Best STEM Majors
Article Sources


  1. Attachment C: Detailed 2010 SOC occupations included in STEM, Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 2012, accessed December 26, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/soc/Attachment_C_STEM.pdf
  2. May 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed December 26, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
  3. Employment Projections: Occupational Employment, Job Openings and Worker Characteristics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed December 26, 2016, https://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_data_occupational_data.htm
  4. STEM Designated Degree Program List: Effective May 20, 2016, Department of Homeland Security, accessed December 26, 2016, https://www.ice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Document/2016/stem-list.pdf
  5. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 26, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  6. Education, Experience and Training elements, O*NET Resource Center, accessed December 26, 2016, http://www.onetcenter.org/database.html?p=3#ete
  7. School pages, accessed December 26-27, 2016: Information Technology Degree Online, Southern New Hampshire University, http://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/bs-in-information-technologies; Online Degree in Cyber Security, Bellevue University, http://www.bellevue.edu/degrees/bachelor/cybersecurity-bs/; Bachelor of Science, Computer Engineering, Texas A&M University, http://engineering.tamu.edu/cse/academics/degrees/ce/bs; Bachelor Degree in IT Network Administration, Western Governors University, http://www.wgu.edu/online_it_degrees/information_technology_degree_networks_admin; Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications, Florida State College, http://www.fscj.edu/academics/areas-of-study/information-technology/computer-systems-networking-telecommunications-bas/; Bachelor of Science in Information Sciences and Technology, Penn State World Campus, http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/information-sciences-and-technology-bachelors/overview; Bachelor's Information Science Degree, Franklin University, http://www.franklin.edu/information-systems-bachelors-degree-curriculum; BS in Information Science, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, http://ualr.edu/informationscience/courses/; Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, Colorado Technical University, http://www.coloradotech.edu/degrees/bachelors/it/software-application-programming; Civil Engineering, B.S. in C.E., University of Nevada, Reno, http://catalog.unr.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=13&poid=5969&hl=%22civil%22&returnto=search; Online Civil Engineering Degree, University of North Dakota, http://und.edu/academics/extended-learning/online-distance/degrees/civil-engineering/; Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, http://catalog.utexas.edu/undergraduate/engineering/degrees-and-programs/bs-petroleum-engineering/; Systems Analysis and Integration Specialization, DeVry University, http://www.devry.edu/degree-programs/engineering-information-sciences/systems-analysis-and-integration-degree-specialization.html; Computer Systems Analysis Degree, Dunwoody College of Technology, http://www.dunwoody.edu/computer/systems-analysis/; Bachelor of Science in Geography, University of Nevada, Reno, http://www.unr.edu/degrees/geography/bs; Courses, Geographic Information Science (GIS), Ball State University, http://cms.bsu.edu/academics/collegesanddepartments/geography/academicsadmissions/programs/bachelors/gis/courses; Informatics Bachelor of Science, http://soic.iupui.edu/undergraduate/degrees/informatics/; Informatics Undergraduate Programs, University of Washington, https://ischool.uw.edu/academics/informatics; Bachelor of Science in Information Technology - Software Systems Engineering, Colorado Technical University, http://www.coloradotech.edu/degrees/bachelors/it/software-systems-engineering; Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Management Science, The University of Texas at San Antonio, http://catalog.utsa.edu/undergraduate/business/managementsciencestatistics/#managementscience; Electrical Engineering Degree, University of North Dakota, http://und.edu/academics/extended-learning/online-distance/degrees/electrical-engineering/; BS Industrial Engineering, Lamar University, http://catalog.lamar.edu/degrees-and-programs/degree-course-requirements/eg/bs-industrial-engineering.html; Industrial Engineering Bachelor's Degree Program, Baker College, https://www.baker.edu/programs-degrees/engineering/industrial-engineering-bachelor-of-science-in-industrial-engineering/; Program: Geophysical Engineering, B.S., Montana Tech - The University of Montana, http://catalog.mtech.