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The Future of Work

These Are The College Majors With The Fastest Salary Growth

For those looking to pay off student loans faster, some jobs provide significantly greater salary growth in the first 10 years.

These Are The College Majors With The Fastest Salary Growth

[Photo: Flickr user Aaron Hawkins]

Though newspaper reporter and broadcaster were considered the worst jobs of 2016, according to a study by CareerCast, new research suggests that media and communications majors can expect more rapid salary progression than those who graduate with degrees in engineering, law, and business.

According to a recent small study by Expert Market—which followed the salary growth of 200 college majors over 10 years following graduation from a bachelor’s program—those in media and communications as well as mathematics can expect to earn nearly 80% more after their first decade on the job, compared to their salary on day one.

While media and communications careers have experienced infamous decline in recent years, mathematics majors are quickly emerging as the graduates with the hottest career opportunities. The job market for computer and information scientists, for example, is expected to grow by 15% between 2012 and 2022, more than the average of any other industry.

"The recent rise of technology startups has placed a lot of their focus on using complicated data insights to inform big business decisions," says Karla McDougal, lead researcher for Expert Market. "This has paved the way for mathematical wizards who now have a whole new range of positions to choose after graduating, including data scientists and data miners."

It should then come as no surprise that employees of the most in-demand job category of the 21st century will experience salary growth of 80% within their first decade. By comparison, engineering majors typically see an increase of 63%, law majors enjoy a 58% bump, while those in medicine can only expect an increase of 29% in salary after their first decade on the job, according to the Expert Market study.

"Medicine fares worst of all because grads spend much of their first 10 years after graduating in junior positions assisting more senior-level staff," says McDougal. "Their lifetime earnings are typically higher than that of other disciplines like media and communications, however, because senior-level doctors and surgeons are rewarded for the valuable services they provide."

While lifetime earnings in professions like medicine, law, and engineering are typically higher than other professions that see much faster salary progression, McDougal suggests that many students can't afford to wait decades to see significant financial returns on their degrees.

"As a result of having more disposable income in their early career years, they are better prepared to tackle their student loans in their twenties, which is something that appeals to many students with tuition fees that grow each year," she says. "In their twenties, students who major in degrees that top this list could also be better prepared to buy their first home or start a family, based on these results."

McDougal suggests that students considering a major today should perhaps be less concerned with lifelong earning potential, as the majority of those earnings will come toward the end of their careers. Instead, she believes that students should consider opportunities where their roles will increase in value faster at the beginning of their career, and where they can experience more immediate growth.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated the sample size was 200 students. The study analyzed 200 majors. We regret the error.

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