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Which College Degrees Get the Highest Salaries?

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Which College Degrees Get the Highest Salaries?

Which College Degrees Get the Highest Salaries?

If you’re a college graduate, you likely went to school to pursue an important passion of yours.

But as we all know, what we major in has consequences that extend far beyond the foundation of knowledge we build in our early years. Any program we choose to enroll in also sets up a track to meet future friends, career opportunities, and connections.

Even further, the college degree you choose will partially dictate your future earning potential – especially in the first decade after school. If jobs in your field are in high demand, it can even set you up for long-term financial success, enabling you to pay off costly student loans and build up savings potential.

Data Backgrounder

Today’s chart comes to us from Reddit user /r/SportsAnalyticsGuy, and it’s based on PayScale’s year-long survey of 1.2 million users that graduated only with a bachelor degree in the United States. You can access the full set of data here.

The data covers two different salary categories:

Starting median salary: The median of what people were earning after they graduated with their degree.

Mid-career Percentiles: Salary data from 10 years after graduation, sorted by percentile (10th, 25th, Median, 75th, and 90th)

In other words, the starting median salary represents what people started making after they graduated, and the rest of the chart depicts the range that people were making 10 years after they got their degree. Lower earners (10th percentile) are the lower bound, and higher earners (90th) are the upper bound.

College Degrees, by Salary

What college majors win out?

Here’s all 50 majors from the data set, sorted by mid-career median salary (10 years in):

RankUndergraduate MajorStarting MedianMid-Career Median% Change
#1Chemical Engineering$63,200$107,00069.3%
#2Computer Engineering$61,400$105,00071.0%
#3Electrical Engineering$60,900$103,00069.1%
#4Aerospace Engineering$57,700$101,00075.0%
#5Economics$50,100$98,60096.8%
#6Physics$50,300$97,30093.4%
#7Computer Science$55,900$95,50070.8%
#8Industrial Engineering$57,700$94,70064.1%
#9Mechanical Engineering$57,900$93,60061.7%
#10Math$45,400$92,400103.5%
#11Physician Assistant$74,300$91,70023.4%
#12Civil Engineering$53,900$90,50067.9%
#13Construction$53,700$88,90065.5%
#14Finance$47,900$88,30084.3%
#15Management Information Systems (MIS)$49,200$82,30067.3%
#16Philosophy$39,900$81,200103.5%
#17International Relations$40,900$80,90097.8%
#18Chemistry$42,600$79,90087.6%
#19Marketing$40,800$79,60095.1%
#20Geology$43,500$79,50082.8%
#21Political Science$40,800$78,20091.7%
#22Accounting$46,000$77,10067.6%
#23Architecture$41,600$76,80084.6%
#24Information Technology (IT)$49,100$74,80052.3%
#25Business Management$43,000$72,10067.7%
#26Agriculture$42,600$71,90068.8%
#27History$39,200$71,00081.1%
#28Communications$38,100$70,00083.7%
#29Film$37,900$68,50080.7%
#30Nursing$54,200$67,00023.6%
#31Journalism$35,600$66,70087.4%
#32Geography$41,200$65,50059.0%
#33Art History$35,800$64,90081.3%
#34Biology$38,800$64,80067.0%
#35English$38,000$64,70070.3%
#36Forestry$39,100$62,60060.1%
#37Anthropology$36,800$61,50067.1%
#38Health Care Administration$38,800$60,60056.2%
#39Psychology$35,900$60,40068.2%
#40Graphic Design$35,700$59,80067.5%
#41Sociology$36,500$58,20059.5%
#42Hospitality & Tourism$37,800$57,50052.1%
#43Drama$35,900$56,90058.5%
#44Criminal Justice$35,000$56,30060.9%
#45Nutrition$39,900$55,30038.6%
#46Music$35,900$55,00053.2%
#47Interior Design$36,100$53,20047.4%
#48Spanish$34,000$53,10056.2%
#49Education$34,900$52,00049.0%
#50Religion$34,100$52,00052.5%

Based on this data, there are a few interesting things to point out.

The top earning specialization out of college is for Physician Assistants, with a median starting salary of $74,300. The downside of this degree is that earning potential levels out quickly, only showing a 23.4% increase in earning power 10 years in.

In contrast, the biggest increases in earning power go to Math, Philosophy, Economics, Marketing, Physics, Political Science, and International Relations majors. All these degrees see a 90% or higher increase from median starting salary to median mid-career salary.

In absolute terms, the majors that saw the highest median mid-career salaries were all along the engineering spectrum: chemical engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and aerospace engineering all came in above $100,000. They also generally had very high starting salaries.

As a final note, it’s important to recognize that this data does not necessarily correlate to today’s degrees or job market. The data set is based on people that graduated at least a decade ago – and therefore, it does not necessarily represent what grads may experience as they are starting their careers today.

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Data Visualization

Visualizing Internet Suppression Around the World

Freedom of speech on the internet has been on decline for eight consecutive years. We visualize the death spiral to show who limits speech the most.

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Visualizing Internet Suppression Around the World

View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here

When people think of freedom, they often think it in the physical sense, such as the ability to act and behave in certain ways without fear of punishment, or freedom of movement within one’s country.

When a nation chooses to restrict freedom in the physical world, the results are often hard to ignore. Protests are met with tear gas and rubber bullets. Road checks pop up along transportation routes. Journalists are detained.

