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Which College Grads Make the Most Money

Which College Grads Make the Most Money

Career outlooks and superlatives.

By Liz O'Neill

May 13, 2011

A recent article from CNN Money indicates that engineering majors outperform their classmates when it comes to starting salary offers. In fact, engineers of various disciplines claimed 4 of the 5 top spots for average salary offers in 2011. And computer science majors rounded out the group.

But life isn’t all about money. How do engineers fare in other categories – like health, love, and happiness? (As it turns out, they do okay with those things too.) From suicide rates to happiness, life expectancy to divorce rates, we run down the careers that are making people happy, and literally making them sick.

If you’re about to graduate, you may be interested to learn how your chosen degree and career plans rank against other sectors.

Highest Income Overall: Surgeons

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineers eventually lose ground to medical and dental professionals, when it comes to average earnings. Oral surgeons, orthodontists, physicians and general surgeons all earned median wages over $166K – on average – in 2008. CEO’s weren’t far behind. Engineering managers held strong among the dentists and the podiatrists, with pilots and air traffic controllers making an appearance thereafter. All told, the notable mention might go to marketing managers, who earned median wages of $108K, without enduring medical school, dental school, law school, or a work environment above 20 thousand feet.

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Highest Suicide Rates: Physicians

Today’s college-based mental health centers are reporting an uptick in students’ levels of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. But when it comes to identifying specific majors, the trend hasn’t yet translated into any discernable pattern. According to the APA, the data on suicide rates by profession is, at best, equivocal. Some studies have indicated that white male physicians do have higher rates of suicide than other professionals, followed by black male police officers, and white female artists.

Longest Life Expectancy: Accountants

While this UK data doesn’t break down findings by college major, it does isolate some occupations that tend to keep people living longer. Engineers top the list again, along with doctors and accountants, who all live beyond 80 – on average. Teachers, journalists and business managers fared slightly worse – dropping off 8 months to 2 years earlier (more markedly for women than men.) But ultimately it’s the manual laborers, tradesmen, and service industry professionals who have the shortest expectancies. Researchers suspect the differences may more likely be correlated with income brackets than with specific career elements – given that people with higher incomes tend to eat healthier, avoid smoking, and access preventative medicine.


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