20 Best-Paying College Degrees in 2011

Last Updated Aug 2, 2011 2:21 PM EDT

If you hope to earn a college degree that will qualify you for the nation's best paying jobs, ask yourself this question: Do you feel comfortable around these sorts of brain twisters: differential equations, vectors, harmonic functions and complex exponentials?

Why do I ask? Because once again, the nation's best paying college degrees require complex math skills. In fact, according to the new PayScale survey, every single one of the top 20 highest-paying college degrees requires advanced math.

Take a look for yourself:

20 Best-Paying College Degrees by Salary in 2011

College Degree Mid-Career Median Salary
  1. Petroleum engineering $155,000
  2. Chemical engineering $109,000
  3. Electrical engineering $103,000
  4. Material science & engineering $103,000
  5. Aerospace engineering $102,000
  6. Physics $101,000
  7. Applied mathematics $98,600
  8. Computer engineering $101,000
  9. Nuclear engineering $97,800
  10. Biomedical engineering $97,800
  11. Economics $94,700
  12. Mechanical engineering $94,500
  13. Statistics $93,800
  14. Industrial engineering $93,100
  15. Civil engineering $90,200
  16. Mathematics $89,900
  17. Environmental engineering $88,600
  18. Management Info. Systems $88,200
  19. Software engineering $87,800
  20. Finance $87,300

Little Change from Last Year

The 2011 best-paying college degrees from PayScale's annual survey looks nearly identical to the highest-paying college degrees in 2010.

Last year, the highest-paying college degree was petroleum engineering. This year the top dog is petroleum engineering. In 2010, chemical engineering was No. 3 and this year it inched up one notch.

What About America's Most Popular Degree?

Like previous PayScale surveys, I can only hope that this salary roundup can serve as a wake up call for millions of teenagers and their parents who believe that the most lucrative college major is business. This conventional wisdom -- which is wrong -- explains why business is the most popular major. When mid-career salaries of dozens of majors were ranked, business came in as the 59th best-paying college degree.

Students who major in linguistics, biology, fashion design, literature, urban planning, food science and philosophy are among those that make more money than business majors.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also writes her own college blog at The College Solution.

Read More on CBS MoneyWatch:

The Nation's Most Expensive Colleges and Universities
Why America's Most Expensive Colleges Could Hurt Your Wallet
Where Professors Send Their Children to College
25 Private Colleges With the Best Graduation Rates
Best-paying college degree image by tsuda. Cc 2.0.

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