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Ididio Explores
Which majors most reliably lead to high-paying jobs?

We share the percentage of majors who earned graduate degrees, as well as the percentage in careers with salaries above the typical college graduate’s salary.


We could measure the financial value of a major using the frequency with which a major leads to high-paying jobs. Let’s look, major by major, at the percentage of graduates who are in jobs that typically pay more than the median (middle) salary for all bachelor’s graduates, and let’s balance that with a look at how many of those majors earned a graduate degree as part of their career progression.


In the charts below, we compare these two metrics for all majors, showing the percentage of majors with an additional graduate degree versus the percentage of majors working in fields with salaries that are above the median for all workers. Major fields that are high dots to the left have the highest percentage of graduates with above-median salaries without earning graduate degrees, while the top-right are high earners with graduate degrees.

Degrees with a higher percentageof workers earning more than the medianare placed higher in the chart.Size indicates the relative number ofworkers with just a bachelor's degree.Degrees with a higher percentage of workerswith a graduate degree are further right.0%20%40%60%80%100%Percentage of workers with a graduate degree0%20%40%60%80%100%Percentage of workers earning above median salary
Hover over a degree (dot) to see the details for that degree. Use the checkboxes below to change the comparisons.
Compare to salaries of All workers
The default is to compare with the salaries of people with a bachelor's degree
Compare to only younger workers
Comparing with workers under 35 can give you insight into how this degree will help you early in your career
Business
0%50%100%0%50%100%
Career
0%50%100%0%50%100%
Community Services
0%50%100%0%50%100%
Education
0%50%100%0%50%100%
Engineering/Design
0%50%100%0%50%100%
Health Support
0%50%100%0%50%100%
Healthcare
0%50%100%0%50%100%
Humanities
0%50%100%0%50%100%
Legal Studies
0%50%100%0%50%100%
Quantitative/Technology
0%50%100%0%50%100%
Sciences
0%50%100%0%50%100%
Social Sciences
0%50%100%0%50%100%
SOURCES:
2017 ACS microdata

Each chart shows a broad field of study, and each dot is a major under that field, with the dot size indicating 2018 bachelor’s completions. In the light green Healthcare chart, the largest dot is the nursing major, which has a very high percentage of workers with above-median salary (the dot is near the top of the chart) and also has most workers staying at the bachelor’s level (the dot is closer to the left). This is a perfect example of a degree that pays well with only a bachelor’s.


That being said, not everyone with a particular degree is going into the same career. We took this exploration a step further and created a visualization to see where most graduates are working, and how that affects their salaries. The following “sankey” diagram illustrates the careers where people with a degree in nursing are working. The wider the link, the higher the percentage of people in that career. Any career shown in green pays above the median salary for people with a bachelor’s, and those in gray pay below that median. Let’s walk through careers for nursing majors as an example.

Where are people with a degree in nursing working?
NursingRegistered nursesMedical and health servic...Miscellaneous managersSocial work specialistsClinical laboratory techn...Other careers paying at l...Nursing assistantsElementary and middle sch...Licensed practical and li...Personal care aidesOther careers paying belo...People with this degreeWork in these careers
SOURCES:
2017 ACS microdata
Percentage of workers in careers earning above the median
89%
Percentage who completed a graduate degree
26%

Unsurprisingly, most of the chart is green as 75% of workers with a degree in nursing work as registered nurses a relatively high paying career. For a major like nursing, the salary outlook is very good, but that is not always the case.

There is much more to see

The following interactive charts let you explore – take a look at the many other jobs that people with a bachelor’s degree have taken. The drop-down menu lets you select one of the broad fields of study for a closer look, and clicking on one of the dots will show you the detailed breakdown of that specific degree. If any strike your interest, the bars on the right of the sankey chart will take you to detailed career pages. Have fun exploring!

Explore how degrees pay
Select a degree (dot) to see where the graduates are working
0%20%40%60%80%100%Percentage of workers who completed a graduate degree0%20%40%60%80%100%Percentage of workers earning above median salary
View this broad program area
Business
Compare to salaries of All workers
The default is to compare with the salaries of people with a bachelor's degree
Compare to only younger workers
Comparing with workers under 35 can give you insight into how this degree will help you early in your career
View this degree
Business Management and Administration
Business Management and AdministrationMiscellaneous managersAccountants and auditorsFinancial managersWholesale and manufacturi...First-line supervisors of...Human resources workersChief executives and legi...General and operations ma...First-line supervisors of...Management analystsService sales representat...Sales managersReal estate brokers and s...Project management specia...Insurance sales agentsHuman resources managersComputer and information ...Personal financial adviso...Other careers paying at l...First-line supervisors of...Customer service represen...Secretaries and administr...Retail salespersonsElementary and middle sch...Other careers paying belo...People with this degreeWork in these careers
SOURCES:
2017 ACS microdata
Percentage of workers in careers earning above the median
65%
Percentage who completed a graduate degree
23%

Methodology
We created degree and career details by aggregating the person-level data from the American Community Survey 5 year household data from the US Census Bureau.
To determine salaries for bachelor’s-only workers in this study we required the following of the person-level records: education at a bachelor’s and not graduate level, age 65 or younger, and weekly work hours of 35 or higher.
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