Study: How Much Does A College Major Impact Potential Earnings?

Which college majors are linked to the highest job earnings? A report released last week by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analyzed 171 majors to report on median salaries in each field.

Anthony Carnevale, Director of the Center, stated that “The majors that are most popular are not the ones that make the most money.” He also remarked that, while he views attaining a bachelor’s degree as necessary, a student’s choice of major may be an even more important decision.

Not surprisingly, majors in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields take the top ten spots for salary. The highest earners are Petroleum Engineers with a median salary of $120,000. All ten of the lowest median earnings are in social science fields. Counseling/Psychology majors earn the least with an annual average of $29,000.

The report also reveals the majors with the lowest unemployment, including Military Technologies and School Student Counseling, and those with the highest unemployment, including Social Psychology and Nuclear Engineering.

Race and gender earnings gaps are present in all majors.

The huge disparities in earnings potential confirm the necessity of career guidance in secondary and postsecondary education. Career guidance is a key part of Career Technical Education (CTE), and helps students to attain postsecondary certificates or credentials in high-skill, high-wage, high-demand jobs.

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