NACE Releases List of Top Paying Degrees for 2012

February 4, 2013

Starting salaries for 2012 new college graduates increased an average of 3.4 percent from the previous year in all fields, the 2013 "Salary Survey" study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) showed. This increase translated into a growth in the average starting salary from $42,987 to $44,455, according to NACE's executive summary. The field of education experienced the greatest boost, up 5.4 percent. Humanities and social sciences saw the lowest, at 2 percent.

Information used for this annual study was retrieved in November 2012 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau along with a master data set developed by Job Search Intelligence, noted NACE, the Bethlehem, Pa.-based nonprofit organization that serves as a point of connection between companies and college placement offices. The study included data from 400,000 employers and reflected actual starting salaries rather than offers.

The study also showed, out of 90 disciplines, new college graduates with engineering degrees received the highest starting salaries at an average of $61,913. Six types of engineering degrees held spots in the Top 10 highest-paying majors. Furthermore, of the top 10 high-paying degrees, all but one (finance, average starting salary $57,300) were technical. Computer engineering was No. 1 at $70,400, while chemical engineering was No. 2 at $66,400. Aerospace/aeronautical/astronautical engineering took fourth place at $64,000, according to The Huffington Post

NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes said engineering dominating the list was expected, as these professionals are in great demand, but applicants are few, The Huffington Post reported.

Engineering majors as a whole saw a 3.9 percent average increase to their starting salaries, which was above the average for all disciplines, according to NACE. Within the field of engineering, aerospace engineering majors experienced the largest increase, up 8.3 percent for an average starting salary of $64,000. Civil engineering majors, on the other hand, had only a 2.5 percent bump up, to $57,600.

Unlike its prior salary surveys, NACE this time divided engineering degrees into specific types, upon discovering each one earned a different starting salary, Forbes explained.

After engineering, computer science was the second-highest paying major, with an average starting salary of $59,221, reported NACE. Business was third at $53,900. Health sciences was next at $49,196. Communications took fifth at $43,717. The lowest paying disciplines were the math and sciences at $42,471, education at $40,688, and the humanities and social sciences at $36,988.

In terms of industries, mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction paid the most to new graduates with an average starting salary of $59,400. Construction was second at $57,047. Management of companies and enterprises was next at $56,607.

The highest-paying position was petroleum, mining, and geological engineers (requiring a mechanical engineering degree) with starting salaries that averaged $77,500. Other high-paying positions were financial manager ($75,700), software developer ($73,400), physician's assistant ($72,600) and aerospace engineer ($71,700).

Educational services hired the most new graduates in 2012 with professional, scientific and technical services following behind. Health care and social assistance was third in this category.

Compiled by Doresa Banning


"Best-Paying College Majors Are Mostly In Engineering: Forbes List,", February 3, 2013

"NACE Salary Survey,", January 2013

"The College Degrees With The Highest Starting Salaries,", January 24, 2013, Susan Adams

Career and Education News

Our News Writers and Editors

CityTownInfo Writers and Editors


Follow Us on Facebook
Follow Us on Twitter
Follow Us on Youtube

Career and College Resources on CityTownInfo

Real-World Career Reports

Career Stories from workers: daily activities, job tips, best/worst job aspects, training, etc.
Daily Career & Education News from our staff. We're an approved Google News provider!

Career References and Original Articles

Resource Center. A starting point for all CityTownInfo career and college resources.
Career Overviews of hundreds of careers: descriptions, salaries, forecasts, schools, more.
Best Careers Not Requiring Degrees: Good pay, job growth, low need for degrees.
Helpful Articles, many in "how-to" format; e.g., "How to Become a Chef".
Infographics covering employment and educational trends.

College Directories and Lists

These lists link to thousands of detailed school profiles.

Colleges by State. Nearly every college and trade school in the country.
Colleges Listed Alphabetically. About 7,000 colleges & trade schools, including online schools.
Colleges by Major City. Browse cities with multiple college options.
Online Colleges. Colleges with online degree programs.
Graduate Schools by State. Colleges offering graduate degree programs.
Graduate Schools by Major City. Find cities with multiple graduate school options.