In the digital world, creeping control often appears in more subtle ways. Personal data is accessed without us knowing, and swarms of suspiciously like-minded accounts begin to overwhelm meaningful conversations on social media platforms.

The Freedom on the Net Report, by Freedom House, breaks internet suppression down into a number of elements, from content filtering to detention of online publishers. Here’s how a number of countries around the world stack up:

internet freedom by country

According to the report, internet freedom around the world has been falling steadily for eight consecutive years. Today’s graphic is an international look at the state of internet freedom.

First World Problems

At its best, the internet allows us to seek out information and make choices free from coercion or hidden manipulation. Even in countries with relatively open access to information this is becoming increasingly difficult.

In Western countries, internet suppression often rears its head in the form of misinformation and excessive data collection. The Cambridge Analytica scandal was a potent example of how the vast amounts of data collected by platforms and third parties can be used to manipulate public opinion.

The backlash to this data collection by tech companies also produced one of the most promising developments in the past year – the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While the regulations are not applicable to government and military entities, it does create a pathway to increased transparency and accountability for companies collecting user data.

Control Creep

Around one-third of the people in the world live in countries that are considered “partly free”.

For most users, access to online information may not look too different from the internet experience in Iceland or Estonia, but there are creeping controls in specific areas.

In Turkey, Wikipedia was blocked and social media companies were compelled to censor political commentary. The country had one of the largest declines in internet freedom in recent years.

In Nigeria, data localization requirements have been enacted. This follows the lead of places like China and Vietnam, where servers must be located within the country for “the inspection, storage, and provision of information at the request of competent state management agencies.”

Access Denied

For many people around the world – particularly in Asia – accessing information online is a fundamentally different experience. Content published by an individual can be monitored and censored, and online activity that would be considered benign in Western countries can result in severe real-world consequences such as imprisonment or death.

As today’s data visualization vividly illustrates, China has by far the most restricted internet of the 65 countries covered in the report.

Network operators in the country are obligated to store all user data within the country (which can be accessed by governmental bodies), and are required to immediately stop the transmission of “banned content”. The country is also further cracking down the use of VPNs, which are used to circumvent China’s Great Firewall.

Of course, China is not alone in the desire to implement tight controls over online access. Many places, from Vietnam to Ethiopia, are eager to embrace the “China Model”. The country, which is aggressively ramping up its influence around globe, is more than happy expand its influence through exporting models of governance to new technologies, such as facial recognition.

Meanwhile, in Russia, the popular messaging app, Telegram, was blocked due to its refusal to allow the country’s security service access to encrypted data. This example highlights a growing dilemma faced by tech companies operating internationally – acquiesce to government demands, or lose access to huge markets.

A Tale of Two Internets

Today, there are two prodominant flavors of internet on the menu – the Silicon Valley offering dominated by major tech companies, and the top-down, state-controlled version being spread in earnest by Beijing. It would be a mistake to believe that the former is the clear choice for jurisdictions around the world.

In many countries in Africa, communications infrastructure is still being built out, so assistance from Chinese companies is accepted with open arms.

Our Chinese friends have managed to block such media in their country and replaced them with their homegrown sites that are safe, constructive, and popular.

– Edwin Ngonyani, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of Works, Transport and Communication

Even though the internet is now three decades old, its form is still evolving. It remains to be seen whether the divergence between free and not free jurisdictions continues to grow.

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Data Visualization

Assembling the World Country-by-Country, Based on Economy Size

How does the world map change if it gets assembled based on the size of economies, in ascending order of GDP or GDP per capita?

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If you had to sketch a world map, you’d probably start with a place that is familiar.

Perhaps you would begin by drawing your own continent, or maybe you’d focus on the specific borders of the country you live in. Then, you’d likely move to drawing the outlines of neighboring countries, eventually working your way to far and distant lands.

This would be a logical way for anyone to think about such a task, and it gives some insight as to how humans think about the world.

We start with what’s familiar, and build it out until it’s a complete picture.

Assembling the World by Economy Size

What if we assembled a world map in a completely different order?

Today’s two animations come to us from Engaging-Data, and they approach the world map from an alternate angle: assembling countries on the map in the order of their economic footprints.

GDP (Nominal)

The first map, shown below, uses nominal GDP to assemble countries in ascending order:

Country GDP

This version of the map shows the smallest economies first, with the larger economies at the end.

For this reason, the first economies appearing on the map tend to be developing nations, or nations with smaller geographical or demographic footprints.

For example, even though the Falkland Islands are wealthy on a per capita basis, the British Overseas Territory has fewer than 4,000 people, which gives it a minor footprint on a global stage.

GDP per Capita (Nominal)

Now, let’s take a look at the same map, constructed in order of GDP per capita:

Country GDP per Capita

This animation is more cohesive, given that it is not dependent on population size. Instead the order here is based on economic output (in nominal terms) of the average person in each country or jurisdiction.

In this case, developing nations appear first – and at the end, more developed regions (like Europe and North America) tend to fill out.

Note: All rankings here are in nominal terms, which use market rates to calculate comparable values in U.S. dollars, while omitting the cost of living as a factor. GDP rankings change significantly when using PPP rates.

Other Ways to Assemble the World

While assembling nations based on GDP provides an interesting way to look at the world, this same approach can be tried by applying other statistics as well.

We recommend checking out this page, which allows you to “assemble the world” based on measures like population density, life expectancy, or population.

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