Choosing A Major: What’s Lucrative And What’s Not
September 17, 2013

Choosing A Major: What’s Lucrative And What’s Not

For me, the semester is well on its way. We are in week four, and finally the semester is balancing out. My students and I are getting into a schedule and finding our comfort zones. Being back in school has definitely made me think about education and college and all that those entail. As I was researching stuff on education, I came across an article on National Public Radio (NPR) about the most and least lucrative college majors. Naturally, I had to find out some more information.

According to the NPR article, eight of the ten majors with the highest earnings are in some area of engineering. Here is the list of the top ten highest earning majors from highest paid down:

  1. Petroleum Engineering
  2. Pharmacy Sciences/Administration
  3. Mathematics and Computer Science
  4. Aerospace Engineering
  5. Chemical Engineering
  6. Electrical Engineering
  7. Navel Architecture/Marine Engineering
  8. Mechanical Engineering
  9. Metallurgical Engineering
  10. Mining and Mineral Engineering

These are a ton of math- and science- based majors, yet STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is still pushed as majors that need more students. This says to me that these degrees are high paying, but not highly participated in by students.

On the other end, the majors with the lowest earnings were all over the disciplines. Here is a breakdown of these, again from highest paid down:

  1. Health/Medical Preparatory Programs
  2. Visual and Performing Arts
  3. Communication Disorders Sciences
  4. Studio Arts
  5. Drama and Theater Arts
  6. Social Work
  7. Human Services/Community Org.
  8. Theology and Religious Vocations
  9. Early Childhood Education
  10. Counseling Psychology

Despite being the jobs that are paid less, these degree programs often see the highest student engagement. This screams that students are more interested in pursuing a career in something that they will make less money at if they will enjoy their job. I guess money isn’t everything in this regard.

All of this data comes from research completed by economist Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. In his study, he found much of interest about college majors and professional jobs. In fact, the research looked at data based on ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and so much more. And Carnevale found some really interesting data to consider concerning just what a major is worth and who pursues the different degree programs. For instance, the study explains the top ten most popular majors as:

  1. Business Management and Administration
  2. General Business
  3. Accounting
  4. Nursing
  5. Psychology
  6. Elementary Education
  7. Marketing and Marketing Research
  8. General Education
  9. English Language and Literature
  10. Communication

Notice that not one of those is engineering of any type and the only majors with any real math component are Accounting and Marketing and Marketing Research. This leads to the ten least popular majors, which were:

  1. Precision Production and Industrial Arts
  2. Geological and Geophysical Engineering
  3. Nuclear Engineering
  4. Soil Science
  5. Geosciences
  6. Educational Administration and Supervision
  7. Pharmacology
  8. Astronomy and Astrophysics
  9. Military Techniques
  10. School Student Counseling

Here we see some of the engineering degrees, yet few still of those that lead to jobs where people make the most money.

Obviously, students are choosing majors and careers for happiness more so than for the lucrative nature of a particular discipline. This is good, really, but we also should support those engineering, science, and math degree programs and careers, and not just because people can make lots of money, but also because these lead to some of the important discoveries and data. We need scientists and mathematicians and engineers, so it is important to support those who are interested in these fields.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the different majors and careers and information. Check out the study link above to see the entire document.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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