Imagine earning $100K per year. That's the dream, right? The good news is that earning that type of salary is within the realm of possibility. Not only that, but you don't have to major in something obscure or terrifying to accomplish your financial and professional goals. In case you're interested in potentially earning some serious dough without getting in over your head, we've compiled a list of the least intimidating majors to consider.
To create our list of the least intimidating degrees, we looked at four data points from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, based on a matching system that aligns degrees with related careers. We ranked each major on the following criteria, with all factors weighted equally:
- The mean grade point average of graduating seniors and the percentage of graduates in that major with a 4.0 GPA, Baccalaureate & Beyond Longitudinal Study, 2012
- The mean number of hours per week spent on schoolwork, Baccalaureate & Beyond Longitudinal Study, 2012
- The number of bachelor's programs offered nationally in that subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
- The number of jobs in the field with a mean annual salary greater than $100,000, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014
Now that you know how we created our list, read on to learn about the 5 least intimidating, yet still possibly lucrative, majors:
Simply put, business majors study all the aspects that help organizations function. One of the reasons that this major is not particularly intimidating is because all organizations that rely on money — from government entities and large corporations to mom-and-pop local businesses with only a few employees — use many of the same business principles to succeed. The difference is focus and scale.
A degree in business may also feel approachable because rather than specializing in a single aspect of the business world, such as marketing or accounting, students learn a little bit about many different specialties. This can prepare students for upper-level and executive positions where understanding the big picture is crucial to an organization's success. If that's not enough to convince you to consider majoring in business, here is some data that may sway you:
- Average GPA of graduating seniors: 3.23
- Average number of hours spent on school work per week: 13.90
- Number of jobs in the field earning an average of $100K or more: 19
With the lowest average number of hours spent on schoolwork out of any major surveyed, majoring in business may also leave you with plenty of free time to get a part-time job or an internship. Then not only is the major itself not intimidating, you're getting real-world experience that can make eventual employment in the field approachable too.
2. Computer Science
Once upon a time, computer science was considered one of the most intimidating majors possible. No longer! With computers becoming an increasingly important and commonplace feature in our everyday lives, understanding how they work is more vital than ever before. While the field of computer science can certainly include programming, there's more to the field than one specialization. Computer science has come to generally mean the study of information as well as how humankind interacts with that information.
For the millennial generation that has grown up surrounded by computers and digital forms of data, understanding new technology may be more intuitive than it was for previous generations for whom computers are a recent arrival on the scene. While this major was in the middle of the pack among the majors surveyed in terms of hours spent on homework, over 7 percent of students graduated with a 4.0 grade point average — the highest on our list. Here are the other stats for majors in computer science, information science and computer support:
- Average GPA of graduating seniors: 3.29
- Average number of hours spent on school work per week: 14.42
- Number of jobs in the field earning an average of $100K or more: 5
While the field can be more competitive and the amount of effort required may be slightly more than for a business major, one thing's for certain — computers are here to stay. As a result, majoring in this field could pay dividends for years to come.
Education is a broad field because students range from preschool age to adult learners. This means that there are teachers doing everything from helping 4- and 5-year-olds learn to follow directions, share and take turns to supervising graduate students at the forefront of their fields as they conduct and publish original research. The subject matter being taught can range from learning to read to diagnosing and treating illness and injury, and beyond.
The study of how students learn and what teaching strategies work best is called pedagogy, and it is just as important to the field of education as a thorough understanding of the subject being taught. One of the most effective ways to learn how to teach others is simply to do it, and as a result, majoring in education almost always includes a student-teaching, internship or formal mentoring component. Here's what you need to know if you're considering majoring in education:
- Average GPA of graduating seniors: 3.42
- Average number of hours spent on school work per week: 15.05
- Number of jobs in the field earning an average of $100K or more: 3
With the highest average GPA among majors surveyed, education is a strong contender for students searching for a major that isn't too intimidating. Just be aware that getting your salary into the $100K range may entail teaching a highly specialized and in-demand field or transitioning into administration.
4. Health Sciences
Health care is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, and the number of careers a major in this field can prepare you for is vast. An undergraduate major in health sciences may include prerequisite coursework for those interested in going on to medical or dental school, or it may prepare individuals to work in hospital administration as pharmaceutical sales representatives or as nurses or medical assistants.
Health science majors graduate with the second-highest average GPA among majors surveyed and are tied for the highest number of jobs that can propel your potential salary into the $100K range. Take a look:
- Average GPA of graduating seniors: 3.39
- Average number of hours spent on school work per week: 16.50
- Number of jobs in the field earning an average of $100K or more: 19
While the average number of hours spent on schoolwork weekly is on the higher side when compared to other majors on this list, those challenges are offset by the factors listed above. Additionally, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you're helping others get well and stay that way.
5. Social Science
The social sciences are disciplines that focus on what affects the behavior of social groups as well as individuals in a variety of circumstances. Examples of the social sciences include anthropology, communication, economics, history, psychology and sociology, among others. Social scientists seek to understand why people behave the way they do so that behavior can be predicted and, in certain circumstances, managed for the benefit of all.
Contemporary social sciences combine statistics and mathematical modeling with observations and experiments. Perhaps one of the reasons these majors are among the least intimidating is the fact that understanding yourself and those around you is an inherently fascinating enterprise with the potential to enrich not just one's understanding of large-scale social phenomena, but also one's individual, personal life and interactions. Additionally, here are some stats on social sciences majors:
- Average GPA of graduating seniors: 3.18
- Average number of hours spent on school work per week: 14.22
- Number of jobs in the field earning an average of $100K or more: 4
With a relatively low weekly schoolwork commitment, a social science major can be an intriguing way to prepare yourself for a career earning 100K or more.
This list just goes to show that a college major can prepare you to become a high earner without consuming every second of your free time or dragging down your GPA. However, some people thrive in higher-pressure environments or simply have other interests. If that sounds like you, check out our list of the 5 most intimidating majors that can earn you $100K.
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2014-15, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed Dec. 3, 2015, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
2008-12 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study, National Center for Education Statistics, July 2014, Accessed Dec. 3, 2015, http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/b&b/
SOC 2010 to CIP 2010 Crosswalk, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed Dec. 2, 2015, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cipcode/resources.aspx?y=55
May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 25, 2015, Accessed Dec. 2, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm