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EDUCATION RANKINGS
 
 
Most VALUABLE STEM Majors
2014

We've updated our rankings to reflect the most up-to-date available. Check out the newest version of this report, 25 STEM Majors with the Best Value 2015.

There's been much discussion recently over STEM--Science, Technology, Engineering and Math--degrees, a collection of majors that have not only some of the highest-paying related careers, but a positive employment outlook across several industries. For example, a 2014 report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that many STEM graduates go on to work in industries different from their degree concentration.

Yet--collectively--STEM majors enjoy an advantage in today's economy and are projected to remain in-demand well into the future. A study from Georgetown University's Center on Education and Workforce noted STEM is projected to be the second-fastest-growing industry in the economy, related occupations are some of the highest-paid and the demand means employers could be expected to compete fiercely for the services of STEM degree holders.

For prospective students, cutting through the noise surrounding STEM can be difficult. Is engineering really the right choice? Are there opportunities in computer technology? Physical sciences? Most other rankings and studies of STEM majors only concentrate on career earnings, which ultimately provide a limited perspective.

In its study of the Best STEM Majors 2014, WorldWideLearn.com broadened the scope of analysis, examining not only career earnings, but educational opportunity, degree affordability, job growth potential and more to determine the overall value of the major both to educational qualities and future career success.

Methodology

For this study, we examined 50 STEM majors, across a cluster of 9 industry clusters:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Architecture
  3. Computer and Information Sciences
  4. Engineering
  5. Engineering Technologies
  6. Interdisciplinary Studies
  7. Mathematics and Statistics
  8. Natural Resources and Conservation
  9. Physical Sciences

We ranked each specific major in two major areas -- Education and Employment -- and created four proprietary metrics for each field:

  • Educational Availability: A combination of the required degree level for careers in each field and the total available programs
  • Earning Index:  This metric factors national average salary and total degree cost
  • Employment Opportunity: For employment opportunity we looked at projected job growth between 2012 and 2022 and the total number of job openings for careers in each field
  • Educational Affordability: The affordability metric takes into account average tuition for related programs

Those metrics were derived from the following data sources:

  • Average national income, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
  • Job growth projections (2012-2022), from the BLS
  • In-state tuition data (2013-2014), according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
  • Educational program data, from NCES (2014)

TOP STEM MAJORS AND RELATED CAREERS

Within the nine industry clusters, engineering dominated the list with 29 engineering-related majors and 5 of those making the top 10. Computer and Information Sciences followed in second, placing 3 majors in the top 10.

Other fields, not represented in the top 10, also made strong appearances with multiple majors on the list, including Biological and Biomedical Sciences (6 majors) and Physical Sciences (6 majors).

Below is a list of the top-ranked STEM majors and a spotlight career for that field of study.

1Information Technology

information technology major

Leading the list of Best STEM Majors 2014 is Information Technology. The major scored strongly in all categories, receiving a top ten rank nationally for program availability and the number one ranking nationally for employment opportunity. Although the degree program skews towards the more expensive side, the investment in the major is projected to be worth the effort with excellent job growth projections in related career fields. For example, a degree in information technology could lead to a career as an information security analyst, a career projected to grow by 36 percent nationally between 2012 and 2022.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 86.9

Educational Affordability: 41.0

Earning Index: 68.9

Job Opportunity: 98.4

Major Overview: Information Technology is a major that can prepare students for several career tracks and students may study everything from application testing to databases, user interface design to computer hardware development.

Spotlight Career: Information Security Analysts

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's
  • 2013 National Average Salary: $91,210
  • 2012-2022 Job Growth: 36.5%
  • 2013 Average In-State Tuition: $15,094

Explore Information Technology degree programs.

2Computer And Information Sciences

Information Science major

Landing in the second spot on the list is Computer and Information Sciences. It is a wide-ranging major that covers several potential career paths for students, from computer systems administrator to network architect, information systems manager to computer systems analyst. It took number two on the list because of its balance between educational opportunity, earning potential and projected job growth for related careers. Average national incomes for those careers topped $93,000 in 2013, making this major a desirable option for students.

Major Overview: Computer and Information Sciences is a general program of study that focuses on a variety of areas across the general field of Computer Science. Topics of study may include programming languages, software development, application testing and more.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 80.3

Educational Affordability: 26.2

Earning Index: 85.2

Job Opportunity: 90.2

Spotlight Career: Computer Systems Analysts

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's
  • 2013 National Average Salary: $85,320
  • 2012-2022 Job Growth: 24.5%
  • 2013 Average In-State Tuition: $17,446

Explore Computer Science degree programs.

3Mathematics

Mathematics majors

Perhaps surprisingly, Mathematics arrives at number three on our STEM majors list with the best overall value. Yet, with top 10 national rankings in both program availability and average income, it actually shouldn't be a surprise that Mathematics is a degree prospective students should consider. With more than 500 programs available nationally, mathematics is an accessible field of study that can open the door to numerous careers paths.

Major Overview: Mathematics is a broad field of study that encompasses a multitude of specializations, including calculus, number theory, functional analysis and more.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 88.5

Educational Affordability: 50.8

Earning Index: 74.6

Job Opportunity: 65.6

Spotlight Career: Mathematicians

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Master's
  • 2013 National Average Salary: $103,310
  • 2012-2022 Job Growth: 22.7%
  • 2013 Average In-State Tuition: $13,223

Explore Mathematics degree programs.

4Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering major

Civil Engineering is the first of four engineering-related majors to make the top ten in 2014. A quickly growing field, Civil Engineering has the second most jobs (over 54,000) projected to open nationally between 2012 and 2022. In addition to its strong scores in job opportunity, the major also ranked No. 11 nationally for degree availability, meaning entrance into the career field.

Major Overview: Civil Engineering teaches students about the principles behind the design, creation and analysis of load-bearing and structural systems, transportation, environmental systems and more.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 82.0

Educational Affordability: 39.3

Earning Index: 59.0

Job Opportunity: 93.4

Spotlight Career: Civil Engineers

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's
  • 2013 National Average Salary: $85,640
  • 2012-2022 Job Growth: 19.7%
  • 2013 Average In-State Tuition: $15,759

Explore Civil Engineering degree programs.

5Computer Engineering

Computer Engineering major

At number five is Computer Engineering, a major that should attract new students due to its high rankings in both educational opportunity (No. 12) and average yearly income for related careers (No. 5). Although average in-state tuition falls in the middle range, the potential annual earnings should allay any fears about the cost of the degree.

Major Overview: Computer Engineering is a general field of study that prepares students to work with both computer hardware and software systems, using both analytical and technical skills to develop and design products in each area.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 83.6

Educational Affordability: 31.1

Earning Index: 91

Job Opportunity: 60.7

Spotlight Career: Computer Hardware Engineers

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's
  • 2013 National Average Salary: $106,930
  • 2012-2022 Job Growth: 7.4%
  • 2013 Average In-State Tuition: $16,719

Explore Computer Engineering degree programs.

6Computer Programming

Computer Programming major

Computer Programming is a fast-growing industry, one with several career paths whose employment projections outpace the national average. It ranked in the top five nationally both for the number of educational programs available, as well as the total number of national job openings projected between 2012 and 2022.

Major Overview: Computer Programming is a major that prepares students to design, work with and maintain computer software. Students traditionally learn about programming languages, testing, operating systems and software design.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 93.5

Educational Affordability: 62.9

Earning Index: 16.9

Job Opportunity: 86.3

Spotlight Career: Web Developers

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Associate
  • 2013 National Average Salary: $67,540
  • 2012-2022 Job Growth: 20.1%
  • 2013 Average In-State Tuition: $8,213

Explore Computer Programming degree programs.

7Environmental Engineering Technology

Environmental Engineering major

Arriving at number seven is the first degree program at the associate level: Environmental Engineering Technology. A combination of affordable tuition and solid employment opportunities after graduation help the major land in the top ten. Although its earning index is average, the major has one of the lowest average tuition rates in the country, making it both accessible and affordable for students looking for an entry-point into engineering.

Major Overview: Environmental Engineering Technology is a program that provides students with an education in the fundamental principles of engineering, helping them develop technical skills that can be applied in support roles.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 41.9

Educational Affordability: 91.9

Earning Index: 49.2

Job Opportunity: 74.2

Spotlight Career: Environmental Engineering Technicians

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Associate
  • 2013 National Average Salary: $41,180
  • 2012-2022 Job Growth: 18.4%
  • 2013 Average In-State Tuition: $4,187

Explore Environmental Engineering degree programs.

8Nuclear Engineering Technology

Nuclear Engineering major

Like its counterpart at number seven, Nuclear Engineering Technology is another major at the associate level. It scored in the top ten nationally in both Educational Affordability (No. 6) and Earning Index (No. 7) -- meaning students should be able to reap a solid return on their degree investment after graduating.

Major Overview: Nuclear Engineering Technology is a program of study that teaches students to serve in support positions for engineers and other professionals in nuclear facilities. Instruction typically includes basic engineering skills, systems design, nuclear science and systems, physics and more.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 17.2

Educational Affordability: 90.2

Earning Index: 88.5

Job Opportunity: 59.0

Spotlight Career: Nuclear Technicians

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Associate
  • 2013 National Average Salary: $73,450
  • 2012-2022 Job Growth: 14.9%
  • 2013 Average In-State Tuition: $4,210

Explore Nuclear Engineering Technology degree programs.

