What Should You Study In College?

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If you want to know the truth, you probably shouldn’t go to college. At least not right away. A few years out of school will help you recover your personality from years of highly incentivized conformism and probably will help you get into a better school.

And if you are going to college, you might want to consider studying something esoteric and useless, like ancient Greek philosophy. This is especially true if you can manage to get a college education without accumulating too much debt.

But for most of us, debt is a reality of college education. Which naturally makes us ask—what jobs pay the best? Of course, you can make lots money by being truly outstanding in any field. But betting that you’ll find your way at the very top of your field is a big gamble to take. For those of you a bit more risk adverse, the real question is: which majors result in the highest median pay?

As it turns out, you really do want to be a “rocket scientist.” That’s not just a cliché. Aerospace engineering has a relatively high median starting salary—$59,000—as well as a high mid-career salary–$109,000. Here’s the full chart, from Payscale.com.

Click here for an even longer list of what majors pay how much.

Many of these majors, of course, are insanely difficult. Almost all are off-limits to those who are not quantitatively gifted. It would be far better to have something like this chart matched with the numbers of hours students devoted to the subject, the hours worked on the job post-graduation, and the IQs of those majoring in the subject. Ideally, you want to work in the highest paying field that matches your work ethic and your intellectual capability. But this is a starting place.

(Charles Murray has written two really, really good articles about how too many Americans are going to college. Click here and here. For a counter-point from the David Leonhardt at the New York Times, click here.)

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