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College Degrees of the 1%

Over the past few years there has been a lot of discussion
about the 1%. The 1% is comprised of people making $569,944 per
year and up. Becoming part of the 1% could be inherited or
attained through post-secondary education. For the purpose of
this article we will discuss the means to achieve this great
wealth through education. In other words, these are the majors
you should choose if you want to become part of the top 1% of
earners. There are two different questions to consider:

  • Which college majors provide the best statistical chance of
    entering the 1%?
  • What percentage of these college majors fall into the 1%?

The Best Chance to Become a Member of the 1%

According to an American Community Survey, the top five degrees
for becoming a member of the 1% are:

Health and Medical Prep

The professional field with the most members of the 1% is
health and medical preparatory field. It is reported that 11.8%
of people holding a degree in this field are in the 1%. These
professionals make so much money largely due to three factors:
the cost of their education, the difficulty and specialization
of knowledge required, and malpractice insurance costs.


Holders of this degree will largely be
employed by financial firms
, consulting firms, insurance
firms and the government. Most positions regarding economics
require a higher level of education. This level of education
and business sectors combine to provide a high salary. About
8.2% of economic degree holders are in the top 1%.

Biochemical Sciences

The job prospects for a holder of a biochemical degree are vast
and include medicine, dentistry, veterinary sciences,
biotechnology and pharmaceutical-related disciplines. Similar
to health and medical preparatory degrees, the reasons for a
relatively higher chance to be in the 1% are the cost to attain
these degrees, the specialization of knowledge required to
perform the tasks and insurance. There are many biochemical
science degree holders in the top 1%. In fact, about 7.2% of


Zoologists have a wide array of career paths available to them
from working in a zoo to working for the government. Another
interesting factor is the state and metropolitan area where a
zoologist operates. Zoologists working in the District of
Columbia lead the country by making a median of nearly
$200,000, which suggests the federal government pays zoologists
the highest salaries. About 6.9% of zoology degree holders are
in the top 1%.


The traditional realms of biology such as teaching, research
and environment conservation are not likely to conjure
expectations of high salaries
. Biology however has evolved
and can now offer opportunities in biotechnology, politics and
business realms. These new frontiers are likely to be
responsible for the higher salaries garnered to break into the
1%. Biology is the fifth most popular degree among the top 1%,
and about 6.7% of those holding it are in the top 1%.

International Relations

About 6.7% of those holding an international relations degree
make a top 1% income. Employment in this field varies and can
include working in business, government, journalism, teaching,
and international service for large multinational organizations
like the United Nations or the Red Cross.

Political Science

Similar to obtaining a biology degree, political science majors
traditionally are not seen as wealthy career paths. However,
the opportunity to pursue law and senior management consulting
exists. These professional careers could likely lead to an
entrance into the 1%, and about 6.2% of political science
degree holders already are in the 1%.

The Bottom Line

Although graduates should focus on
selling practical skills
along with their degrees, some
degrees will offer better chances for becoming a top earner.
Many of these degrees have a few common characteristics: the
cost of education, specialization of the knowledge and the
ability to pursue professional designations. The ability to
pursue a post-secondary education helps to guide students into
the 1% by providing many different opportunities in
highly-skilled work.

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