9Petroleum Technology

Petroleum Engineering major

Petroleum Technology arrives at number nine due to a blend of solid scores in both the degree affordability and earning potential categories. Overall, it is one of the most affordable majors on this list (No. 4) and, as an Associate degree, offers students a shorter path to careers that pay well (over $58,000 in average salary) and have good employment projections (over 15 percent national job growth).

Major Overview: Petroleum Technology is a degree program that prepares students to apply basic technical skills in support roles, working with professionals engaged in oil and natural gas processing and extraction occupations. Study topic may include instrument calibration, geology, test equipment operation and more.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 27.9

Educational Affordability: 93.4

Earning Index: 65.6

Job Opportunity: 67.2

Spotlight Career: Geological and Petroleum Technicians

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Associate
  • 2013 National Average Salary: $58,780
  • 2012-2022 Job Growth: 15.1%
  • 2013 Average In-State Tuition: $4,040

Explore Petroleum Technology degree programs.

10Marine Sciences

Marine Science majors

Marine Sciences joins the top 10 on this year's list for best STEM majors with solid scores in employment opportunity (No. 14), degree affordability (No. 15) and average income for related careers (No. 4). Students may be attracted to this field because of the diverse assortment of career specializations, including marine biology, oceanography, ocean engineering and more.

Major Overview: Marine Sciences is an interdisciplinary field of study that blends instruction in geology, chemistry, physics and biology. Instruction can be wide ranging, concentrating in areas such as coastal ecology, marine biogeochemistry and more.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 3.3

Educational Affordability: 75.4

Earning Index: 98.4

Job Opportunity: 77.0

Spotlight Career: Geoscientists, except Hydrologists and Geographers

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's
  • 2013 National Average Salary: $108,420
  • 2012-2022 Job Growth: 15.8%
  • 2013 Average In-State Tuition: $6,390

Explore Marine Sciences degree programs.

The Rest of the List

In terms of industry clusters, Agriculture (4 majors), Biological and Biomedical Sciences (6 majors) and Physical Sciences (6 majors) were all well-represented on this year's list of STEM majors with the most value.

11. ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONICS ENGINEERING

12. CELL/CELLULAR BIOLOGY AND HISTOLOGY

13. GEOTECHNICAL AND GEOENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING

14. PHYSICAL SCIENCE TECHNOLOGIES/TECHNICIANS

15. AEROSPACE, AERONAUTICAL AND ASTRONAUTICAL/SPACE ENGINEERING

16. MECHANICAL ENGINEERING/MECHANICAL TECHNOLOGY/TECHNICIAN

17. CHEMICAL TECHNOLOGY/TECHNICIAN

18. NUCLEAR ENGINEERING

19. ARCHITECTURAL ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY/TECHNICIAN

20. DRAFTING AND DESIGN TECHNOLOGY/TECHNICIAN, GENERAL

21. ELECTROMECHANICAL TECHNOLOGY/ELECTROMECHANICAL ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY

22. MECHANICAL ENGINEERING

23. INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING

24. SURVEYING TECHNOLOGY/SURVEYING

25. BIOENGINEERING AND BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING

26. SOIL MICROBIOLOGY

27. NAVAL ARCHITECTURE AND MARINE ENGINEERING

28. ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES AND METEOROLOGY, GENERAL

29. ENGINEERING, GENERAL

30. CIVIL ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY/TECHNICIAN

31. BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES, GENERAL

32. ENGINEERING PHYSICS/APPLIED PHYSICS

33. CHEMICAL ENGINEERING

34. ELECTRICAL, ELECTRONIC AND COMMUNICATIONS ENGINEERING ECHNOLOGY/TECHNICIAN

35. APPLIED MATHEMATICS, GENERAL

36. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

37. BIOCHEMISTRY

38. GEOLOGY/EARTH SCIENCE, GENERAL

39. INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY/TECHNICIAN

40. AERONAUTICAL/AEROSPACE ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY/TECHNICIAN

41. AGRICULTURAL ENGINEERING

42. WILDLIFE, FISH AND WILDLANDS SCIENCE AND MANAGEMENT

45. ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

46. CHEMISTRY, GENERAL

47. AGRICULTURE, GENERAL

48. FOREST TECHNOLOGY/TECHNICIAN

49. ASTRONOMY

50. CERAMIC SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING

If you're interested in learning more about some of the specific STEM programs out there, use our school search tool to get matched with schools based on degree level, subject, campus location and more.