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May 24, 2011 2:37 PM Worth It

By Daniel Luzer

Apparently what people study in college matters for their future earnings. According to an article by Peter Whoriskey in the Washington Post:

Over a lifetime, the earnings of workers who have majored in engineering, computer science or business are as much as 50 percent higher than the earnings of those who major in the humanities, the arts, education and psychology, according to an analysis by researchers at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
According to the study, the median annual earnings for someone with a bachelor’s degree in engineering was $75,000. The median wage was $47,000 in the humanities, $44,000 in the arts and $42,000 in education or in psychology.

This is apparently the first time that anyone has directly connected college majors to lifetime earnings.

This is interesting but it shouldn’t surprise, or worry, anyone. “I don’t want to slight Shakespeare,” said Anthony Carnevale, one of the authors of the study. “But this study slights Shakespeare.”

Not really. There’s nothing wrong with majoring in the humanities. Merely earning less is not something to avoid. If the study had demonstrated that the median annual earnings for someone with a bachelor’s degree in the humanities was $23,000, that would be cause for alarm. But $47,000 a year is perfectly acceptable.

Read the report here.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • Old Bill on May 25, 2011 1:38 AM:

    The acceptability of $47,000.00 a year depends on where you are. In the San Francisco Bay Area, that wouldn't have bought you a 2bedroom/1bath home even before the bubble burst. Even now, it'll only buy you a place in an area where no one wants to live.