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10 most popular majors and what they pay

  • Story Highlights
  • Education continues to be a popular major but is lowest paid of most popular
  • Business administration has one of most lucrative starting salaries
  • Common careers for political science majors include lobbyist and diplomat
  • Nurses are in high demand nearly everywhere in the country
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By Patrick Erwin writer
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Criminal justice majors can be police officers or can join state and federal enforcement agencies.

Criminal justice majors can be police officers or can join state and federal enforcement agencies.

If you're one of the millions of college and university students who are members of the Class of 2008, you may be pondering the first step on your career path. Despite an economic slowdown, there are still entry-level jobs in all career fields to be had.

What will your newly minted degree bring you? What are the starting salaries for recent college and university graduates? Using, here are some of the most common majors, and what salary range a graduate entering the job market might expect to find.


Biology majors can use their degrees in a number of disciplines, including genetics, medical research and ecology. A general biologist starts out at $38,896, while a biochemist makes slightly more at $43,961.

Many students utilize their biology degree in conjunction with other degrees. A biology degree is often a preliminary step to medical school, or to other advanced degree.

A graduate degree is the key to landing jobs in microbiology, biotechnology, health care, and research and product development.

Beginning salary: Varies.

Business administration and management

Business administration is one of the more lucrative majors in terms of starting salary. Graduates with a degree in business administration and management are often on track to eventually assume leadership roles, including becoming managers, executives and CEOs. Video Watch what new graduates face »

They may initially lead a business unit or oversee the company's real estate and infrastructure. Graduates with this degree often decide to continue their education to get their MBA.

Beginning salary: $57,132.


Communications at its core is the study of how we understand and interpret visual and verbal messages. In some ways, communications majors have some of the same skill sets as English majors and often compete for similar jobs.

Careers for this major can include jobs like public relations, reporting and advertising. It can also be applied in other ways, like speech writing or public speaking.

Beginning salary: $30,921.

Computer science

A computer science degree can be used in a number of careers because of the variety of skills that graduates learn. Those skills range from developing software and analyzing systems to more advanced skills like working with language recognition programs and other types of artificial intelligence. Jobs in this field include network analyst, database administrator and Web developers.

Computer science is a field that continues to grow as people and companies expand their use of technology. Workers have the opportunity to break into the six-figure range later in their careers.

Beginning salary: $46,849.

Criminal justice

Graduates with a degree in criminal justice have a number of options for their career path. One initial choice is becoming a police officer. Graduates can also become join state or federal police agencies.

They can also become involved with other related areas like law, working as a legal assistant or court administrator, or work for a government agency like the FBI, CIA or Homeland Security.

Some students who combine a criminal justice degree with other disciplines like psychology and sociology. Those graduates can earn a substantially higher beginning salary.

Beginning salary: $38,182.

Elementary education

Education continues to be a popular major and teachers continue to be sought after throughout country. which explains why it is one of the few industries to add workers in 2008.

Despite the importance of the role that an elementary teacher has in a child's education, the beginning salary for a new teacher is the lowest of the 10 most popular majors.

Beginning salary: $29,414.


The demand for marketing jobs can vary by industry and geography and can be very lucrative. Graduates with a marketing degree can specialize in marketing research, specialize in promotions or public relations, or focus on sales and marketing strategies.

They can also be involved in the creative side of marketing and utilize visual art or writing skills. Marketing jobs are available in a wide range of industries and even in local, state and federal government agencies.

Beginning salary: $59,471.


Nursing is the largest industry in health care, with 25 million workers, and is another industry that is adding workers in 2008. Nurses are in high demand nearly everywhere in the country. Registered nurses, who provide a range of general care, are always in demand.

Graduates have a wide range of choices as to what kind of care they wish to provide. There are also jobs in home health care, as well as jobs where nurses can be educators and patient advocates.

Beginning salary: $41,173.


The subject of psychology is a captivating, compelling topic for many students, and is the second most popular major. Graduates with this degree may work in entry-level jobs as school counselors or substance abuse counselors.

Many advanced jobs, like being a clinical psychologist, social psychologist, or developmental psychologist, require specialized advance degrees or a doctoral degree. Over a third of all psychologists enter private practice or have their own private research firms, but research and teaching jobs are also available at colleges and universities.

Beginning salary: $46,153.

Political science

Politics is far more than local, state, and federal elections. Political science majors can work in a number of roles, including working for political parties in administrative positions or as analysts.

Forty-one percent of all workers with this major are employed by government agencies. Some common career paths for political science majors include lobbyist and diplomat. They may also work in the media as a journalist in an editorial capacity or for nonprofit organizations.

Beginning salary: $36,368.

Other majors

Of course, actual beginning salaries for all majors are influenced by a number of external factors:

• Finance and economics are two of the most lucrative and popular majors for students, but the current economic slowdown has also slowed the demand for those workers.

• Engineering is a growing field that is always in need of skilled workers. There are dozens of specialized engineering career paths available. An engineer's beginning salary can vary widely depending on the graduate's specific area of study. has additional information, which includes listings for salary ranges by job title.


Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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