Seven College Majors for Quick Salary Growth

By Alida Moore,

When choosing a college major, many students make their decision with an eye toward earning a good living after graduation. But wouldn’t it be nice to find a job where you know your pay is likely to rise exceptionally fast as the years go by?

Online salary database compiled a list of seven bachelor’s degrees with at least 100 percent wage growth between starting and mid-career pay.

“These majors separate into two groups -- those that prepare you for a given career path, such as urban planning, and those that allow for more variety in career options,” says Katie Bardaro, PayScale’s lead analyst.

Why do these majors have more salary growth potential than other well-paid majors, like chemical engineering, with a mere 64 percent increase in wages? “Typically, engineers are known for high earnings, but their wage growth over time can be slow because they start well and end well,” Bardaro says. “The majors on this list typically lead to jobs with lower starting salaries but more opportunity for growth over time.”

If you’re looking for a college major that could set you up for extra-quick wage growth potential, check out this list:

International Relations

  • Median Starting Pay: $40,600
  • Median Mid-Career Pay: $93,000
  • Growth in Pay: 129 Percent

Do you enjoy learning foreign languages, public speaking and analyzing public policy? You could be well-suited to a career in international relations. A bachelor’s degree in this field can lead to a variety of jobs. According to PayScale, students with this major go on to work in journalism -- fields that can offer growth in both salary and position.


  • Median Starting Pay: $42,000
  • Median Mid-Career Pay: $95,600
  • Growth in Pay: 127.6 Percent

A degree in policy analyst, lobbyist or government marketing specialist. If you’re interested in politics, power and people, this degree could be a smart choice for you.


  • Median Starting Pay: $35,300
  • Median Mid-Career Pay: $75,900
  • Growth in Pay: 115 Percent

According to The Princeton Review, classics majors learn Greek or Latin, potentially perfecting their grammar, since most words are derived from these languages. Hence, jobs requiring precise communication suit classics majors well. Some go on to become teachers or librarians, while others become museum curators and taxonomists.

Molecular Biology

  • Median Starting Pay: $40,100
  • Median Mid-Career Pay: $84,900
  • Growth in Pay: 111.7 Percent

A molecular biology major prepares students for careers such as biologist, researcher or teacher. You might start as a lab assistant, and with hard work eventually land a lucrative gig as a lead researcher. People who pursue this degree typically enjoy the sciences, particularly lab work.

Urban Planning

  • Median Starting Pay: $39,000
  • Median Mid-Career Pay: $79,900
  • Growth in Pay: 104.9 Percent

Have you ever been stuck at an endless red light, muttering to yourself that you could have done a much better job planning the intersection? If you see ways to improve your city’s infrastructure, you might be destined for an urban planning job. Whether you study the socioeconomic impact of a new housing project or design overhauls to public transportation, this career could provide a fast-paced environment with plenty of growth potential as you gain more experience.


  • Median Starting Pay: $43,200
  • Median Mid-Career Pay: $88,500
  • Growth in Pay: 104.8 Percent

Here’s another science major with plenty of salary potential. If you’re drawn to science -- specifically chemistry, biology, genetics and physics -- consider a degree in biochemistry. After graduation, you could become a research assistant on a career path toward bigger jobs and double the salary by mid-career.

Film Production

  • Median Starting Pay: $37,500
  • Median Mid-Career Pay: $76,600
  • Growth in Pay: 104.2 Percent

If you dream of joining the ranks of Walt Disney and George Lucas, consider a degree in film production. You would likely need to start small after graduation, perhaps working the camera or paying your dues as a production assistant. But your time spent at the bottom could see you through to the top, producing and editing your own films and seeing your name in lights.

Source: Salary data provided by online salary database Wage-growth percent calculated by comparing median, full-time pay for workers with zero to five and then 10 or more years of experience. Wages include any bonuses, commissions or profit sharing.

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