Chart: The Value of Experience by Degree
Hats off to the consulting firm PayScale, providers of this chart. This data-intensive and interactive feature displays not only previously seen earnings by major or lifetime earnings by major, but also the value of job experience over the course of a given career.
If you play around with the chart for a while you quickly see not only the degrees/careers that pay more from the outset, but also those which reward (or not) years on the job. For instance, not only do early childhood education majors face dim wage prospects from the outset, they also don’t get much relative boost in pay in return for being on the job for a long period of time. Starting salaries run about $30,000 and after twenty years in the workforce median pay has only increased to $41,000. In contrast, almost any engineering or technical degree can expect consistent and healthy pay raises along the way.
This shouldn’t necessarily discourage anyone from pursuing this or that major, but certainly should temper one’s expectations of long-range returns. Many jobs may start discouragingly low on the totem pole in wages, but the promise of steady pay increases or brighter job prospects in return for sticking it out makes the education and early struggles worthwhile. Meanwhile, other careers will continue to hold you back with little hope of progress if you start out on the wrong foot, i.e. with a boatload of debt and other bills to pay.
We’ll explore this pain vs gain dynamic in our next Tip of the Week when I walk you through a process whereby you can calculate your expected Return on Investment (ROI), which will then enable you to properly determine the maximum out-of-pocket costs you should pay, depending on your career plans, in order to get to and through your chosen career in one piece.