We Did Our Homework, and These 11 College Majors Can Boost Your Earnings


7 Most Versatile Degrees For Students Who Want Career Flexibility

From as far back as high school, there’s an enormous pressure on prospective college students to decide what their major will be. And that pressure continues to build even more for undeclared freshmen and sophomores who simply can’t choose a career field to pursue.

Eventually, you do have to pick a major, since that will determine which courses you’ll need to complete to earn your degree. The good news, however, is that with the exception of some highly specialized or professionally focused programs, your choice of college major doesn’t mean you’ll be tied to one job or even one industry for the rest of your life. In fact, students who want career change flexibility are finding that some majors may open the doors to a variety of employment options — even ones they didn’t expect. And with a growing number of colleges and universities across the country offering online degree programs earning a degree in these fields comes with flexibility as well.

Sponsored Meaning Explained

Lots of Options With an Information Science Background

John Sullivan III, Ph.D., an instructor with the School of Information at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla., teaches a class on Nov. 7, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Insurgency: Sandstorm, a first-person shooter PC game, has competitive rounds that last roughly 2 minutes and 30 seconds. That’s thanks in part to data collection and analysis Buker performed using his information science background on the original Insurgency, which had double the amount of time for rounds. (Buker found that unsatisfactory.)

Buker stresses that you don’t have to be a math whiz to succeed in an information sciences major — he only made it to Calculus I at his small private high school. Curiosity, humility and a love of logic and debate are all you need to get started in this major.

The median pay for under-30 graduates with this type of degree has grown more than 20% to $65,000 in 2017, according to the latest data available. That’s no surprise for Sullivan, who said the rise of big data makes an information science degree invaluable in the marketplace.

The 11 Best College Majors for All You Undecided Students

There are two big factors to consider when you look at success when picking a college major: How much are you going to make and can you actually land a job. Also, it helps to know if your major’s graduates are making more or less money than they did in previous years.

1. Information Sciences

Information science majors study programming and database analysis. Basically, you’ll use computers to study how people interact with information — aka, data. But, there are several different career tracks for students with an information science degree, including working as an archivist, market research analyst or research librarian.

2. Management Information Systems and Statistics

This degree is similar to information science, but it’s more business-focused. There are multiple tracks for management information systems degrees, but most involve using computers and databases to maximize profit for a business.

Don’t worry if you’re not comfortable programming. MIS degrees paths don’t have to be development-focused, according to the University of Arizona Management Information Systems website. That link also has a nifty breakdown of the difference between similar degrees in computer science and electrical computer engineering, (which you’ll see under a different name below.)

3. Construction Services

An apartment building is under construction.

A new apartment building is under construction in Tampa, Fla., on March 27, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder.

This is basically a degree in construction management — nearly a third of graduates work as a construction manager — in which students learn the ins and outs of running a construction site. That includes everything from accounting and cost estimation to the intricacies of construction materials and land development.

4. Electrical Engineering Technology

At Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, students can specialize in computer technology or telecommunications. Many graduates go into software development, so most students who major in electrical engineering technology likely take the computer track.

5. Political Science and Government

A political science and government degree is much more general than the previous majors on this list, meaning a student will have a wide latitude to choose the field to pursue after school. According to the Wake Forest University College of Political Science, you’ll study communications and writing as well as technology and analysis.

6. Advertising and Public Relations

A young woman poses for a portrait in front of advertising campaigns.

Taylor Yianakopolos graduated with a degree in advertising/public relations from the University of Tampa in May 2018. Immediately after graduation, she landed a job as an account coordinator for Schifino Lee. “There’s always going to be a need for advertising,” Yianakopolos said. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

There are two tracks you can take in advertising and public relations: the creative path or the business path. At the University of Tampa, courses cover a wide swath of topics, including journalism, design and writing.

7. General Science

General science is great for students who want to get into some field of science but don’t now which one. You can take classes in chemistry, marine biology, astrophysics or even computer information science at the University of Oregon.

8. Biochemical Sciences

Biochemical sciences majors do tend to move onto graduate degrees in a range of fields from dentistry to podiatry, according to the Marquette University undergraduate studies website. But a degree in this field can also pay off right away with a job as a pharmaceutical sales representative or technical writer.

9. Special Needs Education

Students will learn to work with children on the autism spectrum, with learning or intellectual disabilities or with emotional or behavioral disorders, according to the Florida State University College of Education, an on-campus undergraduate program that is bundled with a master’s degree. Many schools offer similar bundled degrees, but our income data is for those with just a bachelor’s degree.

10. Criminal Justice

William Englert (top left) practices driving a police car at St. Petersburg College on Nov. 26, 2018. Englert graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in May 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

There are quite a few schools, like the University of Central Florida, that offer online degrees in criminal justice. If a student plans to become a law enforcement officer — at the local, state or federal level — or a detective, the student can pursue an applicable curriculum.

Do you have a vocational goal?

What’s important to remember here is that there are many careers for which a number of undergraduate majors would be appropriate. You plan on going to law school and becoming a lawyer? Feel free to pursue any relevant passion as an undergraduate student: Political Science, English, History, Economics, Philosophy, etc. Interested in going pre-med? You have the freedom to major in Biology, Chemistry, Physics or even Liberal Arts, depending on the institution you plan on going to for medical school.

You can also think about it the other way around. For example, I knew I loved writing, so my English major makes sense for several writing careers I could pursue down the road—being a journalist, working in publishing, editing, etc. If you know you want to do something long-term that’s very quantitative and involves numbers, consider exploring majors like Math, Economics, Physics or other calculation-heavy disciplines; if you like Engineering, you can work with major companies like Steelbay Exchange.

Are you good at this subject?

Your skill in the subject shouldn’t necessarily be the main determining factor on whether you pursue a major in that field, but it is a relevant piece of information to consider when making your decision. For example, if you decide to become, say, a Creative Writing major, but you are not a strong writer and do not receive positive feedback in class or high grades on stories you write with multiple professors, then it might mean that you should try your hand at a different subject.

Likewise, if you’re having trouble picking a favorite subject to major in but know that you’re really good at Computer Science and it’s something, among other subjects, that you enjoy, it might be a good idea to consider majoring in something you already have proven skill in. And besides, people tend to enjoy doing things that they are good at anyway.