Take note, college students: If you want to land an impressive starting salary as a new graduate, here’s the major you should choose.

Want to be sure you land an awesome starting salary right out of college? Major in engineering.

Of the top 10 best-paying college majors, seven are in areas of engineering, according to a report issued recently by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). (Click here to tweet this thought.)

Petroleum engineering is the top-paying undergraduate major, with 2013 grads earning an average starting salary of $97,000 — nearly $27,000 higher than the average starting salary for the runner-up, computer engineering. Other engineering disciplines that made the list include chemical engineering, aerospace/aeronautical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical and communications engineering, and engineering technology.

Surprised by these results? Neither were the report’s authors. “There is a great deal of competition among employers for engineering majors,” said NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes.

But what if you’ve already graduated, and you’re not an engineer?

If engineering was never an option you considered (read: you’d rather stick a fork in your eye than take physics), check out the non-engineering majors that made the list: computer science, whose majors start at an average salary of nearly $65,000, as well as management information systems/business and logistics/materials management.

Here’s the full list:


Top-Paid Majors for Class of 2013 Bachelor’s Degree Graduates


Average Starting Salary

Petroleum Engineering


Computer Engineering


Chemical Engineering


Computer Science


Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


Electrical/Electronics and Communications Engineering


Engineering Technology


Management Information Systems/Business


Logistics/Materials Management





NACE’s Salary Survey includes final figures of starting salaries — not offers — for class of 2013 bachelor’s degree recipients, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau and a compensation measurement company called Job Search Intelligence.

If your major didn’t make the list, there’s still hope: The report also noted that the overall average starting salary for the class of 2013 is up 2.6 percent, to nearly $46,000. You could also check out the top-paying industry for 2013 grads, regardless of major: mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction.

Does this make you want to go into engineering?

Interested in learning engineering- and tech-related skills without earning another degree?

Check out free online courses from institutions like CalTech and Princeton on Coursera, or take a class from an industry expert through Udemy. Try Treehouse for Web design or development training, or Lynda and Skillshare for tutorials on any skill.

Did your major make the list? Share with us in the comments!

Heather van der Hoop is definitely not an engineer — she holds a B.A. in Psychology and Neuroscience — and is the Assistant Editor of The Write Life. When she isn’t freelance writing and editing, she can usually be found reading about the latest scientific advances and climbing rocks, mountains and trees.


  1. Samuel

    I don’t want to be lying that I wouldn’t look into engineering, but if I wasn’t doing what I am doing right now, this would by a huge option for me.

    Computer engineering would become a top choice for me in this field.

    But, I have a passion for something else right now, so I don’t think engineering would do well with me.

    Thanks for the article!

    – Sam

    • Heather

      Thanks for your comment, Sam! There are so many things to consider when choosing a career direction, and I think you’re right that it’s a good idea to follow your interests and passions. Those things can change, though — who knows, maybe in the future there’s a way to incorporate elements of computer engineering into your current work!

  2. jrandom421

    Let’s be blunt. Not every one is cut out to be an engineer. If you don’t have a a deep interest in math, science and creating tings, both real and virtual. you’ll never make it as an engineer, and never make ti through an undergraduate engineering curriculum.
    Anyone who gets into engineering for just the money will be ridiculed, mocked, shunned, and generally hammered as a fake, especially if you don’t have the requisite background in math, science, and engineering practices.

    • Guest

      Agreed, but if you have a deep interest in comparative literature or the sociology of Star Trek, you’ll never make it as anything but employee of the month at Burger King. It’s high time we gut the K-12 system and instill 21st-century STEM skills in our students rather than expecting them to “common core” irrelevant crap like Macbeth and musical theater. These arts majors need to get it through their thick skulls that the lights would go out on Broadway anyway if there were no electrical engineers to ensure that the grid didn’t fail. Or to quote the great pragmatic philosopher Judd Nelson, “without lamps, there’d be no LIGHT!”

      Tin Pan Alley, meet Silicon Valley. You asked for it, now Google is “someone to watch over you…”! Nice work if you can get it!

  3. Steve

    I am an Electrical Engineer by training and education but changed to work as an Electronic Technician. Don’t become an engineer for high salary. Do it because you an interest or passion for it.

    I switched to work as a technician because at my company once you hit a certain career level you have to become a manager or supervisor to progress on the salary scale.

    The technical work and playing with equipment is too much fun for me to become a manager so I switched. Weird enough I made more money as an Electronic Technician than engineer because I went from Salary to hourly in a union job.

    There are jobs such as plumbers, and electricians while not glamorous are needed in society and you get to take pride that they accomplished something each day which was really hard to say when you take a management role.

    As a manager you focus on time, scope , budget, managing resources, and dealing with company policy issues, and social issues with employees. This was not fun for me at all and your projects could take years to complete.

    • Guest

      “But, but… mommy said my stowy was speshul! And it had nice words that made me sound smart! And the pictures had pwetty cowors! And I made it myself, and mommy put it on the fwidgewator! Waaah, mommy, why does the electrician have more money than me? Why does he have better toys?”

      IBEW > SAG/WGA! That’s why!

  4. Guest

    Hm, no liberal farts majors made the list, I see. Probably because starting salary for English majors hovers around $8/hour, depending on how well you’re able to operate the Fryolator or hand out smiley stickers at Wal-Mart.

    Quoth Nelson from The Simpsons, “HA-HA!”

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