Want to Earn an Extra Million Dollars? Choose Your Major Wisely


May 12, 2015
by Suada Kolovic
When choosing a major, most would agree that it's important to consider gaining lucrative employment following graduation. In a perfect world, the best college major would simply be the one that interests you most, period. But if you have a particular knack for math or science and aren't necessarily sure where those skills would translate best, consider the kinds of careers that could offer a generous return on your investment.

When choosing a major, most would agree that it's important to consider gaining lucrative employment following graduation. In a perfect world, the best college major would simply be the one that interests you most, period. But if you have a particular knack for math or science and aren't necessarily sure where those skills would translate best, consider the kinds of careers that could offer a generous return on your investment.

According to a new report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, going to college pays off but by how much depends greatly on the area of study. For example, students who complete undergraduate degrees in petroleum engineering earn a median $4.8 million throughout their careers (or $136,000 a year) – more than triple the $1.4 million in median earnings (or $39,000 a year) for someone who majored in early childhood education, the report says. "The surprises are in the details," said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce. Just choosing a major in a STEM field doesn't secure a hefty paycheck, either: Carnevale's team found that biology majors have median annual wages of $56,000 over their careers from age 25 to 59, or about one-third less than physicists. There are also wide ranges in salaries for specific majors. The top 25 percent of earners who majored in finance can expect annual earnings of more than $100,000, while the bottom quartile may bring in just about $50,000 a year. (For more on this report, head over to the Wall Street Journal.)

Do you agree with the sentiment that majors that aren't in high demand should be avoided or should students be encouraged to pursue their passion regardless of potentially high unemployment rates? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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Discuss

Share your thoughts and perhaps thousands of students will benefit from your unique insight on the subject!



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Jenna c.  on  5/20/2015 4:11:53 PM commented:

As a parent, I feel terribly for your generation. We did raise you all to pursue your passion....but we never knew college tuition would reach the current rates. So, as parents, we have probably given you all mixed messages. so many of you will be in debt or your parents may have to sell their homes or use their retirement money to pay for school, especially for those on the east coast, where schools can easily be 67k a year andparents and the media may focus on having you all find Stem or finance careers to make the money back. And yes...we have a screwed up system where people who want to do "good" and become social workers or special Ed teachers, have as much debt as those in higher paying careers. It isn't fair. My kids are majoring in music and pursing their passion. I am gulping and trying to breathe, knowing that they love and are dedicated and motivated, so they,have a chance to make it work. Yes...I wanted them to major in science....but it isnt their passion.

Mollie H.  on  5/17/2015 12:21:16 PM commented:

In reading these comments, perhaps a little more time studying the English language is warranted before deciding on college.

Stephen wajeh  on  5/17/2015 3:59:09 AM commented:

students that are passionate towards something grate in future will forever remain happy for the time to come.so go in search for education

Zyphorah Elcine  on  5/15/2015 8:23:03 PM commented:

I believe there should be more access to motivational practices to encourage academic involvement. Zyphorah E.

Erika C  on  5/15/2015 5:10:49 AM commented:

facimg this ugly reality, I just think that school shoul be cheaper or for free for those majors that will not give us a lot of money, and defenitely for free for those persons pursuing a major in Education. It doesn't makes sense to get a loan to pay more than what you are going to earn a year.

Kyleigh W.  on  5/14/2015 8:23:57 PM commented:

If students have a passion for something, they should follow it even though it might not be the most high paying job out there. If it is your dream follow it

Christina S. Harvey  on  5/14/2015 7:03:49 PM commented:

Yes students should be encouraged to pursue their passion regardless of potentially high unemployment rates but at the same time we shouldn't chose something just because it's easy, if you have the ability to do better then go for it.

Omar Davis , R  on  5/14/2015 12:30:45 PM commented:

I Feel as though people should pursue there passion and dreams but should also consider monetary achievements.

