A few years ago, the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce released a shocking and disturbing study. It revealed that African American students tended to cluster in majors that lead to low-paying careers, and were severely underrepresented in high-paying majors.(Image: Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action)
Worse, an article in Diverse Issues in Higher Education quoted several black students as saying that in choosing a career money wasn’t an important consideration.
Earnings Are a Factor
For those students who think projected earnings are a factor to consider, a new report from Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute provides information on the college majors that lead to the highest salaries and the lowest.
For black Americans in particular, who as a group earn the lowest salaries and have the least in assets compared with other racial groups, future salary earnings must be a consideration when choosing a college major and career.
According to Forbes.com, the major that leads to the highest salary is electrical engineering. The average starting salary? $62,428, though the article also states that salaries can be as low as $25,000 and as high as $130,000, depending on experience and location.
But majors that lead to low starting salaries are all in the liberal arts. The lowest? Pre-K & kindergarten education, with a starting salary of $35,626—which indicates what we as a society value. That’s too bad, because studies continue to show how valuable preschool is to the developing brain (yes, kids’ brains are still developing after they’re born).
As a former English major I value the liberal arts, and I’ve already written about how they are appreciated in tech spaces and how the liberal arts should not be abandoned and replaced with more and more tech.
However, money matters. We simply cannot afford—literally—to blithely make decisions about college majors that do not take projected earnings into consideration. It’s been recommended that combining a liberal arts major with additional training or study in a STEM field yields the best results, both for employability and salary.
We live in the information age. There isn’t any reason not to take advantage of studies like Michigan State’s CERI so you can devise a plan that will help you earn a good income, even if your starting salary is low. Not everyone can or should be an electrical engineer, but everyone can make an informed decision and develop a plan that includes STEM course work.
For more about the CERI report, visit Forbes.com.