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=7&poid=1142&returnto=926; Geological Engineering BS Degree, Michigan Technological University, http://www.mtu.edu/geo/undergraduate/geo-eng/; Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, http://engineering.mit.edu/departments/be; Biological Engineering Degree Program, North Carolina State University, http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/undergrad/bio_eng.php; Mechanical Engineer Bachelor Degree Program, Baker College, https://www.baker.edu/programs-degrees/engineering/mechanical-engineering/; Mining Engineering, Missouri University of Science and Technology, http://catalog.mst.edu/undergraduate/degreeprogramsandcourses/miningengineering/#text; Bioengineering (B.S.), Clemson University, http://www.clemson.edu/degrees/bioengineering; Biomedical Engineering Degree, Florida Institute of Technology, http://www.fit.edu/programs/7048/bs-biomedical-engineering#.WGMnC2Vf2M8; Bachelor of Science in Geology, University of Houston, http://www.uh.edu/nsm/earth-atmospheric/undergraduate/degree-programs/bs-geology/; Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, http://erau.edu/degrees/bachelor/aerospace-engineering/; Aerospace Engineering, University of Southern California, https://gapp.usc.edu/graduate-programs/masters/aerospace-and-mechanical-engineering/aerospace-engineering-engineers-degree; Aerospace Engineering, Texas A&M University, http://engineering.tamu.edu/aerospace/academics/degrees/undergraduate/bs; Software Engineering Degree, BS, Keiser University, http://www.keiseruniversity.edu/software-engineering-bs/; Systems Analysis and Design, Purdue University, https://polytechnic.purdue.edu/degrees/systems-analysis-and-design; Computer Programming Degree, Pittsburgh Technical College, https://www.ptcollege.edu/programs/school-of-information-technology/computer-programming; Network and Telecommunications, Bachelor of Science, St John's University, http://www.stjohns.edu/academics/schools-and-colleges/college-professional-studies/programs-and-majors/networking-and-telecommunications-bachelor-science; Computer Networking Degree Online, Colorado Technical University, http://www.coloradotech.edu/degrees/bachelors/it/network-management; Associate Degree in Network Administration, Cincinnati State University, http://www.cincinnatistate.edu/academics/degrees-and-certificates/business-network-administration;
  8. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed December 26, 2016: Computer Network Architects, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm; Civil Engineers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm; Computer Systems Analysts, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Computer-and-Information-Technology/Computer-systems-analysts.htm; Industrial Engineers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/industrial-engineers.htm; Mining and Geological Engineers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mining-and-geological-engineers.htm; Biomedical Engineers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm; Geoscientists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Life-Physical-and-Social-Science/Geoscientists.htm;
  9. Computer Programmers, Occupational Information Network, accessed December 26, 2016, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1131.00?redir=15-1021.00
  10. College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed December 26, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers have long been considered a relatively reliable way to earn a living, and the continuing rise in high-tech products and services over the past several years is fueling even stronger demand for newly minted STEM professionals. Initiatives -- driven by industry, the government and even consumer demand -- have come into force all across the country to encourage familiarity with STEM fields in elementary and high school students. The result: An increasing number of relevant degree programs are showing up in the course catalogs of regional colleges and national universities alike.

