What's Your Major?

It’s the three most dreaded words most UC Davis freshmen (and a lot of sophomores) can hear. Whether it comes from your parents, guidance counselor, or a that cutie sitting alone at the bar, everyone has an opinion about your major and will freely share it before the words have even finished leaving your mouth. Anthropology? Get ready to be unemployed. Microbiology? Ooooh, you must be smart. English? I guess you want to be a teacher.

For the record, we don’t care about your major. (Ours were art history and journalism/film.) What we do care about is your ability to find a job and make enough money to keep you in beer and pretzels. And, according to a new Census Bureau report, your choice of major can vastly influence how much beer and pretzels you can buy. As much as million dollars’ worth over the course of a lifetime.

It will come as no great shock to anyone that the STEM majors are the most highly paid (I guess I should have paid closer attention when they were teaching how to balance chemistry equations). According to the report:

People who majored in engineering had the highest earnings at $92,000 per year. They were also the most likely to be employed in the private sector (78.6 percent). Majors with the lowest overall median annual earnings, about $55,000 or less per year, included such fields as visual and performing arts, communications, education, and psychology. 

The fields of degree associated with the highest median earnings for women were the same as those for men, with median earnings of engineering majors being highest for both. However, women earned less than men for every field of degree.

Earnings tended to be higher for all fields of degree among those who worked in the private sector compared with earnings of those who worked in government. One exception was earnings for those who majored in education. Full time, year-round government workers who held bachelor’s degrees in this field earned $52,000 per year, compared with $47,000 per year among those who worked in the private sector.

So, the moral of the story is, knowledge is power. Go ahead and major in theatrical costume design, if that is your bliss. Just know that it’s going to take you a lot longer to pay down your school loans than your roommate the electrical engineer.