McKenzie P  on  5/13/2015 11:39:49 PM commented:

syudents must look at their purpose for college. Those who go to develop their understanding of a field with no care as to the monetary value of their degree or certificate should not be bothered by asking how lucrative their major will be to them. However, those whose purpose for pursuing higher education is to earn the biggest bang for their buck should pay attention to their options of majors. It is a known fact that not all degrees are made equal. It is the well informed scholar who can determine which major will help them accomplish their end goal, whether that is a passion or a pay check.

Sam P  on  5/13/2015 9:13:02 PM commented:

People should just follow their dreams. If it's what they really want to do, then they'll find a way to make it work. No matter how obscure the subject, there will most likely be somewhere for them to get a job. There wouldn't just be a major that's completely useless, there has to be something for everyone.

Lea H.  on  5/13/2015 8:44:00 PM commented:

I can understand why student do and do not choose a major. I understand that some students do not know what they want to do after high school much less after college. But, I also understand when students have a passion for something and have a plan or a goal of you will. Settling for a major is sometimes over whelming and nerve racking , but in the long run I feel it gives you a goal to work towards, something to look for, a light at the end of the tunnel. I know statistics show that most students never use there degree after college but that's most likely because they chose what was easy, when applying for a major it should be because it is what you enjoy doing. Nothing in life worth having comes easy, so applying for a major you will actually use might help deciding what major you want. I encourage everyone to pick a major and stick with it, for the correct reasons not because you have to. Money isn't everything ! Students need to realize you can't take money with you when you die, live a life that makes you happy. No matter if you think your major isn't a high paying, in high demand, or what everyone else is doing , you do you, be happy, you will be rich with memories, smiles, and happiness, unlike the people that have jobs from something that just pays well, is miserable getting up for work every morning and loths everything but the pay. You win in the long run by choosing a passion, a goal, a dream than money that you have to give away anyways .

Aimie L.  on  5/13/2015 8:20:06 PM commented:

In today's society we grow up and are taught to be successful. Sucess doesn't only come from money. We are pressured into certain jobs and fields just to make money. We need to teach young adults to do what they love to do. If they truly love to do it high unemployment won't stop them. They will have the ambition and drive to get the job they want to do. Sucess comes in many forms and yes money can be considered a Sucess but doing what you love is a greater one. Finding people we can share our life with and making the most out of the time we spent learning about the things we love to do. Our schools should teach a basic knowledge but once we have that basic knowledge we need to focus on finding what we love to do. This will only make us grow as a nation.

Ryan G  on  5/13/2015 12:37:25 PM commented:

People should always follow their passion. They should also wait to go to college until they find out what their passion is. Too many students are just there for the grade or the things that will look good on a resume and the result is a lack of real education. Students should be thinking broader than just getting a job, there are limitless business and self-employment opportunities. As far as majors, I think schools should have more universal degrees that allow for a range of career paths. An art degree should include all sorts of skills, both physical and digital. That way if the graduate can't find work as a painter, they know how create content for websites, print or graphic design. Instead of useless electives, a more broad approach could be taken within the discipline. There were a lot of classes I wanted to take to gain skills but couldn't because they didn't fit into my requirements. An open system would be more beneficial than specific requirements of depth and width course

Jasmine C.  on  5/13/2015 11:45:56 AM commented:

It is horrible how getting a job is all about the money these days. It doesn't matter what the heck you want to major in. The money each job provides shouldn't be taken into account either. In a perfect world, everyone would be able to choose what they want to do in life and who they want to work for because they are truly passionate about it. I feel like this is why the system is so messed up right now because everyone just chooses the "safe" careers, like a doctor or lawyer or engineer. They choose these jobs not because they are truly interested in them, but because they earn a high amount of annual income, which is ridiculous because now you have workers who don't care about their job, they just want their $150,000 a year. I have had numerous experiences in my family where they had a life threatening disease and the doctors only cut corners and gave them the wrong treatment and permanently messed them up for life. Like I said, money shouldn't be the main reason why you choose a job