Naturally, however, not every STEM discipline will have the same level of job growth, and the sort of education you may need to break into the field of your choice is not always obvious. We've done the research on today's top college bachelor degree programs for STEM careers and put together a list that showcases the employment opportunity and earning potential that might be available to graduates of the top 25 majors, as well as the availability and relative affordability of the degree programs themselves. We ranked 106 majors in various STEM fields on criteria related to both education and employment, and below we've called out any top 10 rankings each major received in specific categories. More about our methodology is listed at the end of the article.

1Information Technology

Information Technology

Information technology tops the list for the third time running, thanks in large part to a No. 1 ranking in projected job opportunity between 2014 and 2024. One of the major upsides of an IT degree is the broad base of entry-level career skills that it can teach you, including computer programming, database fundamentals, network management, Web design and systems analysis. What's more, adding a few business courses to your IT degree can give you educational credentials that might be hard to beat.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 11

Educational Affordability: No. 39

Earning Potential: No. 16

Employment Opportunity: No. 1

Spotlight Career: Information Security Analyst

  • Average Salary, 2015: $93,250
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 17.9%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 2,550

2Computer Information Systems Security

Computer Information Systems Security

Employment opportunity also led the charge for information systems security degrees, which are sometimes offered through the same academic departments as general IT programs. Focusing on the security side of the IT spectrum can give you a well-rounded understanding of what it takes to keep enterprise computer systems safe from attack, including such vital concepts as network security, access control, mobile device security, e-commerce security, analysis of cybersecurity systems, IT investigations, database security and cryptography.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 15

Educational Affordability: No. 41

Earning Potential: No. 27

Employment Opportunity: No. 10

Spotlight Career: Database Administrator

  • Average Salary, 2015: $84,250
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 11.1%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 3,920

3Computer Engineering

Computer Engineering

One of the highest average salaries in the world of STEM careers helped to put computer engineering at the No. 3 spot, as did the potential opportunity in a range of industries including telecommunications, aerospace, transportation, energy, medical science, education and government. Most computer engineering degree programs at the bachelor's level aim to provide a firm grasp of elemental engineering concepts, giving you the opportunity to further specialize your skills with a master's degree or professional certificate after graduation if you choose.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 16 (tie)

Educational Affordability: No. 60

Earning Potential: No. 8 (tie)

Employment Opportunity: No. 13 (tie)

Spotlight Career: Computer Hardware Engineer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $114,970
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 3.1%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 1,840

4Network and System Administration

Network and System Administration

Network and systems administrators are vital players on an organization's IT team, particularly in large enterprises that manage multiple levels of employee access and rely on consistent computer-to-computer communication in their everyday operations. Network admins often oversee the implementation, maintenance and security of computer network systems, sometimes supervising teams of network technicians, programmers and systems analysis personnel. Major subjects of study for aspiring network or system admins include IT system architectures, network security, technical report writing, database organization and project management.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 36

Educational Affordability: No. 26

Earning Potential: No. 22

Employment Opportunity: No. 13 (tie)

Spotlight Career: Network Administrator

  • Average Salary, 2015: $82,200
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 7.9%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 7,940

5Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications

Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications

This major may seem similar to the one above it, but network administrator careers tend to differ from the more technical IT roles that are often better suited to graduates with networking and telecommunications degrees. Network architects, for example, use their knowledge of cutting-edge solutions to create plans for IT networks of an appropriate size and complexity for an individual organization, while network technicians focus on constructing and maintaining networks once the plans have been finalized. Students in networking and telecom programs learn such fundamentals as LAN/WAN technologies, routing and switching, network security, networking regulation and digital forensics.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 29

Educational Affordability: No. 35

Earning Potential: No. 36

Employment Opportunity: No. 6

Spotlight Career: Computer Network Architect

  • Average Salary, 2015: $103,100
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 8.7%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 3,150

6Information Science/Studies

Information Science/Studies

Different institutions may have different names for their specific versions of this major -- information science, information studies and information systems are three common ones -- but the general thrust of the coursework tends to be similar across the various programs. Many programs lean in the direction of administration or oversight of enterprise IT systems rather than the hands-on technical side, and some may also train you on business or management concepts to help you better understand the needs and goals of the non-IT departments in your future organization.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 13

Educational Affordability: No. 54

Earning Potential: No. 14

Employment Opportunity: No. 17

Spotlight Career: Information Systems Manager

  • Average Salary, 2015: $141,000
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 15.4%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 9,480

7Computer Programming

Computer Programming

The job description of a computer programmer has expanded quite a bit since the days of room-sized mainframes and binary data recorded on punch cards. Graduates with computer programming degrees might find themselves working at a small startup, coding the next app that takes the country by storm, or working on a key feature of a big operating system release for an international giant like Apple or Microsoft. Coursework in computer programming degree programs typically includes data structures, user-centered design, mobile and enterprise application programming, database systems and graphical interface development.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 18

Educational Affordability: No. 45

Earning Potential: No. 57

Employment Opportunity: No. 5

Spotlight Career: Web Developer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $70,660
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 26.6%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 5,860

8Civil Engineering

Civil Engineering

Civil engineers research, plan, design and oversee the construction of transportation and resource infrastructure components. This requires using their knowledge of environmental systems, geophysics, advanced mathematics and engineering mechanics to ensure that the roads, bridges, dams, tunnels, airports and facilities they create will be built and used as safely and securely as possible. The degrees typically necessary to find a job in the field also enjoy wide availability: Civil engineering bachelor's degree programs were offered at a total of 251 schools in the 2015-16 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 16 (tie)

