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New study shows income is closely tied to choice of major. Your barista agrees.

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 
Interesting stuff. The article is much easier to read in the link:

Study tells students what their major is worth
Some disciplines can end up making 300 percent more than the lowest paying ones

- PHILADELPHIA "” The choice of undergraduate major in college is strongly tied to a student's future earnings, with the highest-paying majors providing salaries of about 300 percent more than the lowest-paying, according to a study released Tuesday.

College graduates overall make 84 percent more over a lifetime than those with only high school diplomas, the study said. But further analysis of 171 majors shows that various undergraduate majors can lead to significantly different median wages.

Petroleum engineering majors make about $120,000 a year, compared with $29,000 annually for counseling psychology majors, researchers found. Math and computer science majors earn $98,000 in salary while early childhood education majors get paid about $36,000.

"It's important that you go to college and get a (bachelor's degree), but it's almost three to four times more important what you take," said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce. "The majors that are most popular are not the ones that make the most money."

Major Market Indices"What's it Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors" analyzes data from the 2009 American Community Survey, whose results were released last year. It's the first time the Census asked individuals about their undergraduate majors, enabling researchers to tie in salary data, Carnevale said.

The study found that white men are concentrated in the highest-earning majors, including engineering and pharmaceutical sciences, while women gravitate toward the lowest-earning majors like education, art and social work.

The report also categorized the 171 majors into 15 fields, discovering different majors led to different industries. About 43 percent of law and public policy majors end up in public administration, but only 13 percent of social science majors do. A higher portion of social science majors end up in finance, researchers found.

Other findings:

The most popular major group is business, accounting for 25 percent of all students. The least popular are industrial arts and agriculture, with 1.6 percent each.
White men have higher median earnings across all fields except three. Asians pull down the top median salaries in law and public policy ($55,000), psychology and social work ($48,000), and biology and life science ($53,000).
The field with the highest concentrations of whites is agriculture and natural resources (90 percent), while the highest concentration of Asians is in computers and mathematics (16 percent). Law and public policy has the highest concentration of African-Americans (14 percent) and Hispanics (10 percent).
Fields with virtually no unemployment: geological and geophysical engineering, military technologies, pharmacology and school student counseling.
Fields with the highest unemployment, ranging from 16 percent to 11 percent: social psychology, nuclear engineering, and educational administration and supervision.
data is important considering the high cost of a college degree and the significant loan burdens taken on by some students to obtain one, Carnevale said.

"We don't have a system in the United States where we align what you take with career prospects," Carnevale said. "Nobody ever tells you when you go to college what happened to the other people who took it before you."

The researchers' longitudinal look at lifetime earnings seems to echo a more short-term analysis of the job market by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The Bethlehem, Pa.-based group reports that engineering majors account for seven of the top 10 highest-paying majors for the class of 2011. The other three are computer science, information science and business systems networking/telecommunications.

Chemical engineering heads the list with an average salary offer of nearly $67,000, according the group's spring survey.

Life Inc.: Most useless college degree is journalism

Still, Rachel Brown, director of the career center at Temple University in Philadelphia, noted that the average person changes careers three to five times in a lifetime. And while median salary is certainly something students should be aware of, it shouldn't be the deciding factor, she said.

"Take that into consideration, but look at the whole picture," Brown said. "What are you doing every day? What are the job responsibilities? What are the values of the occupation in general? Advancement potential?"

(Story continues after table below.)

Wages by major

Major Group
Median Wages
25th Percentile
75th Percentile
Percent Obtaining Graduate Degree
Earnings Boost from Graduate Degree


Computers and mathematics



Physical sciences

Social science

Agriculture and natural resources

Communications and journalism

Industrial arts and consumer services

Law and public policy

Biology and life science

Humanities and liberal arts



Psychology and social work


For more information, including earnings and demographic data for 171 specific majors, check out the full report here.

SOURCE: Georgetown University

Answering those kinds of questions is how Drexel University junior Meaghan Donchak chose her major of corporate communication and public relations.

Donchak, 22, of East Windsor, N.J., said she knew her strengths were reading, writing and communicating. But even after settling on public relations, her own research showed such work at nonprofits paid less than corporate or government work, and she adjusted her track accordingly.

Donchak hopes her career will allow her to travel, meet people and live comfortably. The Georgetown study found communications and journalism majors earn $50,000 annually, rising to $62,000 with a graduate degree.

"The most important thing is not the money. It's really hard to convince people of that, especially people our age," Donchak said. "It's doing what you love to do. You don't want to wake up every day dreading going to work."
post #2 of 45
Well what do you know?
post #3 of 45
at the very least, doing well in an engineering program or doing well in comp sci and math opens doors to other industries that pay very well, some of which being quant trading and consulting. these numbers only show a portion of the whole picture.

if i could do it over, i would have added a math minor to my economics degree. i had 3 stat and econometrics classes, but very little experience with higher-level math other than calc.
post #4 of 45
What they're conveniently leaving out is that most "early childhood education" would (likely) be in the bottom decile of engineering/math/etc. They make it seem as though everybody can be great at everything, and people are just making poor choices.
post #5 of 45
In other news, the sky is blue.
post #6 of 45
Engineering $75,000 $53,000 $102,000 8.2% 37% 32%
Revenge of the nerds.
post #7 of 45
post #8 of 45
Oh how I love the psychology and social work field!
post #9 of 45
Well at least I make more than the median in my field...
post #10 of 45 careers night.the guy.he-said-all-this-stuff-about-critical-thinking!!!11!employers want critical thinking! he said so! and he must know cos he had a ponytail and patches on his sleeves. This. Cannot. Be.
post #11 of 45
Th only thing I found interesting was the 101% increase in salary with a graduate degree if you're biology or life sciences. : )
post #12 of 45
It boggles my mind how some people think Psychology is a good major.

I had a friend who took it (who doesn't right) and he's still has negative cash flow selling pyramid scheme crap.
post #13 of 45
I think psych is a good major, but that's only because I'm really passionate about it. I knew fully what I was going into and what to expect in terms of salary.
post #14 of 45
Originally Posted by Fraiche View Post
It boggles my mind how some people think Psychology is a good major. I had a friend who took it (who doesn't right) and he's still has negative cash flow selling pyramid scheme crap.
hard call to make. An undergrad psych degree is nigh-on-worthless. Cute, and interesting, but then so are puppies and no one spends four years studying those. Still, if you pursue psych beyond undergrad to your doctorate and then into research/clinical work, then I suppose there is still money to be made. This study assumes you do undergrad and then start sending the CV which case, you don't have much to show for yourself.
post #15 of 45
Well, clinical psychology is an actual medical profession (with attendant wages) and requires a medical degree. But yeah, taking a 4-year psych degree and then stopping is not the best way to have a lucrative career. On the other hand, I know a lot of people working in journalism or education who love their jobs and pity corporate lawyers and financial managers who work 80 hours a week and have no life, vacation, or hobbies.
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