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The top-paying and lowest-paying college majors

  • While the rising cost of earning a bachelors degree has a lot of people questioning its value, some economists are focusing on another issue: How does a student's major influence their lifelong earnings potential?

    That's a pertinent question, considering that Americans who major in the country's top-earning subjects can secure jobs that pay as much as 70 percent more than the lowest-paying subjects, according to a new study from Glassdoor.

    The findings back up previous research by economists, such as a 2014 study from The Hamilton Project, which found that four degree majors will see median lifetime earnings of more than $2 million, while other degrees could pull in less than half that.

    The majors that lead to the highest pay in the first five years out of college tend to focus on one area: the so-called STEM fields, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But that doesn't mean students who aren't interested in tech or science can't find solid careers with high earning potential.

    "Secure jobs in today's economy require creativity and a sharp sense of judgment, which do not necessarily require a STEM background," said Allison Berry, Glassdoor community expert. "Having a successful career can have more to do with your commitment to building and developing your skillset over time, rather than relying just on what you learned in college."

    By mid-career, a host of issues can affect your pay, ranging from whether workers climb up into the management ranks, as well as the strength of their so-called "soft" skills, which are increasingly in demand from employers.

    Liberal arts majors on average are making more money by their mid-50s than those who studied professional or pre-professional subjects, according to a study from the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Still, earning higher wages earlier in one's career has a number of benefits, such as boosting overall retirement savings.

    For its study, Glassdoor examined 500,000 resumes and the median base salary for each major within the first five years of work after college graduation.

    Read on to learn about the five top-paying and five lowest-paying college majors.