That College Major Aimed at Landing a High-Paying Job Might Not Land You Work After All

The 20 degrees with the highest early career pay have above-average unemployment rates

A woman in safety glasses performs a maintenance check on machinery in a factory.

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Recent graduates who chose majors in hopes of earning more money may not have the best job prospects, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The highest-paid jobs overwhelmingly go to people who majored in engineering, finance, and technology. Chemical engineering majors have the highest median wage early in their careers, pulling in $75,000 annually, the New York Fed found.

Those entering the workforce with a recession looming and student loan forgiveness in play might also be interested in the unemployment rate for workers with the same degree.

Of the 20 majors with the best entry-level pay, 13 had an unemployment rate higher than the fourth-quarter national average of 3.6%. Some, like computer engineering, were similar (3.7%), while engineering technologies and aerospace engineering had unemployment rates nearly double the average (7.1% and 6.6% respectively).

The unemployment rate for all workers has remained under 4% during 2022, but according to the New York Fed, recent graduates have a higher jobless rate in general. In the last quarter of 2022, 5.1% of recent graduates were unemployed. When compared to that measure, seven of the 20 top-paying majors were still unemployed at a higher level.

On the other end of the spectrum, nurses and those in construction services will have the easiest time finding jobs. Those fields have an unemployment rate of 1.3% and 1.4% respectively.

Here's how much recent grads can expect to make in the 20 highest-paying majors, according to the New York Fed's research.

Top 20 highest-paying majors for recent graduates
Major Annual Median Wage-Early Career
Chemical Engineering $75,000
Computer Engineering $74,000
Computer Science $73,000
Aerospace Engineering $72,000
Electrical Engineering $70,000
Industrial Engineering $70,000
Mechanical Engineering $70,000
Miscellaneous Engineering $68,000
Business Analytics $66,000
Civil Engineering $65,000
Engineering Technologies $62,000
Construction Services $60,000
Finance $60,000
Economics $60,000
General Engineering $60,000
Mathematics $59,000
Nursing $55,000
Pharmacy $55,000
Accounting $54,000
Information Systems & Management $54,000
Article Sources
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  1. Federal Reserve Bank of New York. "The Labor Market for Recent College Graduates."

  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey."

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