Highest-Paying college majors

Rachel Costahaude

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Some just know, some bite their fingernails thinking about it and for others, their parents choose it for them. For many college students, making the perfect choice for a major can be hard or frustrating, for senior Alexander Kuretski that decision was quite easy.

Kuretski’s passion for his chosen field initiated when he was first exposed to toy locomotives as a child.

With his wooden train set, he would “link them together and form these sets that would go out my room into the kitchen and back around,” said Kuretski. “I would come home and that’s all I would do.”

He decided to make something out of his hobby and selected mechanical engineering as his major.

“I asked my dad, ‘Instead of being the guy who works on the cars, how do I be the guy who makes the stuff that the guys work on?” Kuretski said.

His passion for Formula One race cars will allow him to bring home the big bucks, according to a recent study by PayScale, a salary data site, which names mechinal engeneering as one of the highest paying majors one could chose at the moment.

PayScale ranked the 13 highest-paying majors. Engineering of different kinds dominated the list while some math and science majors elbowed their way in to the list.

Overall, according to the study, technology is a common concentration in various avocations, thus furthering information technology and computer engineering as potential fields to look into as a college student.

“Everyone uses computers these days,” said Jack Alanen, CSUN professor of computer sciences. Logical thinking and “being able to live with the bugs and problems of getting computer systems running” is key in several high-paying fields, Alanen said.

Ranking highest on the list is petroleum engineering, as professionals well-versed in geophysics, petroleum geology and economics, on average rake in about $97,000 at the start of their career and average out $155,000 throughout their career. However, CSUN does not offer this major.

On the other hand, computer and electrical engineering ranked second and third on the list respectively, and are both offered at CSUN. Given that the student starts off by taking calculus, it is possible to graduate in four years. The investment in majoring in these areas turns into a hefty quantity of pay: both earn roughly $90,000 for starting pay and during a career earn an average of $109,000 and $103,000 respectively.

Dr. Ali Amini, professor and department chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering said, this field of work is perfect for those who like putting things together.

Electrical engineering, Amini said, is ideal for someone who likes to assemble and design technology such as the Mars Exploration Rovers, which are robots that are sent to Mars to gather information and photographic images in order to further research.

“It’s a very satisfying field. You never stop learning,” Amini said. Technology is constantly changing so “it keeps you on your toes. That’s the beauty of it.”

Materials science and engineering majors experienced a significant jump in pay over the last year from number 15 to number four. Median starting pay is roughly $60,000 and throughout a career the average is about $103,000.

Jia Zhang, materials engineering graduate student, aspires to use his engineering skills in the aviation industry.

“My dream was to be a pilot but my eyesight isn’t good enough,” Zhang said.

Physics breaks through the trend of engineering majors on the list by being “the most fundamental of all the sciences and the basis for all of engineering,” said physics and astronomy professor Say-Peng Lim.

Physics majors are the seventh highest-paid, earning roughly $50,000 at the start of their career and averaging $101,000 throughout their career.

“I think it’s because they are almost like engineers,” said Lim. “Their job description and duties are very similar to engineers that (a company) might hire.”

Bringing up the tail-end of the highest paying majors is mechanical engineering at No. 13. Starting pay averages at about $54,000 and moves up to average about $95,000 over the duration of a career.

As part of his senior design project, Kuretski worked with his peers to design and build a Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) race car. His ideal job after graduation would be a vehicle dynamics engineer for Formula One Motorsports.

With a passion for designing, building and eventually driving race cars, Kuretski has chosen a field in the cusp of his hobby.

“I knew that I needed to go to school to make the money to fund the hobby. That’s really the only reason why I’m here,” said Kuretski.

 

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