Economy | Education | Business

The Most (And Least) Lucrative College Majors, In 1 Graph

NPR | Sept. 13, 2013 10:59 p.m.

Contributed By:

Lisa Chow

Erin Ford graduated from the University of Texas two years ago with a bachelors degree in petroleum engineering. Recruiters came to campus to woo her. She got a paid summer internship, which turned into a full-time job after she graduated. Now, at age 24, she makes $110,000 a year.

Michael Gardner just graduated from the City College in New York with a degree in psychology. He applied for more than 100 jobs, had trouble getting interviews, and worked at Home Depot to make ends meet. “Every single day while I was at work, I’m thinking, ‘I just hope I really don’t get stuck.’” Gardner just got a job earning $36,000 a year as a case worker — and he feels lucky to have it.

What you major in has a bigger influence over your income than where you go to school, according to Anthony Carnevale, an economist at Georgetown. The graph below is based on Carnevale’s research — and it shows the huge range in median earnings for people with different majors.

Michael Gardner was shocked when I told him people who majored in petroleum engineering have a median income of $120,000. But, he said, even if someone had shown him that graph when he was a freshman, it wouldn’t have changed his path.

“I came into the school knowing where I want to go and what i wanted to do,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t mind the money. It’s more of a fulfilling thing for me.”

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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