Math Skills Earn Highest Salaries

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
July 28, 2009

A new survey indicates that the top 15 highest-earning degrees all involve math skills.

"Math is at the crux of who gets paid," said Ed Koc, director of research at the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which conducted the study. Koc was quoted on CNNMoney.com. "If you have those skills, you are an extremely valuable asset. We don't generate enough people like that in this country."

Engineering diplomas accounted for 12 of the 15 top-paying majors, with petroleum engineering earning the highest average starting salary of $83,121. Graduates with these degrees locate oil and reservoirs or develop ways to bring those resources to the Earth's surface.

Other degrees which made the list included chemical engineering and mining engineering, with annual starting salaries just under $65,000. Only three of the 15 degrees listed--actuarial science, computer science and construction management--were not in engineering, but they still made use of math skills.

Meanwhile, graduates who studied fields such as social work, English, foreign language or communications received significantly lower paychecks. But Koc pointed out that engineering and computer science majors each comprise only about 4 percent of college graduates.

"It's a supply and demand issue," he explained to CNNMoney.com. "So few grads offer math skills, and those who can are rewarded."

According to Farnoosh Torabi, employment expert and Quicken blog editor, more college students are picking their majors based on earning power. Ultimately, said Torabi, students are increasingly "choosing a major that pays."

But not everyone agrees on that strategy. According to Beth Nicholson, director of career services at the University of Toledo, students should consider a number of different factors when choosing occupations.

"We advise students to research different occupations to learn about education requirements, skill sets needed, and the employment trends," she told CityTownInfo.com in a recent interview. "We encourage them to not just choose their career path according to salary, something they've seen in a movie or heard. . . . We recommend they look at their choices very broadly at first; then narrow the choices based on valid information."

FastWeb.com, which provides information about higher education scholarships, agrees that salary should not be the deciding factor when choosing a major. "You should never choose a major just for the money," the article points out. "If you don't enjoy the work, then all that money will never equal the dissatisfaction you have for your job."

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