Prospective college students often aim high by applying to the most prestigious universities. It is nice to have a degree awarded from a big name school to signify the rigor and challenge of the higher education pursuit.
According to a study done by the American Institute of Research (AIR), a graduate’s field of study is more important than the university name when generating first-year income. This is good news for students who decided to attend lesser known campuses, but still seek the high-earning degree:
Based on earnings outcomes, some colleges and universities are producing graduates who earn far less than graduates from other schools and graduates from some institutions earn far more. But a surprising number of colleges and universities in every state produce graduates with roughly identical earnings.
But field of study appears to affect earnings more so than choice of institution. Graduates of some very popular programs (in particular, Psychology) do not earn high wages initially in the job market. Choosing a field of study should be driven by more than just the economic reward—but students should be aware of the potential earnings associated with their choices and factor those considerations into their decisions about where to go, what major to pursue, and how much to borrow.
As AIR stated, earning outcomes still vary among campuses. Those attending a more prestigious school should not be discouraged. The study examined colleges in Arkansas, Colorado, Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas. In Colorado and Arkansas, all universities had average first-year income of graduates within five to six percent of the median.
The following chart summarizes the first-year earnings for those who attain a bachelor’s degree in the five mentioned states:
There is still considerable variation between different universities. However, the disparity of first-year income is wider when comparing fields of study. The following chart shows lowest and highest earning degrees in the five states:
It is important to keep in mind that AIR’s study only examines the first year of post-graduate career earnings. However, starting pay for a certain field of study is an important indicator of the potential career earnings.
Less lucrative degrees may not lead to well-paid jobs initially, and engineering programs may have stronger connections with workforce opportunities, but AIR confirms that engineering programs tend to be more intimate and less popular than most liberal arts fields (philosophy, psychology, etc).
Entering college is daunting for many students. It may not be clear within the initial years of study that what you study and where you study are all factors in how much you can earn in your future career.
Higher education is not entirely about getting the most lucrative degree and students should not have to sacrifice what is truly desired in the pursuit of knowledge. But with the high price tags of tuition and living expenses, the cost-benefit of a college degree should be considered.
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the psychology degree phenomena is very interesting. I wonder what compels so many undergrads to pursue that field when they know the post grad options are few to none.
I have always thought people should choose a college based off the strength of its programs in the desired field a person wants to go into which is not always the most prestigious of schools. But, students also need to keep in mind what it means to pursue their desired field. It may not be the best choice in the long-term.
Note to future college students: engineering of any kind is not a bad way to go.
i suppose its because these people aren't so concerned about an employment track immediately after college, instead hoping that the analytic powers such a discipline provide will guide them in nonprofit work, or even starting their own business...an emphasis more on life skills than on employability which may seem like integrity, but for the massive price tag of debt that often comes with it.
Bottom line, students should understand the cost-benefit analysis of every discipline and know when to either a. concentrate on developing qualifications for one job track or b. prepare to get really creative with their sources of income while making sure the experiential wisdom gained through a degree is being used and appreciated.
Opportunities in engineering are awesome here in CA. Some of my friends spent 5-6 years in college to finish their engineering degrees, but it's paying off for them. I don't think I would've survived engineering, so it's not for everyone. So long as students know what they want to do after graduating, things will be better.