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The 10 highest-paying college majors of 2019, according to PayScale

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College students arriving on campuses across the U.S. this fall may think that choosing a school was the biggest decision they'd have to make for a while.

But now, they'll need to choose a major. "Research shows that in many ways it doesn't really matter where you go to college," Jon Marcus, higher education editor at The Hechinger Report, tells CNBC Make It. "What major you pick has a greater influence on your future postgraduate earnings and career success."

As part of its annual College Salary Report, released today, PayScale analyzed data from graduates of more than 2,500 schools in order to spotlight how much graduates typically make early and mid-way through their careers. The site also identified the highest-paying college majors, and polled workers about whether or not they felt their work makes the world a better place.

Here are the 10 highest-paying college majors, according to PayScale:

Graduate students in MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics create simulators of a winged aircraft or ground vehicles.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor | Getty Images

10. Aeronautics & astronautics

Median salary for alumni with 0-5 years of experience: $73,100
Median salary for alumni with 10+ years of experience: $131,600
Percent who say their work makes the world a better place: 59%

9. Pharmacy

Median salary for alumni with 0-5 years of experience: $79,600
Median salary for alumni with 10+ years of experience: $132,500
Percent who say their work makes the world a better place: 77%

8. Business analysis

Median salary for alumni with 0-5 years of experience: $57,200
Median salary for alumni with 10+ years of experience: $133,200
Percent who say their work makes the world a better place: 50%

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7. Electrical power engineering

Median salary for alumni with 0-5 years of experience: $72,400
Median salary for alumni with 10+ years of experience: $134,700
Percent who say their work makes the world a better place: 63%

6. Actuarial mathematics

Median salary for alumni with 0-5 years of experience: $63,300
Median salary for alumni with 10+ years of experience: $135,100
Percent who say their work makes the world a better place: 46%

5. Political economy

Median salary for alumni with 0-5 years of experience: $57,600
Median salary for alumni with 10+ years of experience: $136,200
Percent who say their work makes the world a better place: 38%

4. Operations research

Median salary for alumni with 0-5 years of experience: $77,900
Median salary for alumni with 10+ years of experience: $137,100
Percent who say their work makes the world a better place: 48%

3. Applied economics and management

Median salary for alumni with 0-5 years of experience: $58,900
Median salary for alumni with 10+ years of experience: $140,000
Percent who say their work makes the world a better place: 69%

2. Electrical engineering & computer science

Median salary for alumni with 0-5 years of experience: $88,000
Median salary for alumni with 10+ years of experience: $142,200
Percent who say their work makes the world a better place: 44%

1. Petroleum engineering

Median salary for alumni with 0-5 years of experience: $94,500
Median salary for alumni with 10+ years of experience: $176,900
Percent who say their work makes the world a better place: 72%

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As in previous years, STEM fields dominate the highest-paying majors. But Sudarshan Sampath, director of research at PayScale, stresses that students should think carefully about what they want to earn a degree in, rather than deciding to pursue a major simply because it might pay well.

"STEM degrees do pay well according to our data. I'm not going to deny that," he tells CNBC Make It. "But even if you were to choose a certain major, you still have a lot of different options available to you as well."

For instance, the highest paying major on PayScale's list is petroleum engineering — grads with this degree report average salaries of $176,900 after 10 years in the field — but Sampath says that many people with this degree end up pursuing careers in adjacent fields, like structural engineering or construction.

"Just because you chose to study petroleum engineering for instance, that doesn't necessarily limit what you can do," he says. "What you are getting from a major is a set of skills, and a lot of the skills sort of translate across a lot of different occupations."

The key, he says, is to pick a major that you are interested in that can also give you useful hard and soft skills.

Among the 10 highest-paying fields, pharmacy majors scored highest in terms of meaning, with 77% saying they felt their work made a difference. This, says Sampath, is another important factor to consider.

The "most meaningful" majors by PayScale's measurements are cytotechnology and early childhood special education, though these majors may result in significantly lower median salaries, about $73,000 and $50,600 respectively.

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