(Stacker) — Over a dozen medical schools and 40 law schools have elected to withdraw from the U.S. News & World Report annual college rankings as of February 2023. Critics argue that the well-known college ranking system is based on metrics that neglect to consider many qualities that influence student success, such as postgraduate placement rates and course credit transfer applicability.
The ongoing exodus has left prospective graduate students with one less all-inclusive tool to navigate the application process. And while no undergraduate institutions have withdrawn yet, the trend has revealed the need for more reliable and independent bases of comparison among colleges and academic programs.
One such measure, the median earnings of college graduates by field of study, can significantly impact career prospects. On a national level, those who study nuclear engineering technologies or become technicians in that field have the highest median earnings three years after graduation at $107,804, followed by the fields of biomathematics, bioinformatics, and computational biology ($98,074), operations research ($96,452), marine transportation ($94,032), and petroleum engineering ($93,515).
Yet, while it remains true that college graduates have higher lifetime earnings than noncollege graduates, some of the lowest-earning majors still earn less than a living wage, and earnings vary considerably by state, owing to differences in local economies and industry location.
EDsmart used data for the 2020-21 school year from the Department of Education to rank degree majors in Illinois by median earnings three years after graduation for those with bachelor’s degrees. Some degree programs listed are only offered at one college in the state. When a major is offered at multiple colleges, the analysis lists the median earnings between them.
Most lucrative college majors in Illinois:
#1. Mathematics and Statistics, Other ($99,815)
#2. Engineering Physics ($90,556)
#3. Chemical Engineering ($85,168)
#4. Nuclear Engineering ($83,170)
#5. Manufacturing Engineering ($77,539)
Least lucrative college majors in Illinois:
#1. Dance ($25,046)
#2. Communication, Journalism, and Related Programs, Other ($29,202)
#3. Film/Video and Photographic Arts ($29,500)
#4. Zoology/Animal Biology ($29,746)
#5. Rhetoric and Composition/Writing Studies ($29,790)