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Bachelor's Degrees: The More You Learn, The More You Earn

Bachelor's Degrees: The More You Learn, The More You Earn

Bachelor's degrees are becoming increasingly important to landing good jobs that pay well. But how do you learn about what college majors go with what jobs? What are the jobs for people with an English degree, a background in computer science or those who

By Kristina Cowan | PayScale Contributing Writer

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, between 1980 and 2005 “young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree consistently had higher median earnings than those with less education.” In 2005, male workers ages 25-34 with a high school diploma or GED had a median income of $29,600, while those with a bachelor’s degree or higher earned $48,400. Among women with the same characteristics, those with a high school diploma or GED made $23,500, and their counterparts with bachelor’s degrees or higher earned $39,500.

And while it may be difficult to pinpoint the value of a liberal arts degree, there are some ball-park figures available. A recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers offers a glimpse into the average starting salaries for a variety of majors. English majors receive an average offer of $32,553, economics majors get $48,483, and starting wages for computer science graduates are somewhat higher, at $53,396.

Picking A Major: For Love or Money

Mentioning the value of a degree generally stirs thoughts of salaries and money. Ideally, though, a degree helps its owner follow his or her passions.

Holler said her initial interest was in journalism, but studying PR proved a better fit because she uses her verbal and written communication skills, which she enjoys.

Andrea Koncz, NACE’s employment information manager, said the group has found “over the years that students choose their majors based upon what they ‘like to do.’” She pointed to NACE’s 2006 survey of graduating students and alumni, which says 67 percent of respondents indicated they chose a major because they liked the work it would enable them to do. Only 6 percent picked their majors based on earning potential.

Brooks of UT-Austin said in a past job she advised pre-med students; when some didn’t get into medical school, instead of pursuing other health-related careers, they opted for investment banking or consulting.

“They wanted something high-paying, that’s why they were going to medical school in the first place,” she explained. “You’ll look at any field that will pay you what you want to earn.”