College Planning

Which College Majors Pay Off and From Which Colleges?

If students knew that one major results in higher salaries than others – or that graduates from one university earn more than those with that exact same degree from another – wouldn’t they make the higher paying choice? According to David Troutman of the University of Texas, apparently not.

” What we find is that they’re not changing their majors, they’re following their passions.”

-David Troutman

Of course, we want our children to follow their dreams. But, we should make them aware that earnings vary widely among graduates, even when they have identical degrees from different universities and colleges, affecting not only their quality of life but also their ability to repay their student loans.

There is an expanded feature on College Scorecard showing the earnings payoffs of 37,459 majors at 4,434 colleges and universities.

What’s truly amazing information is that College Scorecard found that nurses with associate degrees from a community college in California make more than graduates from a dozen master’s degree programs at Harvard!

Electrical and power transmission installers with associate degrees from a community college in West Virginia earn $80,400 in their first year – or more than twice the median income of bachelor’s degree recipients annually.

Earnings vary widely, not only by what kind of degree a student gets, but also where. Workers with undergraduate degrees in business administration make as little as $20,000 a year to as much as $100,000 in the first year after college, depending on which institution their degrees were earned.

Student’s with master’s degrees in educational administration and supervision from one private college in New York earn more than three times as much as graduates with the same degree from a public college in Georgia.

That students don’t know their likely future incomes well before they graduate is particularly surprising given that getting a good job is, according to a 2019 nationwide survey of freshman by an institute at the University of California at Los Angeles, is the # 1 reason they say they go to college.

Prestige continues to matter, and students pick schools based on what’s local, or those that have name recognition, or because of the sports teams. This is not rational thinking.

In the search for a college, I would consider what a graduate could expect to earn and thus be able to afford the student loan payments. Some fields pay very little compared to the cost of earning a degree.