Georgetown Study: Pay Scale of the College Majors

Georgetown Study: Pay Scale of the College Majors
  • Opening Intro -

    Washington, D.C. – Georgetown University has conducted a survey of 171 college majors, to determine how much students can expect to be paid when they enter the workforce and for a typical 40-year career.

    The university's "What's it Worth?


The Economic Value of College Majors,” reveals that the pay scales of college majors ranges from $29,000 for counseling majors to $120,000 for petroleum engineering majors. This first of a kind study also notes that college majors are highly segregated by gender and race.

Census Data

The Georgetown University study culled census data to create its findings. Noting the importance of receiving a bachelor’s degree, the study also suggests students should be aware of what their pay will be upon securing their first job and throughout their careers.

“The bottom line is that getting a degree matters, but what you take matters more,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education. The lifetime advantages for engineering majors is most striking, earning an average of $1,090,000 more than their peers. Indeed, eight of the top 10 spots are occupied by engineers including people who work in chemical engineering ($86,000), electrical engineering ($85,000) and mineral engineering ($80,000).

On the bottom side of the pay scale are jobs in counseling and psychology, followed by early childhood education paying $36,000 per year; theology and religious vocations at $38,000 annually; and social work at $39,000 per year. People who want a career in the performing arts should start out at about $40,000 per year.

Pay Disparities

Gender and racial differences still persist even when women and blacks work in the same jobs as their white male counterparts. Notably, the report demonstrates that African-Americans earn $22,000 less than whites and $12,000 less than Asians with the same major. Women earn less too, but the data suggests that the vast majority of women choose low-paying careers such as education and counseling. Still, women tend to earn less than their male counterparts, perhaps because many women are more likely to interrupt their careers to raise a family then men are.

The most popular college majors are Liberal Arts and Humanities majors who average $47,000 annually, which is near the college median. The study found that some 40 percent of these grads go on to earn a master’s degree, a move that increase their salaries by 50 percent on average.

Indeed, some college grads who obtain a master’s degree can enjoy a significant boost in their income based on the extra years of schooling. The most significant boost is for healthcare and biology where grads can realize a 123 to 190 percent salary premium. However, degrees in meteorology and studio arts offers gains of just 1 and 3 percent, respectively.

Employment Considerations

You can choose a high paying major, but find it difficult to land work. Students who major in social psychology encounter the most difficulty finding work, with unemployment rates averaging 16 percent. Nuclear engineers and education administrators and supervisors also have high unemployment, averaging 11 percent unemployment each.

Will the study encourage college students to examine their career choices? That seems likely given the impact that wages have on our lifestyles along with the job prospects in any given field.


Georgetown University: What’s It Worth: The Economic Value of College Majors

Pew Research Center: Is College Worth It?


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Categories: Campus News