Category Archives: majors



Science Teacher Standing At Whiteboard With Digital Tablet

Another Test Drive

Lastly, colleges often offer free or highly discounted classes via the academic audit*. In an audit arrangement students must get permission from the registrar to sit in on a class. The student can then attend the class and have access to all the related materials but will not take part in testing nor receive a formal grade. Continue reading Audits

Use School Breaks to Get a Clue

Use School Breaks to Get a Clue

Giving a praise


Today let’s talk about two seemingly disparate realities I regularly observe about student activity in and out of school: 1) the stress (and importance) of declaring a major and 2) “unspent” school breaks. And then I’ll dish you this handy tip, which should in a sense kill these two birds with one stone. Continue reading Use School Breaks to Get a Clue

Chart: The Sliding Scale(s) of Graduate Earnings

earnings at 25th & 75th percentile


Chart: The Sliding Scale(s) of Graduate Earnings

Our chart comes to us from a treasure trove of college-related statistical breakdowns from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. The report, titled “What’s it Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors” was compiled by Anthony P Carnevale, Jeff Strohl, and Michelle Melton. They have also offered a less onerous set of select findings which includes today’s chart.

In this week’s chart we can yet again see the very real danger of relying on the flaw of averages to gauge the payoffs of a college degree. For instance, the generally true adage “college graduates earn $1 million more over a lifetime than high school-only graduates,” makes racking up enough debt to swing a hefty private school tuition seem like a no-brainer.  However, as this handy chart shows, this only tells part of the story; graduate earnings vary quite widely based on majors/programs and within employment groupings. Continue reading Chart: The Sliding Scale(s) of Graduate Earnings

Chart: Where Majors End Up by Industry

Where majors end up-page-001


Chart: Where Majors End Up by Industry

If you ask high school students why they want to go to college, almost inevitably you’ll hear a variation on one of three themes: education, exploration, and employability. Increasingly as college becomes more expensive and the education itself can be had for free, the employability factor takes center stage in the minds of students. But what is the correlation between our studies and our future employment? More specifically, will choosing a particular major have an impact on my employment in a related career field? Continue reading Chart: Where Majors End Up by Industry

Chart: The Value of Experience by Degree

Chart: The Value of Experience by Degree

The Benefits of Experience

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.


Let’s Not Assume

Let’s Not Assume

One’s an incident, two’s a coincidence, three’s a theme. And do I ever smell a theme. Just last week as I combed through my Google Alerts newsfeeds I read:

“A college degree is the gateway to success in today’s economy.” (source)

“A college degree is the only sure path to middle-class security…” (source)

“The biggest absurdity is that a four-year college degree has become the only gateway into the American middle class.” (source)

“… higher education is, more than ever, the surest ticket to the middle class.” (source)

If any of the above holds true, then it only makes sense that tuition soars and we, as individuals and as a body politic, promote a college-or-bust mentality. But keep in mind that any time we assume, in the immortal words of Felix Unger, we risk making “an ass out of u and me.”

Continue reading Let’s Not Assume

Chart: Long Term Unemployment by Educational Level

Chart: Long Term Unemployment by Educational Level



This eye opening chart comes to us from an article in Bloomberg Business by Gail Degeorge which highlights a recent report by the BLS. According to the article those without a college degree were three times more likely to suffer unemployment. Perhaps that doesn’t surprise us. Interestingly, however, unemployed the college degree seems to have little impact on one’s ability to find employment quickly.

To quote the author, “… once you’re out of work, being better educated barely seems to improve your chances of finding a new job within half a year…. Of those ages 25 or older with at least a bachelor’s degree who were jobless last year, 37.7 percent were out of work 27 weeks or longer. That compares with 38.3 percent for those who didn’t finish high school.” This certainly should give pause to those who think that a college degree is a sure ticket to better employment, or to today’s point, consistent employment.  Continue reading Chart: Long Term Unemployment by Educational Level

Ignorance is Bleak

One Downer of a Commencement Speech

Congratulations, high school graduates. You have now exhibited some level of state-mandated proficiency in the core subjects. We exposed you to electives in business, agriculture, theater, psych, theology, sociology and economics. You may have even made some fond memories and lifelong friendships while you were at it. Celebrate this event, smug in your understanding that we will never again expect you to formulate another trigonometric equation, ask you to tell us the capital of Bolivia*, or present a book report complete with dioramas.

Too bad you don’t know squat about the first thing you’ll face upon your leaving the roost: financial decision making. In spite of this, 85% of y’all will go to college, where every move you make will impact your financial health, for better or for worse, for years to come. It’s a make-or-break ordeal that requires navigation through a constant barrage of heady choices with large price tags. This is a recipe for failure, but go, knowing we all wish you well in your new ventures. Continue reading Ignorance is Bleak