This is a question asked by The New York Times (“Calculating the Potential Return on Your Major”) after Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce recently released the results of its report: “What’s it Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors.” The report examines Census Bureau data about the median salaries and career paths of college students who have graduated in the last 40 years. Since the census surveyed over 3 million American bachelor’s degree-holders, Georgetown had a tremendous amount of data on which to base their study. Nonetheless, the results have proven controversial.
An article in Inside Higher Ed (“Major Decisions”) notes how focusing solely on financial payoff does not take into account personal satisfaction. Choosing a job solely for the money can lead to a lot of misery if you hate what you’re doing. Debra Humphreys, vice president for communications and public affairs at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, also notes that choice of a major does not always determine career. “Someone needs to be out there telling students that the choice of major is not the only important thing.”
Some interesting findings of the report are included in the Inside Higher Ed charts below:
Top 10 Majors with the Highest and Lowest Median Earnings (no advanced degree)
The report also notes that majoring in one specific subject is not the ticket to financial security. Many employers prefer their employees to have studied a broad array of topics, rather than know a great deal about one specific area.
To examine the report further, you can see in its 200-page entirety here. Or check out an interactive graphic on The Chronicle of Higher Education website.
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