If you've just entered your first year of college, you likely brought with you a lot of well-meaning advice from friends and relatives on what major you should select. One person may advise you to choose a major based solely on its post-college moneymaking potential, while another may be encouraging you to simply "do what you love."
The truth is that you should weigh both the salary potential of and your level of interest in a particular field before officially declaring your major. You should also consider the amount of loan debt you'll have postgraduation.
Earlier this year, we covered "5 Scholarships for In-Demand College Majors." Not surprisingly, almost all of them were science or math related.
But what about lucrative majors for those of us who break out in a sweat at the thought of basic algebra? You may not be bringing in $100,000 when you graduate, but you can start out your career at a healthy salary level with room to grow.
Here are a few majors to look into, and some scholarships to match. As always, be sure to check with your college or high school about additional scholarship opportunities.
[Get more tips on choosing the right college major.]
Government and political science: A lot of people would scoff at the idea that political science majors could make any money. And while it's true that selecting political science, government or international relations for your major will land you an average starting salary between $40,000 and $42,000, according to a report by PayScale.com, mid-career salary can reach nearly $100,000 per year.
Common career paths for students in these majors include lobbyists, diplomats and journalists. Many who choose this major will go into law, which can also affect your moneymaking possibilities.
Students choosing one of these majors should consider the Betty Rendel Scholarship from the National Federation of Republican Women or the Kennedy Scholarship Award from the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
Business administration and management: If you have dreams of one day being in charge – either of your own business or someone else's – majoring in business administration and management is definitely something to consider. This field is vast, so we suggest you pick your favorite path and stick with it. Options include operations management, human resources management or general management.
A reported starting salary around $57,000 is nothing to scoff at, and you have the potential to make more once you are in a management position.
Students in this field should consider the Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship.
[Take these 3 steps to build in-demand job skills at college.]
Geologist: If you've always loved nature, science and the earth, consider becoming a geologist. With a median pay of over $80,000 and a faster-than-average rate of job growth, according to the federal Department of Labor, you can live comfortably and do what you love, whether that's becoming a researcher or scientist (the most lucrative path), working in a trade field or teaching at the high school or college level.
Budding geologists should consider the American Institute of Professional Geologists Scholarship.
Advertising and marketing: If you're a creative thinker and you dream of one day crafting your own ad campaigns, becoming an advertising or marketing major certainly isn't a bad choice. While demand and starting salary can vary by industry and geography, a median salary of over $75,000 is certainly inviting, according to the same PayScale.com report.
Plus, the field is vast, so you'll have lots of options when thinking about your ideal career. Possible paths include public relations, market research, promotions, sales and marketing strategies.
Advertising and marketing students should target the Lagrant Foundation Scholarship.
[Discover 11 college majors that lead to jobs.]
Food science: If you love food and science, consider a career as a food scientist and you'll get the best of both worlds, plus a median salary of over $80,000, as reported by PayScale.com. As a food scientist, you can be responsible for creating safer foods, more efficient food processing techniques and better preservatives. You also have the option to invent new products or study food-related illnesses.
Students interested in food science should apply for the Goya Foods Culinary Arts and Food Sciences Scholarship Program.
Four years of hard work isn't worth it if you end up at a job you can't stand – even if you are making big money. On the other hand, if you don't weigh potential salary as a deciding factor when considering a major, you could end up with your dream job, but struggle to pay the bills each month.
When selecting a major, our advice is to pick something that balances what you love with your potential salary. But also keep in mind your own extenuating circumstances. If you've always wanted to be a teacher and can't imagine doing anything else, by all means, become a teacher!
Michelle Showalter joined Scholarship America in 2007 and is an alumna of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.