Majors and Salaries: the Economic Value of a Major


  • Georgetown University Report on Economic Value of College Majors
  • Reviewing Median Income of Most Popular Majors
  • Need to Review Aptitudes and Interests
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics on Employment Outlooks

A new study about the earning power of recent undergraduates was just published by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce: “What’s it Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors”. The study can be found complete at:  In the wake of such recent books as Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses that question the validity of a college education altogether, this study confirms that college graduates earn 84% more than high school graduates over their lifetimes. The study also indicates that beyond merely going to college, what you major in makes an even bigger difference in eventual earning power. Not the most earthshaking news in the world, but well worth noting by any high school senior preparing to matriculate into a $50,000 a year university.   

According to the Princeton Review, the top 10 undergraduate majors include: Business Administration, Psychology, Nursing, Biology, Education, English, Economics, Communications, Political Science, and Computer Science. Parenthetically, one of the more confusing aspects of any analysis of majors is to figure out what the actual major entails. Business, for example, encompasses business management (8% of all majors), general business (5%), accounting (4%), and finance (3%)…altogether about 21% of undergraduate degrees are in some form of business. In any case, the median salaries for a portion of these majors are: business, $60,000; psychology, $45,000; communications, $50,000; nursing $60,000; elementary education $40,000; and computer science $75,000. The study also covers earnings by ethnicity, employment rates by major, and earnings by gender (and discusses why there is a ‘gender gap.’)  

Undoubtedly, most of us want to work in a profession where the median salary is as high as possible, but that isn’t the only factor driving us. We also need to pay attention to our aptitudes and our interests. Both of these will determine how well we perform in a chosen field. If you’re attempting to gain a sense of what major might be appropriate, there are workshops that can assist you in determining your interests and how they correlate with academic and career pathways.  One, in Newport Beach, is provided by Julie LaCroix, (949) 721-1165, (, a veteran career counselor who offers a Saturday ‘Early College Planning’ seminar (which focuses on selecting a college major) costing a mere $95. Along with enhancing the college planning process, studies show that with this type of planning students are twice as likely to achieve postsecondary success – defined by graduating within 4 years and attaining college-level employment. 

One of the telling points of the Georgetown study is the difference between earnings at 75% and those at 25%. For example, in Petroleum Engineering the difference in compensation between the top 75% ($189,000) and the lower 25% ($83,000) earnings is $107,000. That is a stark difference. It pays to figure out what it is you’re exceptional at and pursue it with your best efforts. 

No matter what information this, or any study, passes along about the earning potential of various professions, it’s also not a bad idea to consult the Bureau of Labor Statistics to get information on the employment outlook of whatever major or profession you’re considering investigating. There are no guarantees about the future, but just getting a sense of what you might expect when you finally go out into the workforce is a useful exercise.

I initially encountered the Georgetown study in the Orange County Register: “Majors and Making Money,” (19 June 2011, Commentary, page 2) by Gary Jason, an instructor at Cal State Fullerton. Mr. Jason treated the study as if it were the Holy Grail for evaluating postsecondary majors and their potential returns. It’s no doubt useful. What you do eventually major in does have a resounding effect on your earnings and employment security.  Major in genetics and you graduate into a profession where 99% are fully employed; in computer science, and 10% are unemployed. None of us may find this report as riveting as Gary Jason does, but it is prudent to attempt to figure out your place in the world: selecting a major is of major importance.


전공과 연봉관계: 전공의 경제적 가치

  • Georgetown University 보고서
  • 인기 전공의 중간 연봉
  • 적성과 관심분야 살펴보기
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics에서 살펴보자.

최근에 학부를 졸업한 학생들의 경제력에 대한 연구가 Georgetown University에서 발표되었다 (Center on Education and the Workforce: What’s it Worth?  The Economic Value of College Majors:  ).  또한 저서, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on college Campuses에서도 대학교육의 가치를 평가하면서, 대졸자는 고교졸업보다 평생 84%를 더 번다고 보고한다.  또한 대학졸업에서도 전공에 따라 큰 차이가 있다고 한다.  그러므로 대학을 가기 위해 연간 5만불을 준비하는 것이 유익하다.

Princeton Review에 따르면, 탑 10의 전공은 다음과 같다: Business Administration, Psychology, Nursing, Biology, Education, English, Economics, Communications, Political Science, and Computer Science.  그러나, 이 분야들 속에서도 세부전공이 달라진다.  경영학에 있어서도, business management (8%), general business (5%), accounting (4%), finance (3%)를 차지하며, 실제 대학 전공의 21%를 경영학이 차지한다.  중간치 연봉을 알아보면 다음과 같다: business, 6만불; psychology, 4만5천불; communications, 5만불; nursing, 6만불, elementary education 4만불, computer science 7만5천불.  또한 인종, 취업률, 성별 차이 등을 알 수 있다.

물론 모두들 평균 연봉이 높은 직업을 원하지만, 그 선택이 단순하지는 않다.  우리의 적성과 관심분야를 고려해야 한다.  적성과 흥미는 직업에서 얼마나 잘 할 수 있는지는 결정한다.  여러분이 어떤 전공을 택해야 할지 도움이 필요하다면, 직업 카운셀러인, Julie LaCroix, (949) 721-1165, (가 제공하는 세미나, ‘Early College Planning’(주제: 전공선택; 참가비: 95불)에 참가할 수 있다.

또 한가지 주의할 것은 Georgetown 연구에서 나타난 같은 직업에서의 연봉의 차이가 평균 연봉의 75%에서 25%까지 차이가 난다.  예를 들면, Petroleum Engineering전공자가 최고 $189,000에서 $83,000까지 거의 $107,000까지 차이가 난다.   극명한 차이이다.  이 차이는 여러분이 어느 분야든 뛰어나야 하며, 끊임없이 노력해야 됨을 상기시킨다.

이러한 정보를 갖고 있으면서, 또한 Bureau of Labor Statistics의 여러분이 공부하려는 전공이나 가지려는 직업에 관한 취업정보를 알아보는 것도 유익하다.  물론, 여러분의 미래에 대해 어떤 보장은 없다.  그러나, 여러분이 어떤 직장에서 어떤 위치에서 일할 것인지에 대해 기대하고 감각을 갖고 있는 것은 유익한 일이다.

필자는 위에 쓴 Georgetown 연구에 대해 Cal State Fullerton의 강사인 Gary Jason이 Orange county Register에 쓴 기사: Majors and Making Money에서 읽었다.  Mr. Jason은 이 연구를 전공과 돈에 대해 마치 ‘Holy Grail’(추구해야 하는 성배)로 표현했다.  정말 유용하다.  여러분의 전공이 여러분의 취업과 수입, 미래에 대해 어떤 영향을 미칠지 아는 것이 중요하다.  전공 중에서 99%취업은 genetics이며, 그 다음으로 computer science는 미취업이 10%정도이다 .  모두가 Gary Jason만큼 이 문제에 매달리지는 않지만, 여러분의 전공선택과 그 중요성을 다시 한번 생각하는 일은 정말 필요하다.