It seems unfair. You might have chosen your college major when you were hardly 20. Back then, your future career might not have been the first thing on your mind. Your priorities might have included everything from finding where to get free beer, to which classes to take to avoid waking up before 11. Your earning potential or 40 hour workdays hardly figured in your whole consciousness.
Last year, Georgetown University conducted a study titled "What's it worth? The Economic Value of College Majors". The report analysed over 171 majors offered and tied each of them to salary data across a person's lifetime. The study was quite insightful; for starters, it found that college graduates earn 84% more than high school graduated colleagues of theirs.
"It's important that you go to college and get a (bachelor's degree), but it's almost three to four times more important what you take," Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce, said in a statement. "The majors that are most popular are not the ones that make the most money."
Petroleum Engineering is the highest-earning major, with an annual median salary of $120,000. It is followed by Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration ($105,000), Mathematics and Computer Sciences ($98,000), Aerospace Engineering ($87,000) and Chemical Engineering ($86,000). But these majors aren't exactly the most popular.
The most common major amongst graduates is Business Management which earns a median pay of $58,000. The other most common majors – General Business, Accounting, Nursing and Psychology, all reap in an annual pay anywhere between $45,000 to $60,000.
You might have hardly heard of the least popular degrees. However, their rarity helps them get a tidy salary package. Actuarial Sciences (risk assessment in layman terms), the least common major, can earn you as much as $68,000 a year. Others including Electrial and Mechanical Repairs and Technology ($57,000), Metallurgical Engineering ($80,000) and Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering ($82,000), are all high-earning degrees.
Social work oriented degrees often earn the least. These include Counseling and Psychology ($29,000), Early Childhood Education ($36,000), Theology and Religious Vocations ($38,000), Human Services and Community Organizations ($38,000) and Social Work ($39,000).
Unfortunately, race and gender discrimination affects the pay even amongst college graduates. This is partly because white men usually take up higher paying degrees – including engineering and pharmaceutical sciences. Women tend to take up lower-earning majors – social work, art and education. Nevertheless, even in the highest paying jobs, African-Americans earn $22,000 less than whites and $12,000 less than Asians holding the same degree. Women who hold high-paying degrees, like Chemical Engineering, routinely earn as much as $20,000 less than their male counterparts.
The report also found that in some fields – Geological and Geophysical Engineering, Military Technology, Pharmacology, and School Student Counselling – there is virutally zero unemployment. Just goes to prove, it pays better when you break free from the herd!