percentage of Fortune 500 CEOs attended Ivy League schools or equally selective schools like Stanford University, Duke University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It’s why so many of America’s Supreme Court justices attended the same two law schools: Yale Law School and Harvard Law School.

The In-Classroom Education Is Not the Difference

And why do graduates of America’s top universities so often pursue distinguished careers? It may surprise our readers that we don’t believe it’s because they receive a better in-classroom education at these liberal arts institutions. Introductory Psychology isn’t all that different at Brown University than at the University of Alabama. Instead, it all comes down to the out-of-classroom experience.

The Out-Of-Classroom Education Is the Difference

More specifically, when attending an Ivy League school or an equally selective peer institution, one surrounds oneself for four years with future change-makers: future captains of industry, finance, medicine, education, media, the arts, real estate, and so much more. These are students who made it through the incredibly selective admissions funnel. They’ve got the grades. They’ve got the scores. They’ve got the activities and the story. And, yes, as legacy admission remains alive (at least until after the Supreme Court decides on Affirmative Action!), some even have influential family connections. Simply put, this isn’t the case at less selective institutions.

The List of 25 Highest Paying College Majors

Yet let’s assume that your child wants to attend the best university possible, and you’re just curious to know which majors are the most profitable. While not all majors listed below are offered by every college (in fact, most of these majors are not offered since America’s top universities are liberal arts colleges and, as such, they don’t offer majors like “Dental Hygiene”), the list — as researched by PayScale — will give you a general sense of majors that lead to high-paying careers after college. So, without further ado, here’s the list of engineering majors that lead to high-paying jobs:

RankMajor
#1Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
#2Physical Assistant Studies
#3Petroleum Engineering
#4Operations Research and Industrial Engineering
#5Nuclear Engineering Technology
#6Metallurgical Engineering
#7Computer Systems Engineering
#8Mining Engineering
#9Aeronautics and Astronautics
#10Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
#11Computational and Applied Mathematics
#12Paper Science
#13Electrical Power Engineering
#14Software Engineering
#15Polymer Science and Engineering
#16Welding Engineering Technology
#17Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering
#18Electronic Systems Technology
#19Aeronautical/Aerospace Engineering Technology
#20Industrial and Systems Engineering
#21Dental Hygiene
#22Instrumentation and Control Engineering
#23Mechatronics
#24Biomedical Engineering
#25Structural Design and Construction Engineering Technology

Ivy Coach Disagrees with Malcolm Gladwell on Elite Colleges

So while we’re keenly aware that thought leader and pop psychologist Malcolm Gladwell disagrees with Ivy Coach since he believes it’s entirely overrated to attend a top university and instead believes one’s college major matters more, it sure doesn’t change our tune. Don’t get us wrong. We love Malcolm. We’ve read and loved every one of his books (except for his recent dud, The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War). We listen to his Revisionist History podcast regularly. He’s right about so much. He’s wrong that where one goes to college doesn’t matter.

Attend a Top University Rather than Pick a University for a Major

We leave our readers with a few questions. Would you rather your child major in “Paper Science” or go to Harvard? Would you rather your child major in “Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering” or go to Yale? Would you rather your child major in “Petroleum Engineering” or go to Princeton? Because these schools don’t offer so many of these majors, nor do most of America’s top universities.

In short, your child should attend the best college they can get into rather than pick a major they think will be lucrative. It’s that simple.

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