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50 College Majors With the Best Return on Investment

50 College Majors With the Best Return on Investment
Credit: KTS Design/Shutterstock

The rising cost of college is forcing many students to choose their career path based not on their interests but rather the field that will help them make the most money when they graduate.

Those looking to maximize the return on their education investment should pursue majors in information technology, computer programming and business, according to a new study from OnlineDegrees.com, which ranked degrees based on their likelihood of leading to a high-paying, fast-growth career as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Topping this year's rankings were computer programming and entrepreneurship, both of which have average annual salaries of more than $85,000 for graduates and above-average job growth. Overall, degrees in information technology, computers programming/computer science, business/management, medical support, and retail and administration were the five categories that offer the largest return on investment.

To determine the rankings, researchers analyzed employment opportunities related to different job categories. Factors included the expected number of job openings in that field, the current number of related job openings and average salary. The data came primarily from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and were cross-referenced with details about currently available degree programs, such as the number of schools offering programs in a specific job category, the average cost per year of attending those schools and the length of time required to obtain the degree needed to perform a specific job.

Here are the top 50 degrees for return on investment, according to the analysis:

  1. Computer programming, specific applications
  2. Entrepreneurship/entrepreneurial studies
  3. Network and system administration
  4. Information technology
  5. Computer software technology
  6. Osteopathic medicine/osteopathy
  7. Business/commerce, general
  8. Computer systems networking and telecommunications
  9. Business administration and management, general
  10. Computer and information systems security/information assurance
  11. Information science/studies
  12. Computer programming, general
  13. Marketing/marketing management, general
  14. Computer and information sciences, general
  15. Dental hygiene
  16. Management information systems, general
  17. Diagnostic medical sonography
  18. Accounting and finance
  19. Accounting and business/management
  20. Computer systems analysis
  21. Retail management
  22. Occupational therapist assistant
  23. Medical radiologic technology
  24. Surgical technology
  25. Operations management and supervision
  26. International business/trade/commerce
  27. Management science
  28. Health information/medical records administration
  29. Aerospace physiology and medicine
  30. Emergency medical technology
  31. Clinical/medical laboratory technician
  32. Health/health care administration/management
  33. Respiratory care therapy
  34. Health/medical physics
  35. Information technology project management
  36. Medicine
  37. Computer software engineering
  38. Pharmacy
  39. Chiropractic
  40. Dental assisting
  41. Dentistry
  42. Terrorism and counterterrorism operations
  43. Computer engineering, general
  44. Public administration
  45. Health unit manager
  46. Hospital and health care facilities administration/management
  47. International marketing
  48. Credit management
  49. Physician assistant
  50. Geography
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.