Jasmine C.  on  5/13/2015 11:45:50 AM commented:

It is horrible how getting a job is all about the money these days. It doesn't matter what the heck you want to major in. The money each job provides shouldn't be taken into account either. In a perfect world, everyone would be able to choose what they want to do in life and who they want to work for because they are truly passionate about it. I feel like this is why the system is so messed up right now because everyone just chooses the "safe" careers, like a doctor or lawyer or engineer. They choose these jobs not because they are truly interested in them, but because they earn a high amount of annual income, which is ridiculous because now you have workers who don't care about their job, they just want their $150,000 a year. I have had numerous experiences in my family where they had a life threatening disease and the doctors only cut corners and gave them the wrong treatment and permanently messed them up for life. Like I said, money shouldn't be the main reason why you choose a job

Marina Morales  on  5/13/2015 8:53:22 AM commented:

I think that college should pay off more than what is expected. College graduates tend to think that they will not have problems once they get their career of choice but that is not always true. They end up paying more than what is expected for years after graduating. I think the work force should be more generous if they spent all that time in school just to be there. Someone who put in effort should get rewarded not have to pay for that effort like they didn't do anything. Their major can contribute to how much they have to pay in the long run but it shouldn't be to much.

Daniela B  on  5/13/2015 8:49:48 AM commented:

I believe that people are easily influenced by others. They try to live the lives their parents want for them but that's not always what you want. You have to find what you love and accomplish your own dreams.

Olivia B  on  5/13/2015 8:16:01 AM commented:

I think that if having the degree is pointless then you shouldn't need it to pursue your passion, therefore the degree programs with no job opportunities as a result should be dropped. But only if they are costing the university(by way of students because that's who the strain gets transferred to) money. If the university is already going to employ the same number of teachers regardless of if they drop the degree program then it doesn't matter from a financial standpoint if they keep the degree. However if there are teachers who are only kept on specifically for the purposes of a class that is necessary for a useless degree that may have few students taking it, then it can be assumed that the cost of employing those additional teachers would be passed on to students who don't even take the courses by way of standard tuitions. But maybe I don't understand how tuition works at universities.

Viktoria I  on  5/13/2015 7:33:04 AM commented:

Actually, most college degrees are worthless; at least in my situation. I started college later in life and was advised to get into the Regents Bachelor of Arts program, which did not take me long to realize that an RBA degree is even more worthless, sort of like the collegiate equivalent of a GED. I was never off the Dean's List but twice, and even made the President's List (straight As) twice, so I am not stupid. In my particular case, I am stuck here in my University town, am more than $40,000 in debt for a worthless degree that I shall never be able to pay off because there are really no jobs in this town for college graduates of any discipline. One would be better off to go to a trade school. At least you can usually get a job--

StaVecia T.  on  5/13/2015 7:02:03 AM commented:

If applying students don't have the money they are encouraged to find the money through competitive scholarships, loans that will cost more in the future, or grants that only work in certain places. If they don't have the money then they may as well give up and work in a minimum wage job. In a way it looks as though the U.S. Only encourages a certain class to be able to get an education. Around the world college tuition is free and gives everyone an equal chance. If school as allowed everyone to enter with a low or nonexistent tuition our economy may do better than is now. Technology may advance faster and poverty may deminish greatly. We will never know what will happen as long as a person with amazing ideas aren't given the opportunity to show their potential.

allyssa w  on  5/13/2015 5:27:56 AM commented:

I think students should persue their passion. If students don't then you may have a problem with their work ethic. If people follow What they love then they will enjoy it.

Rachael  on  5/13/2015 1:58:28 AM commented:

I think that the entire educational system needs to focus on stressing students strengths and weaknesses better in school. A majority of Americans would not learn to like studies relating to engineering because they are not encouraged to like it as youngsters, i.e. Therefore, they find that they would rather settle for the more encouraging major that "fits" their standards of education. Within this ideally new educational system, students should be positively introduced to all varieties of education to really compartmentalize the technique and solution for them to have the most specified major to their liking. All in all, kids need to feel like they can change the world to actually change the world, so we need to make them feel like they can succeed in any and everything (Not just fitting to the stereotypes-different is okay)!

