College Degrees with the Fastest Salary Progression

The college application process takes a tremendous amount of time and planning, with choices to be made and deadlines to be met. Unsurprisingly, many students find the prospect of choosing a college major to be daunting, and almost certainly, stressful.

Expert Market investigated over 200 subjects in the U.S. to uncover which bachelor’s degree promises the fastest salary rise ten years after graduating.

College majors were then broken down by subject to determine which disciplines provide the best career progression potential.

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The top results by discipline are presented in the GIF below. Additional information, such as the top 10 majors and the bottom 10 majors, can be seen in the accompanying tables.

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The results revealed that grads who study topics under media and communications can expect a quicker salary increase than those in engineering, law and business.

When broken down by subject, the report threw up some interesting and quite unexpected findings. Despite not being a career well known for its high earnings potential, students who major in Aviation Management claimed the top spot, earning an impressive 114% more by the middle of their careers.

Table 1. Top 10 College Majors with the Quickest Salary Progression

College Major Average
Starting Salary
Mid-Career Pay
In Salary
Aviation Management $41,900 $90,200 114%
Telecommunications $40,800 $87,100 113%
& Molecular Biology
$46,000 $97,500 112%
Government $49,600 $105,000 112%
& International Business
$45,400 $94,800 109%
& Politics
$44,600 $90,400 103%
$45,500 $90,100 98%
& Mathematics
$56,200 $111,000 98%
$56,100 $110,000 96%
Physics $55,100 $108,000 96%

Table 2. Bottom 10 College Majors with the Slowest Salary Progression

College Major Average
Starting Salary
Mid-Career Pay
In Salary
Dental Hygiene $65,400 $74,900 14%
Early Childhood &
Elementary Education
$34,800 $41,900 20%
Physician Assistant Studies $85,200 $103,000 21%
Early Childhood Education $30,700 $37,500 22%
Nuclear Medicine Technology $55,200 $67,900 23%
Diagnostic Medical Sonography $57,700 $71,100 23%
Hotel, Restaurant, and
Institutional Management
$50,500 $62,700 24%
Practical Nursing $45,300 $58,100 28%
Medical Laboratory Science $47,900 $61,500 28%
Clinical Laboratory Science $48,800 $62,700 28%

Students who study Dental Hygiene fared worst of all, only earning a meager 14% more than when they graduated by the middle of their careers.

For students concerned about the cost of attending college, this data may help influence their decision.

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In 2016, the average college graduate in the United States incurred $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent last year, according to new research from Student Loan Hero.

Left to bear the steep financial burden of soaring tuition fees and associated living costs, students researching various colleges should consider majors that will leave them prepared to progress quickly in their careers.