What College Degrees Will Increase Your Chance Of Reaching The Top 1 Percent?

What College Degrees Will Increase Your Chance Of Reaching The Top 1 Percent?

The ingredients for wealth are not easy to distinguish. It turns out that education is a good predictor of wealth. Gallup conducted an analysis of their survey demographics and found that 1 in 4 from the top 1% have a four-year degree and 1 in 2 have a graduate degree. Obviously, education can increase your chances of reaching the 1%, but when I see data like this I’m always thinking about philosophy majors.

Before deciding that business was the right choice for me, I spent a little time as a philosophy major. It was a fun degree because you never needed to be right about anything. You just needed a better argument. While there is use for this talent in the real world, any employer is going to want results over theories, which explains why the primary employment outlet for a philosophy graduate is very limited. For the most part, you land a job in academia or write a book.

Realizing this future employment problem as a sophomore, I switched majors and went into economics. Was this a smart move? Are my friends who stuck around in philosophy just as likely to reach the top 1% as I am with my economics undergrad and an MBA?

If you’ve ever wondered which four-year degrees increase your odds of making it to the top 1%, I’ve got the top five below and philosophy is not on it.

Health Care

f you are in medicine and want to reach the highest wage bracket in America, you’ve picked a good degree. You can find accelerated programs and nearly 1 in 8 graduates with a health care degree count themselves among the top wage earners..

Apparently, doctors are still getting rich these days and that’s a good thing if you ask me. Would you want to go into surgery with a low-paid doctor whose poor compensation makes him unhappy in his work?

Economics

I did mention that I was here to brag didn’t I? Those with economics degrees fall in the number two spot with 1 in 12 economists earning a top 1% wage. I suppose understanding how to maximize efficiency and income comes handy for building wealth. Plus, the world needs economists to tell them 6 months after a recession that a recession did in fact officially occur.

Biochemical Studies

I’m glad to see that people are still paying lots of money to stop aging and end cancer. 1 in 14 biochemical engineers are numbered in the top 1%. I don’t suppose this slot requires much explanation, since we tend to expect smart people to make a lot of money.

Zoology

I don’t mean to offend the many zoologists reading this blog, but I didn’t expect to find your major ranking number four with 1 in 15 zoologists earning the big salary. I’m hoping one of you can fill me in on your secret. Could it be that it is not a popular study, but there is high demand? Generally, you make a lot of money when you are providing your expertise to a human. To my knowledge, animals still lack the ability to compensate for services.

Biology

Who says you have to marry chemistry and biology to get into the top 1%? 1 in 15 biologists have made it without all the mixing of various fluids in beakers. Wait, don’t you still need chemistry for a biology degree?

Surprisingly, philosophy did beat out pharmacists and accountants towards the bottom of the list and that’s worth taking note. While demand for some majors increase opportunity to become wealthy, no major is completely unrepresented. Ultimately everyone, even philosophy majors, have a shot at earning higher wages.

How about you? Is your major near the top?

About The Author

Edwin is a marketer, social media influencer and head writer here at I Am 1 Percent. He manages a large network of high quality finance blogs and social media accounts. You can connect with him via email here.

13 Comments

  1. Anne @ Unique Gifter

    I bet the singer from Bad Religion is skewing those zoology numbers, haha. (I have no idea what his income is like in reality.)

    Reply
  2. JP @ My Family Finances

    You know, some of the mega-church pastors earn a nice penny. Rick Warren earns royalties from “Purpose Driven Life.” It’s one of the highest selling books ever.

    Reply
  3. From Shopping to Saving

    I think Business degrees should be included.. over economics. There’s such a huge plethora of jobs that a business grad can get. Some even turn into entrepreneurs.

    Reply
    1. JP @ My Family Finances

      Business degrees are 1 in 25. If I had to guess, it has to do with the fact that business degrees are very highly represented. It’s the most common degree.

      Reply
  4. krantcents

    I am a little surprised that accounting or engineering does not appear on the list. Many inventors are engineers and accounting/financial types know a lot about business.

    Reply
    1. JP @ My Family Finances

      1 in 33 engineers are in the top 1%. While many entrepreneurs are engineers, many, many more engineers are not.

      Reply
    2. JP @ My Family Finances

      1 in 33 engineers are in the top 1%. While many entrepreneurs are engineers, many, many more engineers are not entrepreneurs.

      Reply
  5. I agree with all of the above and add that you must work extremely hard to be in the 1%. Harder than 99 other people in most cases unless you won the lottery was was born into a rich family.

    I graduated with a Computer Science degree and started my career in investment banking but could not take the crazy hours of it. My health broke down under all that stress.

    Now I am an aspiring author living in Hong Kong. And I have to say if people think making it to the 1% in the US is tough, it is much tougher to do that in Hong Kong.

    Reply
    1. JP @ My Family Finances

      Great point Kelly! It’s amazing how easy it is to be wealthy here in the US. I know in many nations there are plenty of people who work extremely hard and barely earn enough to feed their families.

      Reply
  6. javier

    As a graduate in Economics, I’ll have choosen a computer science degree if I would back to the past. My main lesson is that the best way to make money is to learn a scarce, valuable and marketable skill. Computer Science Engineers make it quite well. I see many of them working less hours and earning higher wages than me.

    Reply
  7. Deborah @ImpulseSave

    Very interesting – I was surprised by the Zoology majors, as well. Although it could be that most if not all zoologists eventually earn higher degrees and are very specialized, so it’s not a highly saturated market. Thanks for sharing this! My degree was communication arts… I’m guessing that was ranked just slightly higher than philosophy.

    Reply
  8. Dwight

    i know several zoology majors that went on to medical school. Same with biology majors. Both of those have the science requirements for medical school.

    Reply
  9. romario spencer

    Yea, but where does computer science fall?

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *