Highest-paying degrees for the class of 2016

What's your major?

Students in auditorium with professor
Hero Images | Getty Images

What if your future pay could be traced all the way back to that freshman philosophy seminar you took in college?

That's not exactly the case, although your choice of major does have a big impact on your future earnings. Because of the increasingly steep costs to attend college and get a degree, that's something more students are now wising up to, said Stephen Dash, founder and CEO of Credible, a student loan marketplace.

"People are starting to pay a lot more attention to the ROI of a college degree," he said. "Think about your college investment as you would think about other investments — there is an upfront cost and resulting returns."

Today, it's no surprise that STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors were among the disciplines with the highest future salaries, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

"STEM is still at the top, that's consistent with previous years, " said Andrea Koncz, research manager at the organization.

Engineering majors, in general, were projected to earn an average starting salary of almost $65,000, the association said.

A separate study on post-college salaries by PayScale found that petroleum engineering majors, specifically, made over $100,000 within their first years out of school.

But what other disciplines made this year's list? Click ahead for the top five areas of study (from lowest to highest) that promise the best starting salaries after school.

By CNBC's Jessica Dickler

Posted 16 May 2016

5. Communications

Professors speaking with students
CalaImage | Getty Images

Starting salary: $47,047

There are plenty of opportunities for those who studied communications in college, from public relations to broadcast journalism, ranking this area of study as the fifth highest for post-college salaries. Those who studied communications in the current graduating class are highly employable and can expect to earn an average salary of nearly $50,000 just starting out, based on employers' projections.

And it only gets better from there. Down the road, marketing and communications majors earn a median salary of $82,000 after 10 or more years of work experience, according to the PayScale report.

4. Business

Students with hands raised
Hero Images | Getty Images

Starting salary: $52,236

"Investment banks used to be the best and most lucrative jobs out of college," said Andra Newman, co-founder of Quadjobs, a part-time or flexible job and internship marketplace for college students. "For students today, there are not as many jobs in finance and they are not as lucrative."

This year's business majors are in the fourth-highest spot, with a projected average starting salary of more than $52,000, up slightly from the class of 2015 graduates' starting salary of $51,508.

3. Math and sciences

Student writing on chalkboard math problems
Eric Raptosh Photography | Blend Images | Getty Images

Starting salary: $55,087

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, "the return on investment for someone with a business degree doesn't quite exist anymore, " said Credible's Dash. "Given the way technology has taken over mainstream industry, math and science majors are the ones in great demand."

And that means they are also the ones that will be making more money in the years after graduation, he said.

After 10 or more years of experience, math majors earn $95,300, according to PayScale's salary report.

2. Computer science

Student working with electronics on a circuit board
Hero Images | Getty Images

Starting salary: $61,321

With many tech firms on the hunt for talented grads, there's a lot of demand for computer science majors and promising careers to follow. "Computer engineers, for example, are in very high demand. When you think about the return on investment there, it is significant, " Dash said.

Computer science majors go on to earn $105,000 by midcareer, according to PayScale's report.

1. Engineering

Student staring at a cube
Tom Merton | Getty Images

Starting salary: $64,891

Overall, the average salary for bachelor's degree graduates who study engineering is projected to be $64,891 this year, up 3 percent over the average salary projection for engineering graduates from the class of 2015, according to the colleges and employers salary survey.

When broken down by individual major, petroleum engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering and mechanical engineering held the all of the top five spots for greatest earning potential.

Undergraduates who choose one of these majors have a high likelihood of getting a job after graduation, Quadjobs' Newman said.

Read MoreFinally, job market is hot for millennials