College Values Online presents our ranking of the best value college majors for 2017-2018. Choosing a college major is a very personal thing. Everybody has an opinion. The purpose of this ranking of the best value college majors is not to tell you what you should major in. Instead we seek to provide you with information so you can make the best decision for you. Ultimately the best value college major is one that will allow you to support yourself and be fulfilled in your work. That being said, when it comes to monetary value, not all college majors are created equal. The high paying jobs available to graduates of the following programs more often than not only require a bachelor’s degree. Being able to start your career without pursuing a higher level degree immediately adds years of earning and value. They all have high starting pay, and are the highest paying jobs regarding median salary that you can hold with just an undergraduate degree. We hope this ranking of the best value college majors will help you make an informed decision about college. Information on our ranking methodology and sources is available at the end of the article. The job statistics for each college major were pulled from the high value jobs available to holders of that degree requiring only a bachelor’s.

#15. Communications with Public Relations Minor

Rating: 8

Public relations and fundraising managers play an important role in both political and non-profit spheres. And public relations managers in general are an essential part of any large company or corporation. While historically it was common to require a business degree for this position, more and more companies are looking for communications specialists as public relations has become much more complicated with the advancement of communication technology.

Flexibility: High
Starting Pay Range: $51,770
Median Salary: $107,320
Job Growth Rate: 7%

#14. Environmental Engineering

Rating: 8

Environmental engineering is one of the fastest growing engineering fields and is highly flexible. Environmental engineers are essential for environmental investigations, design projects designed to be environmentally beneficial, and inspecting industrial and municipal facilities and projects for the purpose of ensuring compliance with environmental regulations.

Flexibility: High
Starting Pay Range: $57,795
Median Salary: $84,890
Job Growth Rate: 12%

#13. Geological and Mining Engineering

Rating: 8

This is a highly focused major which leads primarily to jobs in mining. Geological and mining engineers design open-pit and underground mines, monitor mine production, and ensure the safety of the mining operation;  they also develop strategies for land reclamation and the mitigation of water and air pollution related to the process of mining.

Flexibility: Low
Starting Pay Range: $60,023
Median Salary: $107,880
Job Growth: 6%

#12. Actuarial Mathematics

Rating: 10

Actuarial mathematics degrees are highly focused on preparing students for the rigorous process of becoming an actuary. Actuaries assess risk across many industries, but the insurance industry is one that relies heavily on risk assessment to set premiums. There is incredible job growth in the actuarial field, which is both lucrative and can be entered with just a bachelor’s degree. Do not be fooled though, the test-taking and certification process required to become an actuary is quite rigorous and can take up to six years to complete the process (though earning the certification can be started while you are still an undergraduate).

Flexibility: Low
Starting Pay Range: $63,513
Median Salary: $100,610
Job Growth Rate: 18%

#11. Chemical Engineering

Rating: 10

While the job growth rate for chemical engineers is slower than average, it is a very flexible degree. Chemical engineers work in fields like pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, biotechnology, healthcare, and environmental health and safety, to name just a few. Chemical engineers are especially essential in the manufacturing process developing health and safety policy, designing equipment layout, and performing a wide variety of other important functions.

Flexibility: 3
Starting Pay: $67,982
Median Salary: $103,960
Job Growth: 2%

#10. Aerospace Engineering

Rating: 11

The field of aerospace engineering is currently experiencing some negative job growth. It’s one of the highest paying industries. Another benefit of an aerospace engineering degree is that it opens up the option to become a commercial pilot, which both pays well and is a field with positive job growth. So whether you want to fly or work in design, this degree can be very rewarding and quite flexible. Private space exploration companies like SpaceX are growing. As these companies grow, the negative job growth in design, research and development will reverse.

Flexibility: High
Starting Pay Range: $58,126-$71,966
Median Salary: $105,720-$109-650
Job Growth Rate: -2%-5%

#9. Computer Hardware Engineering

Rating: 11

Computer hardware engineers are the pioneers that drive the computing industry forward. The systems they design and implement unlock new possibilities in software development. From systems design to network architecture design, and with the ability to cross over into software design and development and information systems management, this is a lucrative field with lots of flexibility.

Flexibility: High
Starting Pay: $68,632
Median Salary: $115,080
Job Growth: 3%

#8. Mathematics

Rating: 12

A bachelor’s degree in mathematics can lead to a wide variety of jobs. From actuary to various analyst positions for mathematicians (especially applied mathematics), these roles are in high demand. They work in consulting, government research labs, finance, computer information and software firms, electronics manufacturers, and communications companies.

Flexibility: Medium
Starting Pay Range: $63,144
Median Salary: $105,810
Job Growth Rate: 21%

#7. Business

Rating: 12

The business administration major is perhaps the most flexible major of all. Granted, most students will want to specialize in a given area, but that’s easy to do with numerous minors and certificate programs available to undergraduates. The best paying jobs available to business majors include marketing manager, sales manager, purchasing manager, human resources manager, and operations manager. While many of these sorts of positions with major companies aren’t available to new graduates, they often are available to those with just a bachelor’s and requisite experience.

