We’ve always been able to say how much a Bachelor’s degree is worth in general. Now, we show what each Bachelor’s degree major is worth.
The report finds that different undergraduate majors result in very different earnings. At the low end, median earnings for Counseling Psychology majors are $29,000, while Petroleum Engineering majors see median earnings of $120,000.
An old joke in academia gets at the precarious economics of majoring in the humanities.
The scientist asks, “Why does it work?
The engineer asks, “How does it work?”
The English major asks, “Would you like fries with that?”
But exactly what an English major makes in a lifetime has never been clear, and some defenders of the humanities have said that their students are endowed with “critical thinking” and other skills that could enable them to catch up to other students in earnings.
Tuition is rising, the job market is weak, and everyone seems to be debating the value of a college degree. But Anthony P. Carnevale thinks these arguments are missing an important point. Mr. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, has argued that talking about the bachelor’s degree in general doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, because its financial payoff is heavily affected by what that degree is in and which college it is from.
Now, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau sheds light on one big piece of Mr. Carnevale’s assertion: the importance of the undergraduate major. In 2009, the American Community Survey, the tool the bureau uses to collect annual estimates of population characteristics, included a new question asking respondents with a bachelor’s degree to give their undergraduate major.
After combing through the data, Mr. Carnevale says, it’s clear: “It does matter what you major in.”