Does Your College Major Matter?

Does Your Major Matter?

The right college major could yield great earning potential.

By Chris Kyle

Are you thinking about going back to school and wondering what to study?

In its summer 2010 salary survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that average starting salaries for grads with majors like accounting, health science, and business were often $10,000-$15,000 higher than salaries for liberal arts grads with degrees in history, English, psychology, and related fields.

Here's a rundown of the degrees that we found could perform in today's marketplace.

#1 - Accounting Degree

Add the word "wanted" to the list of adjectives you might use to describe accounting majors. According to NACE, accounting firms made the most job offers to bachelor's degree grads in 2010.

Major upside: Accounting giants PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young told Business Week that they expect to increase their hiring in 2011, a positive sign for a profession that the U.S. Department of Labor expects to grow at much faster than average rate through 2018.

Average starting salary: $48,691*

Search for Accounting degree programs now.

#2 - Health Sciences Degree

Human resource professionals identified health care graduates as the most likely degree holders to find employment, according to a 2010 poll by consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Major upside: Ten of the 20 fastest growing careers are in health care, according to the Department of Labor, which forecasts 3.2 million new positions between 2008 and 2018.

Average starting salary: $38,300*

Find Health Care schools and degree programs now.

#3 - Business Administration Degree

Business administration majors can potentially profit from a broad-based business education, with transferable skills to almost any industry. Another benefit is that a business administration degree could help prepare you to work for a big or small company - or even start your own.

Major upside: Class of 2010 business administration grads trail only health care majors when it comes to the odds of finding gigs, according to the Challenger survey.

Average starting salary: $43,879*

Search for Business schools offering Business Administration degree programs now.

#4 - Information Sciences Degree

At a time when the average starting salary offer to the class of 2010 is down 1.3 percent from 2009, information sciences majors enjoyed a whopping 5.7 percent increase, according to the NACE Survey. Not bad for a recession, eh?

Major upside: Information sciences majors could profit from a surge in information technology (IT) employment in the second quarter of 2010, which is up an impressive 5 percent, according to the Department of Labor.

Average starting salary: $55,084*

Search for Information Sciences degree programs.

#5 - Finance Degree

Unlike most majors in these troubled economic times, finance majors enjoyed a slight uptick in average earning potential in 2010, according to NACE, with a nearly one percent bump.

Major upside: Getting a degree in finance can help open up doors in the world of business. Other potential career paths: personal wealth management or consulting.

Average starting salary: $50,356*

Search for local and online Finance degrees.

#6 - Engineering Degree

If money talks, engineering graduates must be awfully chatty these days. According to a July 2010 salary report from, petroleum engineering was the best paying bachelor's degree, with an average starting salary of $93,000. Next on the list is chemical engineering, with a starting salary of $64,800, followed by nuclear engineering at $63,900.

Major upside: NACE reports that engineering graduates continue to see significant annual salary increases, even in a recessionary economy.

Average starting salary: $58,970*

Search for top-rated bachelor's degrees now.

#7 - Computer Science Degree

Carnegie Mellon University is pumping $7 million into an effort to get more people to major in computer science due to a nationwide decline in computer science grads. That loss represents a unique potential gain in career opportunities for grads with a computer science degree.

Major upside: Rapid growth in computer technology and software is creating excellent career prospects for computer scientists, according to the Department of Labor. Employment opportunities are expected to surge 24 percent through 2018.

Average starting salary: $61,112*

Find local and online Computer Science and Technology programs.

#8 - Marketing Degree

Marketing graduates are three times more likely to get hired than communications and journalism grads, according to the 2010 Challenger survey of HR professionals.

Major upside: A bachelor's degree in marketing can help prepare you to pursue work market research analyst opportunities. The Department of Labor says the position is experiencing a 28 percent surge in job opportunities between now and 2018.

Average starting salary: $38,600*

Search for Marketing degrees now.

*All salary data comes from NACE's Summer 2010 Salary Survey, which is based on more than 9,000 job offers to the class of 2010 at 108 U.S. colleges and universities, except the salaries for engineering, health sciences, and marketing majors, which come from Payscale's 2010-2011 College Salary Report.

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