Educational Affordability: No. 55

Earning Potential: No. 20

Employment Opportunity: No. 30

Spotlight Career: Civil Engineer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $87,940
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 8.4%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 10,670

9Computer Science

Computer Science

Perhaps the most versatile of all tech degrees, computer science can give you the baseline training you need to branch out into a wide variety of computing disciplines. Systems administration, software development, IT management, computer systems research and many other professions have their roots in computer science, and the ever-increasing advancement of technology in all walks of life is helping lead to growth in demand for computer science skills across the whole STEM spectrum.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 5

Educational Affordability: No. 90

Earning Potential: No. 41

Employment Opportunity: No. 3

Spotlight Career: Software Developer, Systems Software

  • Average Salary, 2015: $108,760
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 13.0%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 10,790

10Petroleum Engineering

Petroleum Engineering

Jobs in the energy sector have been diversifying over the past decade or so, but the oil and gas industry still holds some of the most lucrative career options for engineers. Petroleum engineers enjoyed the highest average salary of any STEM field in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and opportunities are projected to grow at a faster-than-average rate over the next several years. Coursework for degrees in the field typically includes geological and geophysical science, fluid dynamics, properties of environmental systems and differential calculus for engineers, among other subjects.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 73

Educational Affordability: No. 21

Earning Potential: No. 1

Employment Opportunity: No. 40

Spotlight Career: Petroleum Engineer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $149,590
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 9.8%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 1,300

11Computer Systems Analysis

Computer Systems Analysis

When the business needs and IT capabilities of a company don't line up, computer systems analysts are the mediators who step in and figure out solutions that work for both sides. You might be able to qualify for a systems analyst position with a general computer science degree, but dedicated systems analysis programs tend to include helpful business-oriented courses such as management information systems, operations research, quality assurance testing, business continuity and advanced enterprise analysis alongside object-oriented programming, enterprise data management and other technical subjects.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 38

Educational Affordability: No. 48

Earning Potential: No. 38

Employment Opportunity: No. 12

Spotlight Career: Computer Systems Analyst

  • Average Salary, 2015: $90,810
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 20.9%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 19,160

12Geographic Information Science and Cartography

Geographic Information Science and Cartography

Cartography may sound like something only done by legendary transatlantic explorers, but BLS numbers show that it's more cutting-edge than you might think. Thanks to advancements in geographic information systems (GIS) technology, cartography is projected to see the fastest growth rate among all top STEM occupations between 2014 and 2024. If you're thinking of becoming a modern-day cartographer, university geography departments are the place to look -- just make sure the program includes a study of spatial analytical methods, cartographic data visualization, remote sensing, GIS analysis and advanced map reading.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 62

Educational Affordability: No. 6

Earning Potential: No. 69

Employment Opportunity: No. 7

Spotlight Career: Cartographer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $65,410
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 29.3%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 740



Informatics is fairly new as a stand-alone STEM discipline, but its focus on the intersections of computer science, social science and systems engineering is helping to drive innovation across many specialized fields of study and practice. Students in informatics programs learn the nuances of different information infrastructures with the goal of building more efficient and effective integrations of technology into business operations, health care, communications, research, science and recreation. Dedicated informatics degree programs aren't yet as common as some others in STEM, but the strong earning potential and rising employment availability for graduates goes a long way toward making up the difference.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 69

Educational Affordability: No. 40

Earning Potential: No. 25 (tie)

Employment Opportunity: No. 4

Spotlight Career: Software Developer, Systems Software

  • Average Salary, 2015: $108,760
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 13.0%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 10,790

14Computer Software Engineering

Computer Software Engineering

Software engineering skills have been among the hottest on the career market for several years now, and the trend shows no sign of slowing any time soon. Earning a bachelor's degree in software engineering can help position you to work for top tech companies as well as emerging startups, developing and coding applications for everything from enterprise systems and mobile devices to gaming consoles, household appliances, self-driving cars and more. Typical courses in this major include common computer languages such as Java and C#, software design and testing fundamentals, mobile application development and human-computer interface design.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 43

Educational Affordability: No. 74

Earning Potential: No. 8 (tie)

