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College majors with the highest starting salaries

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College students pick their major for any number of reasons -- interest in a particular field of study, ability to get a job post-graduation, amount of education or training needed and more. Another factor students often consider is how much they might earn once they enter the workforce. While it’s hard to imagine that any student would actively seek a low-paying major, some students may weigh salary more heavily than others when deciding on a degree.

According to the most recent salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average starting salary for a Class of 2012 graduate is $44,442. To break it down further, here’s a list of the highest-paying bachelor’s degrees within common academic disciplines. Also included is the percent change in starting salaries from the Class of 2011 to the Class of 2012, along with examples of occupations that graduates within each major might pursue.

BUSINESS

Highest-paying academic major: Economics (business/managerial)
Median starting salary: $54,800
Percent increase from 2011: 5.6
Example occupations: Financial manager, accountant/auditor, management analyst

COMMUNICATIONS

Highest-paying academic major: Advertising
Median starting salary: $44,700
Percent increase from 2011: 2.5
Example occupations: Author, public-relations specialist, advertising or promotions manager

COMPUTER SCIENCES

Highest-paying academic major: Computer science
Median starting salary: $58,300
Percent increase from 2011: 4.3
Example occupations: Postsecondary teacher, computer programmer, computer support specialist

EDUCATION

Highest-paying academic major: Special education
Median starting salary: $42,200
Percent increase from 2011: 2.2
Example occupations: Special education teacher, elementary or middle-school teacher

ENGINEERING

Highest-paying academic major: Computer engineering
Median starting salary: $67,800
Percent increase from 2011: 0.6
Example occupation: Computer software engineer

HEALTH SCIENCES

Highest-paying academic major: Nursing
Median starting salary: $48,400
Percent increase from 2011: 0.6
Example occupation: Registered nurse

HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES

Highest-paying academic major: Political science/government
Median starting salary: $38,400
Percent increase from 2011: 1.3
Example occupations: Social worker, paralegal or legal assistant, labor-relations specialist

SCIENCES
Highest-paying academic major: Construction science/management
Median starting salary: $54,700
Percent increase from 2011: 1.9
Example occupations: Construction manager, civil engineer

All data/information from the NACE April 2012 Salary Survey. Only certain starting salaries were available at the time the survey was conducted, so not all majors were factored into the starting salary comparisons.

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