(NEXSTAR) – When it comes to choosing a major in college, a recent study found that there are sizable differences in pay depending on the field of study.
The HEA Group, founded by Michael Itzkowitz, a former Education Department official under Obama, compared Department of Education data and looked at average salary numbers four years after students graduated with an undergraduate degree.
“We hope our data remains helpful for those considering college. It’s important that wherever students attend—and whatever field of study they choose to pursue—they leave knowing it was worth it,” Itzkowitz tweeted.
The study found that some of the most popular college bachelor’s degrees don’t always lead to high-paying jobs. A Washington Post report found that nearly two in five U.S. college grads regretted their choice of majors, with that number nearly half for those in the humanities or arts.
In fact, only three of the top ten most popular majors had average salaries over $50,00: business administration, registered nursing, and accounting. The lowest-paying major of the group was teacher education and professional development.
The highest-paying majors
For those who want to pursue one of the more lucrative bachelor’s degrees, it helps to be interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Four of the top earning degrees – operation research, naval architecture and marine engineering, computer science and marine transportation – had average salaries over $100,000, followed by computer engineering ($99,063).
The highest-paying major, operations research, had an average salary of $112,097.
Rounding out the top ten were veterinary medicine ($97,533); petroleum engineering ($96,957); systems engineering ($95,224); pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences and administration ($94,136); and electrical, electronics and communications engineering ($91,693).
Students may want to consider a certificate program, which usually takes just 6-18 months to complete and offer “very competitive salaries, even outpacing their associate’s and bachelor’s degree counterparts,” the study found.
Graduates of the top-earning certificate program, information science/studies, had an average income of over $65,000 four years after graduating.
The HEA report “is a great starting point for students or families that are considering a post-secondary decision,” Itzkowitz told CBS. “If they know the major and the institutions that they are looking at applying for, this supplies info about how much they can make within a few years after they graduate.”