Perhaps a better question for students is “How much will my degree be worth?” Over a lifetime, someone with an associate degree, bachelor’s degree or graduate degree will earn more than someone with less education. However, the big news is this: According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, the difference in earnings between one major and another can exceed 300 percent. More than ever, young people’s education decisions will have a dramatic effect on their future success–whether to get a college or technical degree; what major to pursue; completing college or technical study as early in life as possible; and wisely financing their education.
A recent AP headline stated, “One in two new graduates are jobless or underemployed.” This sobering article pointed out that tuition rates are on the rise, student indebtedness is swelling, and the Mountain West region is behind the national average, with close to three in five of our young college graduates jobless or underemployed. Most graduates now have almost $20,000 in student loans upon graduation. Andrew Sum said “Many graduates face a double whammy of student loans and poor job outcomes. Simply put, are we failing our kids coming out of college?” He emphasized that when it comes to jobs, the college major can make all the difference.
The Chinese government has begun to eliminate or downsize majors for which the employment rate for graduates is below 60 percent for two consecutive years. We don’t do things that way, but consider for argument’s sake what degrees we would cut if the U.S. were to implement that approach. According to the 2010 Census and the Wall Street Journal, the degrees with the highest unemployment and the lowest salaries are psychology, fine arts (visual and performing arts), US History, and Library Sciences. Some have referred to these majors as “degrees to nowhere.” It has been suggested that our colleges and universities should be graduating more students in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and math– whose degrees produce the highest median salaries, six figures or close to it. A student who becomes a petroleum engineer can expect to earn a median salary of $127,000. A student who becomes a student counselor or psychologist can expect to earn only $35,000. Sad, but true.
Financial rewards are not the only consideration in selecting a major. Money cannot buy happiness, contentment or job satisfaction, but it definitely contributes to quality of life.
The question for students and those that counsel them is: Will my college degree be worth the time and money? One could argue that the only educational choice more costly in the long run is not going to college at all.
Top Majors in Utah vs State and National High Wage Majors