What Will You Earn Based On Your Major?
The Lifehacker site Two Cents ran an article about a very cool online tool from the Georgetown Center For Education and the Workforce. The site allows you to compare expected salaries from different college majors, and even do so across different states.
I love a good data visualization tool, and this site does a superb job of laying things out. They group college majors into 15 main groups with 137 subgroups. Additionally, they show data for bachelor’s degrees and graduate degrees.
Additionally, there’s a full 214 page report included with the analysis. The key findings are right up front in the report so I won’t copy here, but I dug through the report to pull out interesting nuggets for your reading pleasure. So you don’t have to 🙂
- Today, 35 percent of jobs require a Bachelor’s degree or higher
- STEM majors not only have the highest wages, they experience the largest wage growth over the course of their careers
- Business and health majors are the two non-STEM majors that lead to above average wages.
- Overall, one-third of college graduates complete a graduate degree
- Not only are biology and life sciences majors the most likely to earn graduate degrees, they also receive the largest wage premium from graduate degrees.
There should be no real surprise that STEM majors earn the most. The financial independence movement and blogosphere is littered with STEM and former STEM majors. Some of these folks made use of their higher salary and stashed a huge percentage of it away and exited the working world at a very young age. A high salary can do that for you.
That brings us to what John over at ESI Money calls The Paradox of a Career’s Impact on Financial Independence. The whole point of the FIRE movement is to get FU money and exit the traditional W2 working world, assuming you don’t like your job.
But when you don’t like your job you’re probably not doing much to better your situation at your job. Which keeps your salary lower, and delays your path to FI. It’s a cycle that penalizes itself and goes round.
So this tool can help you at least see real data as to how your major stacks up against others. I’m not going to suggest that you switch careers from say sociology to biology just because the latter pays more. If you’re passionate about sociology and that’s what gets you up in the morning then you should stick with it.
This tool will at least allow you to compare sociology salaries across states to see if geoarbitrage is a possible good move for you to make.
But if you’re now in college or starting out in the working world and still not sure what you want to do, a tool like this can be a tremendous help to perhaps choose a degree or a graduate discipline that can position you better for a nice big fat salary later on.
Interestingly enough, I pulled the graphic of the lowest earning majors out of the full report:
As an adjunct faculty member at a big university for over 15 years, I’m disappointed but not surprised that the chart above is mostly populated with education majors. It’s another paradox I guess, we rely on teachers our whole lives to educate us so we can get a good job and get ahead, but we don’t pay them very well and incentivize them to jump into that knowledge-cycle to improve it.
Overall I found this tool and the associated report very interesting and insightful. I don’t really need the info myself since I’m financially independent, but I wanted to expose it to ay of my readers who may need it for themselves or their kids.
Your turn readers – did you notice any of the data being way off in your experience? Do you make way more or less than the report says you should be making based on your major and state of residence? Chime in!