Why choosing your degree wisely can make a six figure difference

We often come across engineers who earn six or even seven figure incomes. But do we come across an art student earning as much? Rarely, it is probably safe to assume people like engineers will earn more. However, should financial incentives have any weightage of the kind of major we choose to pick up?

If a conventional answer were to be given, it will be a �no’. However, times are changing. Jobs for students pursuing post graduates have been falling. On the other hand, tuition fees for students have gone through the roof. In such a situation, it is only natural for people to take their majors based on its job prospects. In fact, in recent times, this question has also invited a lot of attention from researchers.

Researchers, too, have arrived at the same conclusion. They found people studying science, technology, engineering and maths (also known as STEM fields) to be on one side of the axis. On the other side, they found people pursuing liberal arts and humanities. Naturally, the STEM fields students got better and quicker jobs. They also experienced more job stability. In fact, it was found that during a period of economic slowdown, liberal arts students would find it very difficult to find good employment.

That leads to a simple conclusion. Students must take up STEM fields or other high income fields. However, this idea has been resisted by quite a few people. At Oregon State University, there is a concern that if students take up only few fields, what will happen to the other fields? Naturally there will be shortages of people working in them. This is not a favorable outcome as every field is important for a nation’s development.

Besides this, those concerned believe that the two fields are very different. Students do not take up humanities or liberal arts to earn money. Rather, they take it out of a passion for the subject. Hence, these students are looking for personal fulfillment. Not for financial rewards.

These points may be valid. However, one cannot avoid the facts unearthed by research in this field. Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI) has recently published a relevant report. The report found that students pursuing liberal arts, humanities and the like were in for a rough ride. According to the report, anthropology, photography, architecture, information systems and film majors had the highest unemployment rates. Moreover, students pursuing fine arts started out with the lowest salaries. On the other side of the spectrum, engineering, computer science and mathematics graduates earned the highest starting salaries. Their starting salaries could go above as much as $56,000. Also, the report found that nursing, finance and chemistry majors were the most stable. They had the lowest unemployment rates. This is not just Georgetown. Other research groups have also come to the same conclusion. The employment department of the state of Oregon found that computer science, nursing and engineering fields had a lot more job offerings than the fields of architecture or arts.

However, the research results still have a long way to go in terms of public acceptance. Even today, a huge chunk of students can be found enrolling for majors in social sciences, liberal arts and humanities. In fact, in some states there are 10 students pursuing humanities, social sciences or fine arts for 1 student pursuing any of the STEM fields.

This, though is a debate which is going to go on for long. Both sides have their own arguments to put forth. People advocating liberal arts say that non – STEM fields leads to the overall development of a person. Such students, according to them can perform better in any job they choose to take up. On the other hand, STEM fields advocates say that students have a reason behind pursuing liberal arts. According to them, such students get tempted by less work required to get good grades in fields like liberal arts.

They have very different opinions. However, all of them concur that communication, analytical and leadership skills are prerequisites to success. Hence students must work on developing these skills.

Whichever way this debates goes, one thing is clear. Students must be well prepared to face a job market which is becoming increasingly difficult to crack. And, for this preparation, their college degrees can come in handy.

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