Clarissa D.  on  5/13/2015 12:10:22 AM commented:

I believe that pursuing our dreams and goals should not be effected by employment rates as well as anyone thoughts or criticism. Many people today are driven into fields they "think" they would be passionate about due to the high salaries. But unfortunately, money is what blurs many into thinking that it is the most crucial object we NEED in order to live. Which is true....but to an extant. We as people are unique, there is only one you and only you. If you want to achieve a dream or if you have a life time dream job I would encourage you to go big or go home. If all fails ALWAYS have a plan B.

Carissa M  on  5/12/2015 10:48:59 PM commented:

I am horrified by the contradictory society we have today. We, as young adults, are told to be ourselves, but not like we want to. Some students are greatly encouraged in their pursuits of basketball, baseball, mathematics and sciences, yet the students who excel in fine arts are left to fail, as many fine arts careers 'aren't real jobs.' As a student who participates in both athletics and fine arts, and happens to greatly prefer the fine arts, I am heartbroken that I am not encouraged to pursue my dream as an actress, but am encouraged as a runner. I am forced to double major in my passion of theatre and a 'real' job because of lack of support. Even if my passion will earn me less money, I feel that students should be encouraged to pursue their dreams rather than be miserable in conformative careers.

Tyler M.  on  5/12/2015 10:03:12 PM commented:

Money is indeed what makes the world function but in reality what's important ultimately is what makes your life function. What will satisfy you should be the basis of your decision. We only get one life, one chance to do what we really want. Outside of wanting to do something I enjoy, make decent money I also want to leave a lasting impression for those I leave behind. Would I be remembered once all the money I saved was spent by my loved ones three generations later? Or would I be remembered for the quality of my work and how I affected people for the better? I say the latter of the two. Of course I want to make a comfortable living, who doesn't! But I'd also like to be remembered for touching people's souls and memories for improving the future for others. Engineering is my future and I am ready for my journey.

Austin K  on  5/12/2015 9:32:58 PM commented:

i think people should do what they dream on doing. They shouldn't do a career just for the money, they should do it cause they enjoy it

Kori A  on  5/12/2015 9:09:16 PM commented:

Do what you love but make sure it pays the bills.

Mary F.  on  5/12/2015 8:44:11 PM commented:

I think you should choose to go down a path that will get you a better income. In today's society, prices are going up and in order to stay on top of things, you'll need stable finances. Yes, it's true, doing what you love in life will bring you happiness but if you save enough money from your well-paying job, you'll be able to experiment more on what you like to do and maybe make that a source for a high income instead. Just because you choose a better income over what you love, it doesn't mean you're giving up your passion, it just means your thinking realistically. Who knows, maybe you'll find that you actually enjoy the job. If you choose to go down a math or science pathway because it has better income potential but never held an interest for it previously, it doesn't mean you're going to dread doing it for the rest of your life. You might end up enjoying it.

Samantha E.  on  5/12/2015 8:41:39 PM commented:

I believe that going to college is to see what you're capable of doing in life. In life to succeed. In life to make decisions. In life to make progress. Going to college is finding the right job and career of your dreams. And I think dreams can come true. I believe in dreams. I want to go to college, because I want to live my dream... But because I want a career I love. You want a career that you love. Not hate. Some people just get a job to get money, well people should get a job based on their interests.

Daniel T.  on  5/12/2015 7:59:15 PM commented:

Almost no one gets to work in their respective field. Majoring in something you love over what is in demand ensures you'll never get to do what you love. Perhaps, if you make a good living in doing something high in demand you can actually go back and do what you want with your life. As someone not in the career I majored for I say high in demand majors all the way!

