10 most profitable college majors and highest paying college degrees

ten most profitable majorsJennifer Larson uncovers the most and least profitable college majors, and the highest and lowest paying college degrees, in this two part series for Money College. Part Two runs next week, with the least profitable careers for your academic investment.

Unless you qualify for a full-ride scholarship or have incredibly-generous parents, you are likely spending a boatload on college. But as your high school teachers and college professors like to say, that's money you are going to get back if you choose your career wisely. Your education is an investment. So, like any investment, you should do your research if you want to cash in.

Here's Money College's list of the highest and lowest-paying college degrees, based on data gathered by Payscale.com. If you love numbers and science, you're in luck: "The kinds of majors where you learn to integrate mathematics and science with the everyday world have a tremendous benefit in terms of earnings potential," PayScale.com's Al Lee said.

Making money may not always be the biggest priority, in which case, go with your gut. You can always make billions of dollars, and give it all to charity.

Ten most profitable majors that turn into the highest paying college degrees:

1. Engineering. This includes (in order of highest first year salaries) aerospace engineering, chemical engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, environmental engineering, and civil engineering. Instead of making a list where seven of the 10 highest paying careers are in engineering, they are rolled into one mention. My cousin is an engineer at SEMCO. We graduated from college the same year and the first year on our own, he bought a $20,000 used Cadillac while I was scraping paychecks together to buy a bike.
Average first year salary: $59,000. Average mid-career salary: $101,000.

2. Economics. A pretty ubiquitous myth is that economics is all statistics and math. The fact is, while economics majors do a lot of statistics and math, they also study a wide range of topics, including social science, psychology, political science and history. Alan Metzer, even said: "economics is a social science." There are plenty of humanitarian efforts you can make in this line of work, as economists are needed to create public policy -- domestically and internationally.
Average first year salary: $50,200. Average mid-career salary: $101,000.

3. Physics. Physics is a good springboard major into a broad range of science, engineering, and education careers. With a BS in physics, students can pursue careers as a high school science teachers, laboratory technicians, computer programmers and meteorologists, to name a few. Here is a nifty chart illustrating careers in physics.
Average starting salary: $51,100. Average mid-career salary: $98,800.

4. Computer Science. I'm always jealous of IT people. Mostly because I wish I had their knowledge about computer systems, but also because they also seem to play video games when they are short on work. Majoring in computer science will allow you to navigate through the algorithmic processes that create, describe and transform information -- and that makes you an asset to any company. Other than going into Information Technology, there are plenty of career options for computer science majors, such as software designers, start-up company partners and freelance computer programmers.
Average starting salary: $56,400. Average mid-career salary: $97,400.

5. Statistics. Do you like crunching numbers and analyzing data? As a statistics major, you observe patterns and useful information for everything from business applications to political strategies. Often statisticians collect and interpret data for marketing purposes.
Average career salary: $48,600. Average mid-career salary: $94,500.

6. Biochemistry. Graduates with this major can find work as lab technicians, analytical chemists, and researcher assistants. This major also opens the door to advanced or medical degrees.
Average starting salary: $41,700. Average mid-career salary: $94, 200.

7. Mathematics. The one thing most of the items on this list have in common is a strong emphasis on math. Our lives are organized by mathematical principles, so it only makes sense that this would be the case. Majoring in math leads to a wide range of fields, such as banking and finance, computing services, insurance, industry, or education.
Average career salary: $47,000. Average mid-career salary: $93, 600.

8. Construction Management. If you have a knack for planning and organizing projects from beginning to end, then this might be the right career path for you. A construction manager's job is to oversee a construction project from its planning to the ribbon cutting ceremony. Some of the top schools for this major include Lawrence Technological University, University of Denver, and Southern Polytechnic University.
Average starting salary: $53,400. Average mid-career salary: $89,600.

9. Information Systems. For students who feel a strong connection with both business practices and the world of computer science, this major may resonate strongly. Every business uses information systems to keep track of their products and payroll. Whether you major in management information systems or computing and information systems, the path ahead will be profitable.
Average starting salary: $51,400. Average mid-career salary: $87,000.

10. Geology. I was thrilled and actually a little surprised to see that majoring in geology leads to one of the most profitable career paths. That knowledge of physical and chemical processes of the earth's atmospheric, oceanic and land systems, lends itself to making both money and sound environmental choices.
Average starting salary: $45,000. Average mid-career salary: $84,200.
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