Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Education Pays: Career Earnings by College Major

The more education an individual has, the more likely he or she is to earn higher wages. As discussed in one of our recent posts, in 2013, a worker with a bachelor's degree earned a median wage of $1,108 a week, while a worker with a high school diploma earned $651.

Workers with a bachelor's degree do earn more, but they also have to (usually) forgo four years of full time work to earn the degree. Despite losing out on earnings these four years, however, a recent analysis by The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution shows that a bachelor's degree is well worth the investment.  

Higher earnings by workers with a college degree are not much of a surprise, and it is not much of a surprise that these wages translate to higher lifetime earnings. A more interesting question is, after (or before) deciding to attend college, which major should a student choose? While education pays, which areas of study make investing in a college education pay off even more?

A series of interactive charts put together by The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution helps to answer this question. The charts allow searches across a number of majors and education levels, but here is a quick summary of a few occupations:

Notice that computer science majors have higher annual earnings that nursing majors, journalism majors, and high school diploma earners at almost every point in their careers. Looking at nursing majors, annual earnings don't increase as much as annual earnings for journalism and computer science majors, but the earnings do start off at the highest level of the measured occupations.

How do higher annual earnings for computer science, nursing, and journalism majors translate into lifetime earnings? The chart below breaks down lifetime earnings (in present value) for each of these majors.  

To do an analysis with majors of your choice, see The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution.

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