hatEconomic value of college education is a hot topic. It’s essential to choose a best college majors. While we all go to college hoping for a triple-digit paycheck, it’s definitely useful to check if your chosen best major pays to its promise. Using data from PayScale Salary report and an April 2014 report by National Association of Colleges and Employers, we compiled a list of best paying majors and worst college majors.

Economic value versus popularity: what should you choose?

Some top college majors are more popular than others. A report by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce states that in the United States, 25% of all students choose to major in Business, 10.6% go into Education, while 9.7% of all students major in Humanities. Least-popular majors are in Industrial Arts and Consumer Services (1.6%) and Agriculture and Natural Resources (1.6%). Interestingly, those least-paying majors offer median earnings of $50,000 for those with Bachelor’s degrees. A degree in Business would pay only $60,000 a year, so why bother? As IT turns out, top paying majors are not even popular because they are hard.

Here is our list of winners with corresponding salary potential (data comes from 2014 PayScale College Salary Report):list of winners

Now that you know that majoring in those areas literally guarantees you a neat paycheck, it’s useful to know what those top majors are all about. Here is a bit of insight into what each of them concentrates on:

  1. Mechanical Engineering(starting salary $60,900) is your old engineering: knowledge of physics applied to designing mechanical systems.
  2. Physics – with a starting salary of $53,100, physics is a study of the basic laws of the universe, understanding of matter as it travels through space and time.
  3. Computer Science offers a starting salary of $59,800, and focuses on studying the algorithms, computer graphics, system design, robotics, and software engineering. In fact, it’s a field that is all about acquiring and processing knowledge.
  4. Computer Engineering has a starting pay of $65,300, and, unlike Computer Science, concentrates on building the hardware part of knowledge storage and processing. In short, it’s all about building computers.
  5. Students who major in Electrical Engineering (starting salary $64,300) design electric power systems and electronic circuits. They are in high demand in any industry.
  6. If you major in Aerospace Engineering (starting salary $62,800), you will choose between designing and building aircraft that operates in the Earth’s atmosphere and designing spaceships.
  7. Students, who major in Chemical Engineering (starting salary of $68,200), end up either engineering chemical processes (that is, building plants and machinery) or engineering chemical products (that is, devising ways of converting various chemicals into useful products like cosmetics or food).
  8. Scary as it sounds, Nuclear Engineering with a starting salary of $67,700 is a field that revolves around constructing nuclear reactors, power plants and atomic bombs.
  9. Students who major in Actuarial Mathematics (starting pay $58,700) work for banks and insurance companies: they use mathematics and statistics to help these organizations minimize risks and maximize profits.
  10. A major in Petroleum Engineering not only promises a starting pay of $103,000 but also gets you to decide the future of our entire civilization that is dependent on oil. Students who major in petroleum engineering look for oil, minimize costs of its extraction, and actually work on reducing the environmental impact of oil recovery.

Clearly, studying Actuarial Mathematics or Aerospace Engineering can guarantee you four years of little sleep, pages of hard assignments, and months of un-attended parties. Best paying college majors are also nearly entirely dominated by males: 84% of engineering students are boys. Girls choose to go into Health (85% female), Education (77%), and Psychology and Social Work (74%). Those, in fact, end up to be the worst majors that are unlikely to bring wealth to its holders.

Worst-paying majors: does money even matter?

Most popular majors may not be top paying college majors. Our list of least-paying majors&worst college degrees looks like this:

So, what do people do with those majors and why don’t they choose highest paid majors?

  1. A degree in Child and Family Studies (starting salary of $30,300) can take you to a career in social services (how about administering a child gym in your local YMCA?) or mental health counseling.
  2. If you choose to major in Culinary Arts (starting salary $34,800), you can be a bar tender (do you really need to get best majors in college to do that?) or a restaurant chef that actually is a restaurant’s head of staff.
  3. A major in Exercise Science with a starting pay of $32,600 can take you to become a fitness coach, a dietician, or a spa manager. You can even develop your own rehabilitation program and create your own version of the Paleo Diet.
  4. A major in Horticulture (starting pay of $35,300) will take you outdoors a lot. Oh, you can also become a golf course manager or even get your own greenhouse.
  5. If you choose to major in Biblical Studies (starting salary of $35,400), you can either go on teaching the Bible or become a pastor. The latter will happen only if you go into grad school.
  6. Special Education majors (starting pay $33,800) dedicate their lives to teaching kids with disabilities, helping children with autism, or emotional disorders.
  7. A Human Development major with a starting salary of $35,900, like any other liberal arts major, equips you with a broad set of skills. You can work in a nursing home or a mental health center, or even teach preschool.
  8. Athletic Training major (starting salary $34,800) can get you a career of an athletic healthcare professional in the military or performing arts.
  9. Social Work major with a starting salary of $33,000 is definitely the tool to make the world a better place: you can work in the ER, a juvenile detention center, be a guidance counselor at school, or specialize in child protection.
  10. A major in Elementary Education supposedly offers a starting salary of $32,200 and can help you get a teaching career, become a librarian, or even develop curricula for the school systems.