Shorelight helps international students attend top universities in the U.S.
Shorelight helps international students attend top universities in the U.S.

This site used cookies to offer you a better experience. By continuing to use this site, you consent to the use of cookies.

Skip to content

Salary Calculator: Early Salaries You Can Earn by Major

career planning
By Oshitha Narangoda
Last updated on March 19, 2021

When it comes to earning potential and your salary, your choice of major can make a big impact. Here is everything you need to know about the average salaries you can earn for your major.

Two international students sit side by side at a table in front of a computer monitor near a blackboard

Choosing a major is one of the most important and challenging decisions a college student can make. Your major can determine the overall cost of your degree program, your career prospects, the salary you earn, and whether you need to pursue a graduate degree. It can influence your early salary, as well as how much you earn over the course of your entire career.

For many students, earning potential and future salary are the main factors influencing their decision of which major to pursue. The highest-paying areas of study, STEM and business, are also the most popular, accounting for 46% of college graduates, according to Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Researching the salary potential for each major will help you understand employment rates, how much income you can earn, and how long it will take to pay off your student loans. 

Let us go over everything you need to know about average salaries by majors, how they vary depending on the country where you hope to work and the highest degree achieved, and other factors you need to consider when choosing your major.

Will a University Degree Increase My Earnings?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings for a worker in the US with a bachelor’s degree is $1,416, compared with $789 for one who has earned only a high school diploma. While college graduates typically earn more than those with a high school diploma, it is important to have realistic expectations on the average salaries for undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees. 

Earning an undergraduate or a graduate degree provides you the opportunity to pursue careers with high salaries. However, this does not guarantee a high-paying job. Among the graduates with the highest potential salaries, more than 38% are expected to earn less than $60,000 per year, according to a recent National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey.

Remember, it is OK to use your research as a benchmark for salary expectations, however, in reality, the average pay could vary greatly, depending on demand. For an initial comparison, we compiled a list of popular bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and the average annual salary for each degree in the US, China, India, and Brazil. 

Bachelor’s Degree vs. Master’s Degree: What Are the Average Annual Salaries?

Average Annual Salaries by Undergraduate Degrees  

Software Engineering

Average US Salary

$81K

Average China Salary

¥291.5K

Average India Salary

₹650K

Average Brazil Salary

R$57.4K

Data Science

Average US Salary

$95K

Average China Salary

¥301K

Average India Salary

₹500K

Average Brazil Salary

R$100K

Business Administration

Average US Salary

$66K

Average China Salary

¥242.8K

Average India Salary

₹450K

Average Brazil Salary

R$141K

Computer Science

Average US Salary

$86.5K

Average China Salary

¥332K

Average India Salary

₹745K

Average Brazil Salary

R$43K

Mechanical Engineering

Average US Salary

$73K

Average China Salary

¥344.7K

Average India Salary

₹692K

Average Brazil Salary

R$99K

Civil Engineering

Average US Salary

$83.5K

Average China Salary

¥180K

Average India Salary

₹665.5K

Average Brazil Salary

R$146K

Economics

Average US Salary

$74K

Average China Salary

¥247.5K

Average India Salary

₹384K

Average Brazil Salary

R$168K

Chemical Engineering

Average US Salary

$81K

Average China Salary

¥198K

Average India Salary

₹1,571.5K

Average Brazil Salary

R$200K

Electrical Engineering

Average US Salary

$89K

Average China Salary

¥273K

Average India Salary

₹707.2K

Average Brazil Salary

R$129K

The above salaries use data from PayScale, Glassdoor, and upGrad.

Average Annual Salaries by Graduate Degrees  

Software Engineering

Average US Salary

$106K

Average China Salary

¥180K

Average India Salary

₹1,218.6K

Average Brazil Salary

R$106.5K

Data Science

Average US Salary

$100K

Average China Salary

¥350K

Average India Salary

₹610.8K

Average Brazil Salary

R$137K

Business Administration

Average US Salary

$88.8K

Average China Salary

¥482.6K

Average India Salary

₹763K

Average Brazil Salary

R$171.6K

Computer Science

Average US Salary

$103K

Average China Salary

¥282K

Average India Salary

₹962.5K

Average Brazil Salary

R$102K

Mechanical Engineering

Average US Salary

$87K

Average China Salary

¥240K

Average India Salary

₹900K

Average Brazil Salary

R$142.5K

Civil Engineering

Average US Salary

$75K

Average China Salary

¥144K

Average India Salary

₹793K

Average Brazil Salary

R$164K

Economics

Average US Salary

$80K

Average China Salary

¥805K

Average India Salary

₹366K

Average Brazil Salary

R$349.8K

Chemical Engineering

Average US Salary

$85K

Average China Salary

¥990K

Average India Salary

₹1,692K

Average Brazil Salary

R$420K

Electrical Engineering

Average US Salary

$98K

Average China Salary

¥405K

Average India Salary

₹1,385K

Average Brazil Salary

R$156K

The above salaries use data from PayScale, Glassdoor, and upGrad.

Which Factors Should I Consider When Choosing My Major?

In addition to salary prospects, it is also important to consider the overall cost of your academic program, the country where you plan to work, job flexibility, and how much you enjoy the work. This will help you match your long-term career goals to the right major for you.

1. Cost of Your Degree

Studying at American universities is expensive. The cost of college is charged by the year, and the annual price covers college tuition, fees, living expenses, books and supplies, and health insurance. This cost varies depending on the major, university, and location. 

Research average salaries for the majors that interest you, then calculate whether the earning potential of each possible major helps you offset the costs of the degree. You will want to consider how long it will take to earn your degree, the expected time to pay off your student loans, and your earnings potential over your career. 

Depending on the college or university, there may be scholarships and financial aid options available for international students. Some universities also offer guaranteed internship programs. For example, the University of Illinois Chicago offers paid internships to qualifying engineering majors as early as freshman year.

Additionally, there are options that allow you to begin your US degree studies for an affordable price. For example, American Collegiate Live gives you the opportunity to start studying for your US degree in your home country, and then travel to campus after the first semester or year — allowing you to save a year of living expenses!

2. Country Where You Choose to Work 

The average salary, earning potential, and job prospects for your major vary across countries. Before choosing your major, make sure to research job prospects and earning potential in the country where you are planning to work. Depending on which country you choose to live in, it may take you more or less time to receive a good financial return on your college investment. 

You can also research countries with the highest average salaries. According to Paylab, countries with the highest average monthly salaries include the US, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Sweden, France, and Singapore. 

3. Career Satisfaction

While salary prospects are important, you also need to be passionate about the career field you choose. If your major leads you to a high-paying career but you do not enjoy the work, it could mean a low quality of life. 

So, when you choose your major, remember to also focus on your strengths and interests. Which subjects are you excited to study? Which classes make you feel engaged? There are many career possibilities across many majors. Make sure you consider your purpose — what really matters to you — alongside salary. 

Pursuing a US degree is going to be a milestone in your life. Whether it is an undergraduate or a graduate degree, it is going to help you stand apart from others in the competitive job market. Choosing the right major can lead you toward your career goals and help you face your future with confidence.

Shorelight advisors can help you choose the right major for your academic and professional goals. Get in touch today >