Flexibility: High
Starting Pay Range: $46,460-$54,950
Median Salary: $106,910-$127,560
Job Growth Rate: 1%-9%

#6. Biomedical Engineering:

Rating: 13

Biomedical engineering is one of the fastest growing fields in the modern world. Biomedical engineers are on the forefront of developing artificial organs and devices that replace body parts, and they also adjust, maintain, and repair these systems. Biomedical engineers also often take part in research in areas like cell and tissue engineering. The career is flexible, allowing biomedical engineers to work in hospitals, research and development, and industry.

Flexibility: High
Starting Pay: $61,815
Median Salary: $91,230
Job Growth Rate: 23%

#5. Economics

Rating: 13

It’s true that there’s not many options out there for those with just a bachelor’s in economics. Most of the highest paying research and analysis positions require a minimum of a master’s degree. However, there is one job economics majors can fit well into, and that is compensation and benefits manager. Major companies, unions, and government agencies often manage retirement benefits accounts for their employees. A solid grounding in economics is enormously beneficial to the professionals managing those benefits.

Flexibility: Low
Starting Pay Range: $85,380
Median Salary: $116,240
Job Growth Rate: 6%

#4. Finance

Rating: 13

The finance field offers some of the highest paying jobs in the world right now. Even a bachelor’s degree opens up jobs like financial manager and financial analyst. A combination of more education and/or experience can lead to growth into even more lucrative areas of the field. Finance professionals also benefit from a need for them across most aspects of industry in the world, giving them a high level of flexibility throughout their career.

Flexibility: High
Starting Pay Range: $56,128-$58,834
Median Salary: $81,760-$121,750
Job Growth Rate: 7%-12%

#3. Computer Software Engineering

Rating: 13

Computer software engineers are highly sought after and often find jobs in fields like web development (often back-end), systems development, applications development, and embedded systems development. However the degree is flexible enough that jobs in robotics and artificial intelligence research and development are also available. The pay for these jobs is quite high, even at entry level, and job growth rate is much faster than average.

Flexibility: High
Starting Pay Range: $69,632
Median Salary: $108,760
Job Growth Rate: 17%

#2. Management Information Systems

Rating: 14

Computer and information systems manager has historically been a job done by computer science graduates. However companies are now leaning more toward hiring specialists for these positions. The computing industry is massive, and a targeted degree can give you a competitive edge in the job market. Computer and information systems managers have the highest median salary of any of the degrees in our ranking.

Flexibility: Low
Starting Pay Range: $62,046
Median Salary: $135,800
Job Growth Rate: 15%

#1. Computer Science

Rating: 21

Computer science is a broad and burgeoning field that sees some of the best job growth rates across the industry. Some of the best jobs available to people with a bachelor’s in computer science are Information Systems Manager, Software Applications Developer, Computer Network Architect, systems software developer, and computer forensic analyst.

Flexibility: High
Starting Pay Range: $58,762-$82,424
Median Salary: $101,210-$135,800
Job Growth Rate: 9%-17%

Methodology

Our methodology for this article on the best value college majors uses four categories for scoring. These categories are some of the most important factors to consider when choosing a major and minor, especially if you plan to go straight into the workforce instead of earning a graduate degree. An explanation of each category and its importance follows. Ties were broken by awarding the better ranking to the degree with a higher median salary among its best value jobs.

Flexibility

The flexibility of the degree was determined by the variety of job opportunities available to graduates. How broad is the field? How many different types of positions are available? How many industries make use of graduates with this degree? How much can you do in the field without education beyond the undergraduate level? All these factors combine to indicate how much flexibility a given degree has.

Low=1
Medium=2
High=3

Starting Pay

Starting pay is an obvious factor to consider. This is the baseline pay for entry level positions available to those with the given degree. When there were multiple high-paying jobs available, we listed the starting pay as a range between the lowest and highest paying jobs.

$50,000=1
$55,000=2
$60,000=3
$65,000=4
$70,000=5
$75,000=6
$80,000=7
$85,000=8

Median Salary

Median salary is a good indicator of the kind of money it is common to earn in jobs associated with the bachelor’s degree in question. While starting pay is the baseline, median pay is a good indicator of the kind of money you can earn as your career progresses.

$90,000=1
$100,000=2
$110,000=3
$120,000=5
$125,000=6
$130,000=7

Job Growth Rate

In looking at the jobs available to holders of the bachelor’s degrees ranked here, job growth was essential. It’s important to be aware of the trends surrounding different degrees and the jobs they lead to because higher growth fields provide graduates with more opportunities in the job market.

1%-5%=1
6%-10%=2
11%-15%=3
16%-20%=4
21-25%=5

Sources

Bureau of Labor Statistics

United States Department of Labor

Payscale

CVO Staff
June 2017

This concludes our ranking of the top 15 best value college majors for 2017-2018.