Not exactly, but I got your attention, didn’t I?
The Wall Street Journal this week called attention to a recent comprehensive study undertaken by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Titled “The Economic Value of College Majors,” the study estimates beginning and lifetime earnings of 137 different disciplines. You can see a 40-page executive summary here if you’re interested in all the details, but I would definitely recommend you check out this three-minute WSJ video that simplifies and summarizes the summary.
A lot of the data in the study report are predictable: college graduates can expect to earn a lot more over their lifetimes than high school graduates; among college graduates, computer scientists tend to make more than social workers. But the thrust of the report is to underscore that college majors aren’t perfect predictors of lifetime income. Median income figures are only averages, after all, and there is a considerable income range for each major above and below the median figure. What is more, some majors have a considerably wider range proportionally than others. On average, engineers make more than English majors and architects earn more than anthropologists, but their income ranges overlap considerably, so that individual comparisons will often depart from the overall pattern.
And although the history major will not translate into immediate wealth, the Georgetown study does indicate that history majors earn the highest incomes in the humanities category, and history majors who go on to earn advanced degrees in non-history programs (law, business, or public policy, for example) can expect to earn substantially more than the average undergraduate who majored in one of the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math). Indeed, the WSJ video–titled “Why STEM Majors Don’t Always Earn More”–uses the earnings potential of history majors who go on to certain advanced degrees as its featured example.