By Tim V.

Picking a college major is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a decision that can change your entire future. Making the right decision could mean supporting the lifestyle you envision or resigning yourself to something less than you had imagined. So choose wisely, as it’s up to you to chart your course for success.

Here are the top majors according to the U.S. Census Bureau based on financial outlook, as well as some you may want to avoid.

Petroleum Engineering:

Petroleum engineering is one of the most lucrative college majors with a median annual wage of $136,000. Petroleum engineers focus on the production of hydrocarbons, which can either be crude oil or natural gas, helping to power the world.


Pharmaceutical sciences and administration is a growing field with a median annual wage of $136,000. Having a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmaceutical sciences and
administration will put you on the career path to becoming a health systems director or a general manager of a pharmacy. This major focuses mainly on the business of
pharmacy healthcare and usually partners with a dual major or minor in business administration.

Metallurgical Engineering:

If transforming mineral resources and metals into useful products that improve our quality of life sounds appealing, you may want to consider this major. The median
income of someone with a Bachelor of Science degree in this field is just under $100,000 annually. In this field you will be responsible for physically separating and chemically processing minerals into the important products that consumers use on a daily basis. Metals form the major components of buildings, aircraft, trains, ships and computer hard drives. Talk about job security!

Mining/Mineral Engineering:

You may be sensing a trend here with engineering. The median annual wage of those in the mining/mineral field is $97,000. Don’t kid yourself though, mining is hard work. The income level is often based on daily production. Salaries in this field also vary according to your level of skill as well as by organization.

Chemical Engineering:

Rounding out our list, this major combines physical sciences, life sciences, applied mathematics and economics to produce, transform, transport, and properly use chemicals, materials and energy. If that sounds interesting, this major will earn you an average of $96,000 a year.

While science and math-based degrees may not be your thing, you should avoid these five majors, which may not pay off in the end.

1. Archaeology and Anthropology. The unemployment rate in this field for recent college graduates is 10.5 percent, while the median annual income is $28,000.
2. Film, Video & Photographic Arts. Taking photos and filming videos can be fun, but it rarely turns into a career that will pay the bills. Median annual income: $30,000.
3. Fine Arts. Unless you are the next Picasso, the field of fine arts can be a very competitive one. Median income is about $30,000, while the unemployment rate for recent college graduates with a Bachelor of Arts degree is 12.6 percent.
4. Philosophy & Religious Studies. With a median income of $30,000, let’s just say that people don’t usually get into ministry positions for the money.
5. Liberal Arts. Here’s another degree that may be fun in college but doesn’t usually pay off after graduation. The median income is $30,000 and the unemployment rate is 9.2 percent.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. In the end, it’s ideal to find a profession that not only pays the bills but is also personally rewarding. The real lesson is that you don’t want to leave college saddled with mounds of student loan debt, only to realize your chosen major leaves you with a salary that doesn’t cover your loans, rent, and basic necessities.


Arizona Federal credit union in Phoenix discusses top paying college majors.