Not All Degrees Are Created Equal
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 8 out of 10 of the top paying jobs upon graduation are in the field of engineering. (Median first year earnings >$80k)
At the same time, 7 out of 10 of the lowest paying jobs upon graduation are in the fields of fine arts or social sciences. (Median first year earnings <$40k)
In fact, social sciences and history represent the second most conferred degree in the United States.
Anyone want to hazard a guess on the lowest paying degree of all upon graduation?
And where I live in Canada, almost 20% of all degrees conferred each year are in the social science study of psychology.
I wrote an article recently about many of the misleading practices used by college and university advertisements and recruiters. Unfortunately, those misleading messages seem to be working.
Within the past decade, approximately 5% of all degrees awarded were in engineering, while 12% were awarded in social sciences. That is more than twice as many students graduating who can expect to earn less than half what their engineering counterparts will.
And although engineering enrollment has increased by nearly 8% in the past 10 years, it still hasn’t cracked the top five degrees conferred each year.
Not all degrees are created equal, and it is time that more people begin talking about this.
I am often asked by students, What Should I Take in College? The answer is not so simple.
The pursuit of higher education is indeed noble. And as the old adage goes, knowledge is power. But that said, we need to question the motivations of most first year students when they select their major.
Most students have presented to me the logic that they should either study:
- what they are most inclined to do, or for what their aptitudes suggest they are best suited.
- the field in which they are most passionate.
There is merit to this kind of thinking, but it needs to be combined with several other factors:
- How employable is my selected field of study?
- Will I have job security in this field?
- What opportunities will I have for career growth?
- Will I be able to earn an above-average income upon graduation?
I don’t like to make it sound as though money should be the primary motivator for most students, but it is a factor to give strong consideration. After all, many students graduate with crushing debt levels, and recent studies suggest that young working professionals endure more stress than their peers in any other age group.
What are the top two sources of stress for most new graduates?
- Career (70%)
- Finances (75%)
Naturally, a graduate fresh out of college or university will have to be prepared for some stress when transitioning into their career. But we certainly do not benefit our youth by encouraging them to study their aptitudes or passions alone.
With the recent recession, the job market has become more competitive than ever. And much like the stock market, jobs follow the similar trend of supply and demand. If fewer students graduated with psychology degrees, there would be fewer counseling psychologists available to the market, and hence the first year salary in this role would have to increase.
If you want to know what the most employable fields of study are, it usually is reflected in the pay rate of that position. If everyone possessed the credentials and resources necessary to become a doctor, lawyer or surgeon, the median salaries in those fields would drop significantly.
The best education we can give to high school students today is to help them factor in career opportunities when deciding on their major.
All too often, we discourage young people from taking a year off to decide what they want to do. We are so concerned that they will never return to school. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. What we do instead is usher them into a general arts program just to keep them in school, so in turn they can graduate with precious little employability more than when they started.
Not all degrees are created equal, and it is time that parents, educators, and institutions of higher learning help those about to enroll factor employability into their decision.
This article was written and contributed by Brent Jones of JobGettingTips.com.