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Best-Paying College Majors Are Mostly In Engineering: Forbes List

02/03/2013 09:19 am ET | Updated Feb 26, 2013
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A new survey released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers says STEM majors -- that’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- earn the highest starting salaries when compared to their peers in the liberal arts and, increasingly, business majors.

Specifically, engineers saw a healthy year-over-year increase of 3.9 percent to their average starting salaries from 2011 to 2012. Aerospace engineering majors saw the largest increase -- 8.3 percent for $64,000 per year. NACE surveyed salaries of 2012 college grads in more than 90 fields, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau and Job Search Intelligence, a compensation measurement company.

In a statement, Executive Director Marilyn Mackes said she’s not surprised that engineering majors dominated the list of the top earning college degrees, saying the market needs them most and has a comparatively harder time finding qualified applicants.

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The Best Paying Majors Of 2012

Forbes Magazine’s Meagan Casserly says a race for innovation within both big business and the startup economy is behind the demand.

In short, while the unfortunate truth for graduates is that the jobs shortage is going to make finding a well-paying job even harder in the coming years, for STEM graduates opportunity abounds. STEM-related jobs are growing 60 percent faster than other fields.

A college degree's value is becoming an increasingly relative measure, as average student debt levels rise, and fewer opportunities present themselves to recent college graduates. The millennial unemployment rate was estimated at 13.1 percent in January, according to Policymic.com, and millions of college graduates are underemployed. Some 46 percent of recent college graduates work jobs that don't require a college degree. Perhaps more shocking: about 38 percent hold jobs that don't require a high school diploma.

In 2010, the median of earnings for young adults with a bachelor's degree was 114 percent higher than someone who ends his or her education after high school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Students who chose these majors could count on a little more.

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