By Caitlin Murad
The Arkansas Traveler, U. Arkansas
(UWire)—Every year thousands of freshmen enter their first year of college undecided about which major to pursue. Even 50% of those who do declare a major will change their major before they graduate, according to a study by Dr. Fritz Grupe, founder of MyMajors.com.
Graduating with a bachelor's degree is an invaluable advantage in the workplace, but according to a recent study done at Georgetown U. called "What's It Worth," some majors provide more potential earnings than others.
In fact, the difference in potential earnings between one major and another can be more than 300%, according to the press release on the "What's It Worth" study. Those with a major in engineering can expect to make $1,090,000 more in a lifetime than they would have without a bachelor's degree, while education majors can expect a $241,000 lifetime advantage.
The difference in potential earnings between one major and another can be more than 300%. The major that generates the most yearly income is engineering, according to the study. The median earnings are $99,000 for those with a graduate degree and $75,000 for engineers with a bachelor's degree. Graduates with majors in psychology and social work can expect a lower median income of about $42,000 to $60,000 per year depending on their degree, whereas graduates with liberal arts degrees tend to make $50,000 to $65,000 per year.
Despite this, Dr. Robin Roberts, dean of the U. Arkansas Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, believes there is more to choosing a major than just the earning potential.
"Many experts agree that the job market in the future will reward critical thinking, the ability to write effectively, and flexibility," Roberts said. "Liberal arts degrees offer these important skills to students."
The Association of American Colleges and Universities found that the vast majority of employers favor analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills - the well-rounded abilities available through a liberal arts education - in its most recent employer surveys.
The study emphasizes the increase in financial earnings for people who have earned graduate degrees. Although this may be true, some major groups are more likely to obtain a graduate degree than others.
The Biology and Life Science group are the most likely to obtain an advanced degree, while those in the communications, journalism, industrial arts and consumer services fields are the least likely, followed closely by business, according to the press release.
In addition to exploring the potential wages of certain majors, the study includes statistics on whether or not graduates end up working in the field of their degree.
Health majors are the most likely to end up working in their specific field at 72%. Education majors follow closely behind with 55 percent working in the education field, while the remaining population of education majors work in health services and retail. Agriculture and natural resource majors are the least likely to work in the field of their major with only 13% working in their field, with about 11% of agriculture majors working in public administration and nine percent in retail.
The report also reveals a larger percentage of women in the fields of health, education and psychology. Men are more likely to work in the fields of agriculture and business.
There is a slight difference in pay between men and women throughout every field. The largest difference in pay is in the field of business, where the male median earnings were $66,000 per year and female earning were $50,000 per year.
Education and liberal arts majors experienced the smallest difference ($8,000) between the income of men and women in the same field.
However, regardless of area of study, college graduates have a greater yearly income than those with only a high school level of education.
"On average, college graduates make 84% more over a lifetime than their high school-educated counterparts," according to the press release.
Yet, despite what the study may say about the value of a college major, a student's major should be something enjoyable and about which they are passionate.
"In choosing a major, students have to consider their interests, skills, and personal satisfaction in a future career," Roberts said.