What’s Your Major Worth in the Job Market?

Photo: Chris Schmidt/2007, Chris Schmidt

The new skepticism towards the value of a liberal arts degree now has some data to back it up. A study released today from Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce used census data to rank the top college majors by highest media earnings. Liberal arts majors don't make as much as the top earners ($120,000 for graduates with degrees in petroleum engineering), or as little as the lowest ones ($29,000 for counseling psychology graduates). Instead, despite being the third most popular major, they hover around the middle with median expected earnings of $47,000, which actually sounds kind of high to those of us wearing journalism goggles. But the study is quick to point out that 40 percent of liberal arts majors obtain a graduate degree, "reaping a return of almost 50 percent." The authors must have forgotten to add: a fat chunk of which they will need to pay off their student loans. But the report ends on a cheery note:

"While there is a lot of variation in earnings over a lifetime," the center said in a press release, "the authors find that all undergraduate majors are ';worth it,' even taking into account the cost of college and lost earnings."

Thanks for reassuring us it's worth it to pay for Georgetown, Georgetown.

Calculating the Potential Return on Your Major [NYT]
Engineering Undergrads Reap Top Salaries [Bloomberg]