Highest Paid College Degrees

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Only a few days ago did I write my thoughts on low “return on investment” college degrees did the folks at CNN Money write (or update) an article on the highest paid degree holders coming out of college. The article says basically the same thing last year’s article said: engineers make the big bucks and they keep making it. There are, however, things in this article that they don’t mention that I think are worth thinking about.

The first thing that they should’ve looked into was the number of jobs available for those engineering degrees. Of course, for high-flying computer science majors the jobs are plentiful – but what about those aerospace engineers? I find it difficult to believe the number of aerospace engineering jobs come close to matching the number of mechanical engineering jobs.

Secondly, with inflation estimated at 3% a year (historically), five of the top seven jobs actually took a pay cut over the course of last year. Of the top seven, only aerospace engineers and industrial engineers saw their salaries increase faster than the cost of a soda (in theory).

Finally, take these studies with a grain of salt because when it’s on a national scale, it loses a bit of accuracy when you take into account cost of living differences, quality of educational institution differences, location of institution, and a whole host of other factors that will affect you specifically. It’s like when someone memorizes the probabilities in Roulette and soon learns that they work “in the long run” after dropping some money at the tables “in the short run.”

{ 2 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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2 Responses to “Highest Paid College Degrees”

  1. Khyron says:

    While all of that is true, supply and demand rules. While there may not be a lot of demand for the aerospace engineers generally (compared to MEs), the supply is still less and this relativism causes the going rate to go up. Same for any of the other professions listed. And while the national numbers may be off a bit, keep in mind that there are regional biases. The core of the aerospace engineering profession is going to be in southern California, Chicago (Boeing did relocate HQ there), Seattle (if Boeing still has building operations there), and places like the areas around Johnson and Kennedy Space Centers. You’re going to find wacky results measuring the demand and salary rates for aerospace engineers in Iowa and Utah but looking at it from the 30,000 foot view, the accuracy is generally there. (And generally, we know that the US doesn’t produce enough engineers, creating the supply issue in natural scienes and engineering which drives these rates up.)

    Finally, the real salary rates may be lower due to inflation, but EVERYONE’s real rate is lower due to inflation. Few “regular” jobs are going to show a real increase in salaries. But considering these rates and the opportunity for advancement and raises, people in these fields with these degrees have a better chance of showing that real increase than do people in other fields.

    Just a few thoughts.

  2. Anonymous says:


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