These are the top schools and degrees with the highest earning potential: PayScale

Choosing a college and a major is tough, to say the least. It’s a decision that will impact many areas of your life, including, of course, your earning potential. PayScale — a provider of on-demand salary, benefits and compensation data info — recently released its College Salary Report for the 2019-20 school year in an effort to make the decision of where to go and what to take up a little bit easier.

Harvey Mudd College is once again the school where graduates have the highest earning potential with mid-career pay for graduates coming in at $158,200 a year.

For those who have never heard of Harvey Mudd College, it’s a private liberal arts school in Claremont California. But prospective students looking to pursue a career in history, education, or business might want to consider another school. This elite institution of higher learning only grants degrees in science, engineering, and mathematics. The California school’s mid-career pay edged out the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology by $3,000.

Bachelor’s Degree schools leading to the highest pay

  1. Harvey Mudd College - $158,200

  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology - $155,200

  3. Samuel Merritt University - $154,100

  4. United States Naval Academy - $152,800

  5. California Institute of Technology - $151,600

Harvard and Stanford are next in line at $146,800 and $145,2000, respectively.

“What you're really seeing is sort of the way that, you know, really science focused, STEM focused colleges are seeing the boom of an economy that is shifting towards more scientific and technical skills,” Sudarshan Sampath, PayScale’s director of research, told Yahoo Finance.

CLAREMONT, CA - OCTOBER 27, 2014: Students Nicole Kyle, Jessica Iwamoto, Daniel Nguyen and Yeahmoon Hong, right (striped shirt), work in a group to problem solve during a chemical and thermal processes class at Harvey Mudd College on October 27, 2014 in Claremont, California.The student in the class watch lectures online and then work in groups during a live class to problem solve. Professors at Harvey Mudd College are running an experiment to see if students learn better in traditional classes or courses with an on-line element. (Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Most flexible, highest paying college majors

Major flexibility is becoming more important in the ever-evolving labor market, according to PayScale.

Here are the top five most adaptable areas of study:

  1. Business Administration

  2. Communications

  3. Business Management

  4. Psychology

  5. Sociology

Many might be stunned to see the social sciences of Psychology and Sociology in the top five. Sampath notes that the flexibility of those degree paths might have more to do with the current labor market than the versatility of the majors themselves.

"I think what you're seeing is the impact ... that not everyone who gets a major in psychology has a job that has anything to do with psychology … the highest, the most common job within our data set of people with a psychology major are ambulance drivers and attendants. They're 42% more likely to be an ambulance driver than the rest of the population. There seems to be a mismatch in the economy with the amount of people who are getting psychology degrees and then the number of actual jobs that have anything to do with psychology. And that's a trend with a lot of social sciences."

And here are the highest paying majors (mid-career, median pay):

  1. Petroleum engineering - $176,900

  2. Electrical engineering & computer science (EECS) -$142,200

  3. Applied economics and management - $140,000

  4. Operations research - $137,100

  5. Political economy - $ 136,200

And the best overall institutions and majors, according to PayScale:

  1. Art, computer science and engineering, Stanford University

  2. Business, Harvard University

  3. Communications, University of California-Berkeley

  4. Education, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

  5. Humanities, United States Air Force Academy

  6. Math, Harvard University

  7. Physical and Life Science, Harvey Mudd College

  8. Social Science, Colgate University

PayScale wants parents and prospective college students to use the data in the report as resources to make a really informed decision about college and answer questions like:

"What makes sense for me personally? What makes sense for me going forward. What do I find interesting? Where I can afford to go, and I can actually get into that's not going to be a burden on me or my parents."

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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