Which Degrees Offer the Best Return on Investment?

Among undergrad majors, engineering promises the biggest bang for your buck.

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Salary doesn't tell the whole story, to be sure. "I love my job," says Philadelphia preschool and Head Start teacher Theresa Mettee, who earned her degree in 2007 and makes $36,500. The work makes her feel valued, she says. With the support of her employer, Mettee is working on the credits required to become state certified, which will get her almost to a master's degree—and boost her pay by $10,000.

Here are the undergradate majors that offer the highest and lowerst median pay, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Highest median pay:

Petroleum engineering: $120,000

Pharmacy/pharmaceutical sciences and administration: $105,000

Math and computer sciences: $98,000

Aerospace engineering: $87,000

Chemical engineering: $86,000

Lowest median pay:

Counseling psychology*: $29,000

Early childhood education: $36,000

Theology and religious vocations: $38,000

Human services and community organizations: $38,000

Social work: $39,000

*Overwhelmingly a graduate degree.