Paul L. Caron

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Economic Value of College Majors

What The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce has released What's It Worth: The Economic Value of College Majors:

[T]his first-time research demonstrates just how critical the choice of major is to a student‟s median earnings. While there is a lot of variation in earnings over a lifetime, the authors find that all undergraduate majors are „worth it,‟ even taking into account the cost of college and lost earnings. However, the lifetime advantage ranges from $1,090,000 for Engineering majors to $241,000 for Education majors.

The top 10 majors with the highest median earnings are: Petroleum Engineer ($120,000); Pharmacy/pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration ($105,000); Mathematics and Computer Sciences ($98,000); Aerospace Engineering ($87,000); Chemical Engineering ($86,000); Electrical Engineering ($85,000); Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering ($82,000); Mechanical Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering and Mining and Mineral Engineering (each with median earnings of $80,000).

The 10 majors with the lowest median earnings are: Counseling/Psychology ($29,000); Early Childhood Education ($36,000); Theology and Religious Vocations ($38,000); Human Services and Community Organizations ($38,000); Social Work ($39,000); Drama and Theater Arts, Studio Arts, Communication Disorders Sciences and Services, Visual and Performing Arts, and Health and Medical Preparatory Programs (each at $40,000).


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"...the authors find that all undergraduate majors are 'worth it'"

I don't see how, when one considers options and lost opportunities -- not just lost earnings. Half of those people could have grown more economically by going to a trade school for a year and learning a skill. Also, with their majors, they add less to our economy, because, I suspect for good reason, that so many of them have to end up working for the government or being supported by the government.

The bottom group also explains a lot about problems with people trying to pay off student loans. In my opinion, it makes sense for a person to pay for college with student loans if he majoring in a field in which he can earn a decent living and can afford to pay it back. If he simply wants to be "enlightened" by college, then he should use his parents' money or work his way through, but don't borrow it.

Posted by: Woody | May 26, 2011 7:23:42 AM