When it comes to how much you will earn after graduation, majors matter more than degrees, according to a new report from The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
Over the span of a career, college graduates earn $1 million more than those with only high school degrees. But even for college graduates, much rides on which major they focus.
Graduates with the highest-paying majors earn $3.4 million more than the lowest-paying majors. Using U.S. Census data, the report looked at wages for 137 college majors, including the wages of graduates who go on to earn advanced degrees.
“We’ve known for a while that all degrees are not created equal, that your major has a large effect on your ability to get a job and work your way up a career ladder,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, the center director and the report’s lead author. “But a college major isn’t destiny. For example, the top 25 percent of humanities and liberal arts majors earn more than the bottom 25 percent of engineering majors.”
Indeed, graduates can’t go wrong with a field in engineering. The top earning degree — petroleum engineering — generates a median annual salary of $136,000 each year.
Engineering majors are the highest paid, but “business management and administration” is the most common major, composing 8 percent of all college-educated workers. Business majors, combined with science, technology, engineering and math majors — the so-called STEM fields — account for 46 percent of all college graduates.
The 10 majors with the lowest median earnings are: early childhood education ($39,000); human services and community organization ($41,000); studio arts, social work, teacher education, and visual and performing arts ($42,000); theology and religious vocations, and elementary education ($43,000); drama and theater arts and family and community service ($45,000).
See the chart below: