(NEXSTAR) — Student loan payments are due once again, marking the first time in over three years many have had to pay up for their college education. If you’re among those, you may be even more aware of the payoff — large or small — of attending college and getting your degree.
Overall, the U.S. Census Bureau found Americans with bachelor’s degrees earned, on average, $74,154 in 2022, roughly $600 below the national average of all earners, regardless of their education. For the Portland metro area, that number climbs to $79,660.
There are, however, degree-holders earning much more — and much less — than that.
According to data released by the Census Bureau this week, roughly 37% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 have a bachelor’s degree.
While many degrees were categorized individually by the Census Bureau, there are catch-all “other” categories for science and engineering, business, education, and simply, “other.” Those were, in many cases, considered the most popular field of degrees across the metro areas.
Outside of those expansive categories, the most common bachelor’s degree in the U.S., held by 6% of the population, is in business management and administration. That was followed by psychology (4.8%), nursing (4.4%), and general business (4.4%). For the Portland metro area, psychology was the most popular category, with 5.4% of the population holding a degree, followed by general business (4.5%), business management and administration (4.1%), English language and literature (4%) and then nursing (3.7%).
While popular, these fields aren’t the highest-paying in the U.S.
Instead, it’s those with degrees in electrical engineering that earn the most, reporting a median income of $121,600 last year. The five highest-paying degrees in the U.S. in 2022 were:
- Electrical engineering: $121,600
- Computer science: $108,500
- Mechanical engineering: $106,200
- Economics: $101,400
- Engineering: $100,600
Alternatively, the five lowest-paying degrees were:
- Family and consumer sciences: $52,850
- Fine arts: $53,450
- Elementary education: $54,900
- Social work: $55,060
- General education: $58,000
While low, the median pay of the five fields above all exceeded that of those with less than a bachelor’s degree, who reported an average income of $40,540 last year, or $44,090 for the Portland metro area.
What about the highest-paying degrees for the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metro area? In 2022, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, they were:
- Electrical Engineering: $137,600
- Computer Science: $127,200
- Chemistry: $123,700
- Civil Engineering: $118,500
- Mechanical Engineering: $114,200
As for the five lowest-paying degrees in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metro area, they were:
- Fine Arts: $41,000
- Family and Consumer Sciences: $48,170
- Liberal Arts: $56,790
- General Education: $60,640
- Elementary Education: $61,640
Overall, the Census Bureau found someone with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering living in the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley area earned the most last year — the median pay there was $182,100.
The Bay Area ranked as the highest-paying metros across many of the fields. Regions in the south, especially Florida and Texas, had some of the lowest median earnings.