Money-Making College Majors… But Follow Your Heart

on Wednesday, May. 25th

The University of Georgetown just released a report called “What’s It Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors” that breaks down recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey by college major.

Turnstyle recently did a story called the Top 8 Jobs You Should Target based on the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment projection data. Do they correlate to the highest earning college majors?

Here’s a must-see infographic from the Chronicle of Higher Education that lets you visualize the money-making majors according to their median starting salary [go to site for further breakdown of each academic category].

So what does this mean for those graduating high school seniors, about to start college in the fall? How should they interpret the fact that majoring in engineering has the highest starting median salary, and psychology and social work have the lowest?

According to College Advisor Elizabeth Sandberg at Berkeley High School in California, the information about “worth”-while majors doesn’t affect her job  much. “Most of our students go to college undecided. Sure, students express concerns about not having a job after college – or have parents who want them to study business instead of philosophy… They have to figure out what they want to do and what makes them happy. They are so young and haven’t given it much thought for the most part,” she said.

Sandberg says students come to her asking: Where should I apply? And, where can I get in? Not – what should I study to make the most money. “There’s a college for everybody… in terms of steering towards a particular major – we don’t do that,” said Sandberg.

“We take the students where they are – if they have no clue, we want to keep their options open – we want them to explore different majors… I think every student wants to make a living and be comfortable eventually down the line. We recognize different paths can lead to that end,” she said.

Below are some interesting excerpts from the Georgetown report about how college majors break down among race and gender.

Most and Least Popular Majors
Given the immense number of majors available, any one attracts only a small percentage
of the total population. Business Management and Administration (8 percent) is the most popular major, followed by General Business (5 percent), Accounting (5 percent), and Nursing (4 percent). The least popular majors include Military Technologies, Soil Science, and Pharmacology (all less than 1 percent of all majors).

Gender Concentrations by Major
Early Childhood Education is the major with the highest proportion of women (97 percent). It is followed by Medical Assisting Services (96 percent), and Communication Disorders Sciences and Services (94 percent). The majors in which women are most heavily concentrated are almost exclusively in the Education and Health fields. The majors with the highest proportion of men are Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (97 percent), and Mechanical Engineering and Related Technologies (94 percent). The top 10 majors with the highest proportion of men are in the Engineering and Industrial Arts and Consumer Services majors. (See Tables 3-4)

Top Majors by Race/Ethnicity
Asians with Bachelor’s degrees are most concentrated in Computer Engineering (33 percent of people in these majors are Asian), followed by Statistics and Decision Science (30 percent) and Neuroscience (27 percent).
School Student Counseling has the highest proportion of African-American Bachelor’s degree holders (38 percent), followed by Human Services and Community Organization (21 percent) and Counseling Psychology (20 percent). Biological Engineering has the highest concentration of Hispanic Bachelor’s degree holders (22 percent), followed by International Business (21 percent), and Social Psychology (19 percent). Other Races (including Pacific Islanders and Native Americans) are most concentrated in Court Reporting (8 percent), followed by Mathematics and Computer Science (4 percent), and Cognitive Science and Biopsychology (3 percent). White Bachelor’s degree holders are concentrated in Forestry (93 percent), Natural Resources Management (92 percent), and Agriculture Production and Management (92 percent).


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