Employment Opportunity: No. 8

Spotlight Career: Software Developer, Applications

  • Average Salary, 2015: $102,160
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 18.8%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 23,800

15Management Science

Management Science

Using hard data and sound analytic methods to solve the tricky problems of business operations has always been important, but today's powerful computing systems and the need to manage ever-larger data sets have pushed it further into the tech spotlight. Programs in management science typically include training in business basics such as project management, logistics, operations management, accounting and economics alongside courses in business information systems and computer modeling of financial data.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 32

Educational Affordability: No. 72

Earning Potential: No. 44

Employment Opportunity: No. 2

Spotlight Career: General Manager

  • Average Salary, 2015: $119,460
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 7.1%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 68,880

16Computer Programming, Specific Applications

Computer Programming, Specific Applications

While many computer science or computer programming degrees aim to give students a broad, general understanding of the theory and techniques of application development, programs of study that focus on a particular set of applications can prepare you to attack specific problems in software engineering and development with a laserlike focus. If you're thinking about getting into programming or development and you know exactly which type of application you'd like to work on, this type of specialized degree might help you stand out from the pack in the hiring process.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 68

Educational Affordability: No. 42

Earning Potential: No. 32

Employment Opportunity: No. 15

Spotlight Career: Computer Programmer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $84,360
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: -8.0%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 8,100

17Electrical and Electronics Engineering

Electrical and Electronics Engineering

Electrical and electronics engineering was one of the most prominent STEM careers in the days of the transistor radio, and it's no less important today than it was before the microprocessor revolution and the rise of the Internet. Degree programs that train electrical and electronics engineers are plentiful, for online students as well as those learning on campus, and demand for skilled graduates is expected to persist in public sector organizations like the U.S. Department of Transportation as well as private sector companies such as 3M, Boeing, Intel and Westinghouse.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 10

Educational Affordability: No. 57

Earning Potential: No. 17

Employment Opportunity: No. 72

Spotlight Career: Electrical Engineer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $97,340
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 1.0%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 4,110

18Industrial Engineering

Industrial Engineering

The processes that take place behind the scenes of manufacturing plants or across supply chains can dictate how efficiently and effectively a company delivers results, and industrial engineers work to ensure that those processes produce as little waste as possible while still being able to fire on all cylinders. Key coursework in these degree programs typically covers subjects such as industrial systems design, statistical process control, computerized manufacturing, engineering technology and technical writing.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 27

Educational Affordability: No. 43

Earning Potential: No. 25 (tie)

Employment Opportunity: No. 67

Spotlight Career: Industrial Engineer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $86,990
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 0.9%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 7,280

19Geological/Geophysical Engineering

Geological/Geophysical Engineering

In order for large earth-moving operations to be safe, successful and sustainable, companies need detailed maps and reports of the crust of the Earth where they'll be running their machines. Geological and geophysical engineers study geophysics, structural geology, and methods of seismic and electrical subsurface prospecting to help produce the information necessary to make such massive operations run smoothly. Depending on the degree program, you may be able to specialize in a subfield such as groundwater resources, civil design, soil mechanics or geological hazards.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 80

Educational Affordability: No. 19

Earning Potential: No. 7

Employment Opportunity: No. 44

Spotlight Career: Geological Engineer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $107,880
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 6.4%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 270

20Biological/Biosystems Engineering

Biological/Biosystems Engineering

Biological and biosystems engineers work to analyze life on the molecular and micro-organic levels, to try to determine how to accomplish specific goals while still working with as much respect as possible for natural processes and environmental conditions. This cutting-edge major can prepare you to tackle complex and delicate subjects such as cellular and tissue engineering, biomaterials, genomics, molecular therapy, computational biology and more. While many of these programs are more commonly offered at the master's level, bachelor's degree programs in biological engineering are also available at some schools.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 87

Educational Affordability: No. 4

Earning Potential: No. 37

Employment Opportunity: No. 25

Spotlight Career: Biochemical Engineer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $98,150
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 4.0%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 3,300

21Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering

With so many of our industries driven by computing power and precision electronics, it can be easy to forget that much of the technology we use still depends on good old-fashioned mechanical work to get the job done. Today's mechanical engineering students learn solid mechanics, materials science, vibration physics, circuitry, thermodynamic systems and 3-D modeling, among other things, to help create the engines, appliances and precision production machinery of the future for large and established firms like IBM, General Electric and more.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 12

Educational Affordability: No. 63

Earning Potential: No. 42

Employment Opportunity: No. 36

Spotlight Career: Mechanical Engineer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $88,190
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 5.3%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 10,250

22Mining and Mineral Engineering

Mining and Mineral Engineering

It's fair to say that many other engineering disciplines would not have much to work with if it weren't for mining and mineral engineers first figuring out how to get the raw materials out of the ground. Coursework in most mining and mineral engineering programs aims to give students a thorough background in the general principles of safety, exploration, mechanics and handling in the mining and mineral extraction industry, and some also provide opportunities for students to focus their study on coal mining, explosives engineering, sustainable development, mining health and safety, or another key area.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 82

Educational Affordability: No. 22

Earning Potential: No. 2

Employment Opportunity: No. 51

Spotlight Career: Mining Engineer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $107,880
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 6.4%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 270

23Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering

Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering

The medical field is no exception to the tech surge of the past two decades, and biomedical engineers stand at the forefront of the next wave of clinical advancement. Depending on your degree program, you might concentrate on the design or improvement of medical support equipment -- things like external mobility assistants and diagnostic scanners -- or you might learn how to develop artificial internal organs for donor-independent transplantation. Many programs also provide a clinical immersion section to help students bear in mind the realities of the health care system as they go through their engineering coursework.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 24

Educational Affordability: No. 88

Earning Potential: No. 19

Employment Opportunity: No. 22

Spotlight Career: Biomedical Engineer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $91,230
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 23.1%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 1,090

24Geology/Earth Science

Geology/Earth Science

As the only one of the physical sciences to make our list this year, earth science stands firm as a reminder that taking your STEM education to its completion as a professional scholar, teacher or researcher is a perfectly viable option for those who would prefer to earn a living away from the commercial or industrial marketplace. Oceanography, environmental chemistry, geomorphology, petrography, mineralogy, paleobiology and more are open to exploration by earth science undergraduates, and you can choose to focus on just about any element of the field in your research as a graduate student, postgraduate or faculty member.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 8

Educational Affordability: No. 58

Earning Potential: No. 48

Employment Opportunity: No. 48

Spotlight Career: Geoscientist

  • Average Salary, 2015: $105,720
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: 10.5%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 1,500

25Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical/Space Engineering

Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical/Space Engineering

Private space exploration firms have put aerospace and aeronautical engineering in the spotlight lately, and companies are often prepared to pay handsomely for the personnel who can give them an edge in the emerging market. In fact, the earning potential for aerospace engineers was so strong that it would likely have been higher on our list if only a few more jobs were expected to hit the market by 2024. If courses like introduction to flight, electricity and optics, theoretical aerodynamics, orbital mechanics and active controls for aerospace vehicles sound exciting, this could be the STEM field for you.

Category Rankings

Educational Availability: No. 41

Educational Affordability: No. 50

Earning Potential: No. 4

Employment Opportunity: No. 93

Spotlight Career: Aerospace Engineer

  • Average Salary, 2015: $110,570
  • Projected Growth Rate, 2014-24: -2.3%
  • Average Annual Job Openings, 2014-24: 2,070


For this analysis, we ranked 106 majors belonging to the STEM disciplines. To be included in the rankings, a major's Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code from the National Center for Education Statistics had to meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Be on the 2016 STEM-Designated Degree Program List from the Department of Homeland Security
  • Be matched to a job included on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' list of STEM occupations, using the National Center for Education Statistics' crosswalk matching CIP codes with corresponding occupations

We scored each STEM major on the following four categories of data using a 25-point scale and then added the scores for all categories, for a total of 100 points possible.

  1. Educational Availability, based on the number of programs offered at the bachelor's level, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  2. Educational Affordability, based on in-state undergraduate tuition and fees data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
  3. Earning Potential, based on average annual salaries and Consumer Price Index data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010 and 2015
  4. Employment Opportunity, based on employment projections for growth rate and job openings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014-24

Article Sources
We have made updates to our Privacy PolicyPrivacy Policy to reflect the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation.