Over the past few years, we have collectively turned a good amount of our attention to the 1%. Though reports vary, the 1% is comprised of people making at least $400,000 per year. One might be born into the 1%, through an inheritance, or membership in the 1% might be achieved through post-secondary education. Here, we're looking at the education route. In other words, these are the majors you should choose if you want to become part of the top 1% of earners.

Of course, we should mention that one's income is influenced by more than just one's major in college. The industry an individual chooses to go into, the careers they pursue, and their ability to adapt on the fly, learn new skills and take on new responsibilities are all central to one's compensation. 

Nevertheless, these majors offer a promising start. According to The Hamilton Project, these majors see the highest median lifetime earnings.


Erez Kalir: Inside Track

The Best Chance to Become a Member of the 1%


Yes, engineering is a broad discipline, with a lot of applications. Nevertheless, whether its chemical, aerospace, energy and extraction (petroleum), computer, electrical, mechanical, civil, or industrial manufacturing, you are likely to be well compensated for your work, relative to your peers with other degrees. In fact, in the order they are listed above, those eight types of manufacturing, in that order, have the highest median lifetime earnings of any given major. This spans from roughly $2.2 million, for chemical engineering, to roughly $1.7 million, for industrial engineering. According to CNBC, median annual earnings for the major span from $87,000-$136,000. 

Computer Science 

According to the Hamilton Project, median career earnings for an individual with a bachelor's degree in Computer Science are about $1.6-1.7 million. According to PayScale, the median annual earnings for an individual with a BS in Computer Science is $82,000. 

Health and Medical Prep

This includes degrees in pharmaceutical sciences and administration, as well as medical preparatory degrees, like biology or pre-med, depending on what an individual chooses to pursue with the degree. A degree in pharmaceutical sciences and administration will land you a median salary of $113,000. According to PayScale, the median salary for an MD is $204,000. Of course, this does not account for the cost, both in time and money, of medical school, nor the cost of malpractice insurance

Finance and Economics

Holders of these degrees will largely be employed by financial firms, consulting firms, insurance firms and the government. Finance majors stand to earn up to $1.6 million in their careers, at the median of wage-earners holding the degree. Those with a BA in Economics do OK, but those with an MBA in Finance and Economics do far better, earning roughly $100,000/year, according to PayScale.

The Bottom Line

So, there you have it. Some degrees offer better chances for becoming a top earner. Many of these degrees have a few common characteristics: the cost of education, specialization of the knowledge and the ability to pursue professional designations. The ability to pursue a post-secondary education helps to guide students into the 1% by providing many different opportunities in highly-skilled work. However, remember, a major isn't everything, and it certainly isn't fate. Graduates should focus on selling practical skills along with their degrees, rather than