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College Salary Report: Right Brain vs. Left Brain Majors


A big paycheck is nice, but all the money in the world won’t buy you happiness if you choose a career that’s a bad fit for your personality and aptitudes. That said, not every high-paying STEM career is solely the dominion of left-brain types.

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For this release of the College Salary Report, PayScale looked at a variety of majors from theology to petroleum engineering to multimedia and web design, and assigned them values according to pay, meaning, and left- and right-brain aptitude.

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As you can see, there’s something here for everyone, no matter how creative or practical, salary-conscious or meaning-driven. For example, someone who wants both high pay and high meaning, but is entirely right-brained, needn’t try to fit their personality, like a square peg into a round hole, into environmental engineering (mid-career median pay: $90,400; 67 percent report high meaning) or biochemistry and molecular biology (mid-career median pay: $88,800; 68 percent report high meaning). In fact, they might be happier — and more suited — for a right-brained career in, say, music teacher education (mid-career median pay $57,500; 69 percent report high meaning).

If the pay discrepancy between teaching and engineering sways your judgment, keep this in mind: there are also plenty of careers that lean more toward STEM, but require creativity, such as mechanical engineering, or creative fields that require logical thinking, like marketing.

Finally, the best career to pursue is the one you’ll be happy doing — and that means both making enough money to avoid burnout and having the interest to pursue the skills needed for success.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think your major was a good fit for you? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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