The 5 Highest Paying College Degrees in 2015

More and more people are earning college degrees. As of 2011, close to one out of every three people over 25 held a bachelor’s degree, according to a U.S. Census Bureau release. “As recently as 1998, fewer than one-quarter of people this age had this level of education.”

Because more of us are college-educated, this makes it so that “just any” degree will not necessarily suffice for some people anymore. People are starting to see that if they’re going to invest all of that hard-earned money, not to mention time and energy, into obtaining a degree, it should be into one that will likely lead to ample job opportunities and higher earnings power.

The Census Bureau reports that a bachelor’s degree holder typically earns $2.4 million over his or her lifetime. Some degrees, like those in education, typically result in lower lifetime earnings than this benchmark. Other degrees, however, generally allow graduates to earn more than this lifetime benchmark.

This year’s 2015 graduates will earn a variety of different degrees, ranging from the old favorites like business, to degrees like biomedical engineering and software design, which have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Using Census data, coupled with an employer survey analysis by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), we’ve made a list of college majors that will likely lead to the highest earnings for 2015 grads.

Students pick up their mortarboards after the offical hat throwing photograph at the University of Birmingham on July 14, 2009 in Birmingham, England. Over 5000 graduates will be donning their robes this week to collect their degrees from The University of Birmingham. A recent survey suggested that there are 48 graduates competing for every job. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

1. Engineering

  • 2015 projected average starting salary: $62,998
  • Average lifetime earnings of $3.4 million

You may be tired of hearing about how engineering is one of the “best college majors” or “most profitable college majors.” But the reason you see engineering on so many of these lists is because the data lead right to it. On average, engineering majors earn $3.5 million over the course of their lifetime, which is more than any other college major. This year is expected to be no different, as NACE estimates the average salary of 2015 engineering grads at just under $63,000.

When it comes to specific disciplines within the engineering field, petroleum engineers are expected to have the highest starting salaries in 2015. NACE estimates that the average grad could pull in a cool $80,000.