How to Pick a Major With Great Earning Potential


Not all college degrees are created equal. If you're thinking of going to school, read this before you choose what to study.

By Chris Kyle

The value of majoring in subjects like Latin or English is part of an ongoing debate.

But it seems to be that career-focused degrees tend to lead to higher earning potential.

For example, a finance degree is associated with an average mid-career salary of $91,500, according to PayScale's 2010-2011 College Salary Report. That's over 50 percent higher than a fine arts degree ($60,300).

[Search for Finance degree programs]

Apples and oranges, you might say. And we agree. It's when you start comparing more similar subjects that the results get more interesting.

Before you choose what to study, take a look at these related degrees and their different potential average salaries...

If you're interested in English, study Marketing.

English isn't the only area of study that makes use of reading and writing. Marketing, for example, also explores how words can sway, influence, and move us. When it comes to selling products and ideas to the masses, word choice is a key part of the marketing process.

Why not put yourself into a position for high earning potential and a career you love?

Average Salaries:*
Marketing degree: $77,300
English degree: $67,500

Marketing Careers and Average Salaries:*
Market Research Analysts: $61,070
Marketing Managers: $97,260

[Find the right Marketing degree program for you]

If you're interested in History, study Economics.

Try as we might, we can't escape our past, which is one reason why people are drawn to studying history. But by studying economics, history buffs could get their fix by studying the economic theories and thinkers that have influenced past and present. A career in business and finance could follow.

The average earning potential for econ majors doesn't hurt either. [Find Business schools and degrees now]

Average Salaries:*
Economics degree: $97,800
History degree: $73,000

Economics Careers and Average Salaries:*
Financial Analyst: $73,150
Financial Managers: $99,330

If you're interested in Art, study Graphic Design.

Graphic design degree programs are more career-focused than art programs. When studying graphic design, you'll get to draw upon your real love for art by turning it into a valuable, transferable skill.

Advertisers and computer design firms are two big reasons why graphic designers are in demand, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Average Salaries:*
Graphic Design degree: $56,800
Art degree: $54,800

Graphic Design Careers and Average Salaries:*
Graphic Designers: $42,400
Advertising Managers: $80,220

[Find a Graphic Design degree school near you]

If you're interested in Sociology, study Paralegal Studies.

Sociology, a social science, is the study of society and could lead to a rewarding career in journalism, social work, or education, among others. But if money and security are primary concerns, you may be better served by studying a more specific area like paralegal studies, where you would likely study the law's effect upon society and prepare for a specific career track.

While job opportunities for reporters are expected to decline through 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor sees a 28 percent jump in paralegal job openings from 2008-2018.

Average Salaries and Average Salaries:*
Paralegal degree: $51,300

Law/Paralegal Careers:*
Paralegals: $46,120
Court Reporters: $49,710

[Search for Paralegal schools near you]

If you're interested in Philosophy, study Criminal Justice.

Debating questions of right and wrong are a large part of philosophy's appeal. Did you know that similarly intellectually-stimulating principles are often at the heart of criminal justice degree programs?

Much faster than average job growth is expected for private detectives through 2018, according to the Department of Labor, which cites the study of criminal justice as a common way to start a career.

Average Salaries:*
Criminal Justice degree: $58,000

Criminal Justice Careers and Average Salaries:*
Police Officers: $51,410
Police Supervisors: $75,490

[Find the right Criminal Justice degree program for you]

If you're interested in Theater, study Communications.

Actors and directors are all-too-familiar with the hard work, long hours, and low pay their careers often require. When compared to a niche major like theater, it's easy to see how a communications degree could have a broader application and a higher earning potential. No matter your career, the ability to communicate is likely going to be paramount. The earning potential of communications grads reflects that.

Average Salaries:*
Communications degree: $72,200
Theater degree: $59,600

Communications Careers and Average Salaries:*
PR Specialists: $51,280
PR Managers: $89,430

[Search for Communications degree programs]

*Unless otherwise noted all salary information for degrees comes from PayScale's 2010-2011 College Salary Report that details average earnings in mid-career for graduates with a bachelor's and no higher. Salary information for careers reflects average annual earnings for 2008 from the U.S. Department of Labor.

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