College Expenses

Does College Major Matter?

by mike on December 27, 2012

199892334_ac25f544fbI recently came up across a 2011 census report showing the employment level and median salaries according to college major.  It showed some interesting numbers that I thought were worthy of commenting on.  The numbers were compiled of those 25 years and older.

The most likely to be employed full time, year round were those whose degrees were in computers, mathematics, and statistics (66.6%).  The least likely to be employed full time were education majors, with 33.9% not working at all in the previous year.  Honestly, this surprised me at first because I never realized it was hard to find work with an education degree.  It is very possible that I am out of touch in this area as I have not worked in education since 2005.  The other explanation I thought of was maybe there is a higher potential for stay-at-home moms among education majors.  According to Forbes, 78.7% of those who majored in education were women (in 2008).  The survey did not distinguish if someone wanted to work or chose not to in the previous year.

Those with science and engineering degrees had the highest median earnings at $101,000 per year for those who are self-employed and had an advanced degree.  Interestingly, if these same people would have just received a bachelor’s degree, the median wage drops to $52,000 for those self-employed. That is almost half!  I would say it is worth the money to get an advanced degree in that field!

In my Debt Free Graduate course, we take some time discussing college majors. The thing I emphasize is to not pick a major based on earning potential.  You really need to be passionate about it.  So, if you absolutely love engineering, then go for it!  It is a nice bonus that you will get paid very well to do what you love.  If you try to get into it when you have no passions for it, it will not work out.  If you happen to get through with your degree, you will most likely burn out very quickly once you begin your career.

It’s always interesting (to me, anyway) to take a look at these types of surveys, but ultimately you have control over the success of your life.  Your passion, determination, and work ethic will have a larger influence than anything else.


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