Ky'eisha Bell K.B  on  5/12/2015 7:31:49 PM commented:

Personally I think you should purse in the major that fits you & that you would like to study in. Don't just jump in a major that your friends going to college for do what's best for you & your future. I won't to become a dental hygienist because I know a lot of people don't won't to do that & been a dental hygienist fits my description of me. Making anybody smile perfect will be the job for me to purse my life in. You can do whatever you won't & make the best out of it. Follow your dream don't let your dream follow you. Make the best out of what you won't your major to be don't let it make you. Anyone can be what they won't to be just have to keep your mind flowing & keep everything in a positive way& you can pursue that major. You can do what you won't to do no matter what the outcome is. Money is the evil to society don't let money make you. If you love what your doing your going to go out bust your but & make the money that helps you. Having a major fits your life. Dream big

Jasmine T.  on  5/12/2015 7:18:11 PM commented:

I think education is very important because to help kids mind grow and explore the world and to help people all over.

Joel T.  on  5/12/2015 6:40:13 PM commented:

With college costing as much as it does, one does have to consider the marketability of one's career choice. This is unfortunate, but true. Even with scholarships, college can cost a lot of money. And one cannot count on scholarships. You may qualify for hundreds, and apply to hundreds, and still receive nothing. This has been my experience.

Charles K  on  5/12/2015 6:08:47 PM commented:

"SHOW ME THE MONEY" is something Cuba Gooding Jr. star from the famous 1996 movie Jerry Maguire would say. However I believe this is not the best proposition we should be encouraging our students to take as they invest in higher education. Passion trumps any financial reward, because if one is doing something they are passionate about then it will provide meaning to that person. While, we can argue that certain careers provide more lucrative opportunities , if someone is not passionate and has a general interest in that industry we need to highly consider the cost benefit analysis of happiness over money. Another point to consider is if someone considers to study outside of their passion the likelihood they are successful in that industry might be slim. Passion, drive, and hardwork are components I believe students need to be successful in the fields of study they embark. Education can be a financial investment but I consider it to be a life investment. What do you want to do in your life?

Jordyn Crawford  on  5/12/2015 6:01:51 PM commented:

When people think about what they want to be they think of the salary. Sucks to say, the money today can be the only thing that people care about, but i can't say that that is always the choice. I have to say that the originality in America has down graded because everyone wants to be like everyone. People will go into impacted fields because they want to make money but they don't want the math or science fields because no one likes those jobs. Yes i get it, you want to choose a job that will make you happy but all these jobs will sit here with no one trying it out. I want to be able to have a job that makes me happy and cam get me by without depending on another. It's not always about the money but today in this world it seems like it.

Ivy Z  on  5/12/2015 5:58:18 PM commented:

Passion for the subject you want to major in should be the number one thing that helps students choose majors. With this passion students are able to follow their hearts and major in something they wouldn't regret or stress about.

Brianna S  on  5/12/2015 5:32:23 PM commented:

I think students should pursue their dreams. It's not all about money.

Liam H  on  5/12/2015 5:17:54 PM commented:

College is an investment, and it is important to take into account the return on investment. If the major is costly but low in wages, then it is a bad investment. Investments are like gambling, so it is important to view college as a risk, and choose wisely so that the payoff is better.

Ashleigh W  on  5/12/2015 4:05:19 PM commented:

I think that America is loosing its individuality. We all want to be like someone else. We aren't doing what makes us happy. So I believe that student should persue their passion. Because it you love what your doing then your spend more time doing it

Gleisr D.B.  on  5/12/2015 3:51:44 PM commented:

I believe they should pursue in what they love to do because money is not always the answer. You shouldn't be miserable for the rest of your life because of the job you have thay by the way pays good. While you can be happy and making enough to sustain you. Would you choose happiness over money?

Cory P.  on  5/12/2015 3:37:21 PM commented:

Money isn't everything, but unfortunately it's what the world runs on. I definitely think money needs to be a part of your decision making process for going to college and choosing a major. You aren't looking at the whole picture if you don't consider every angle. However, I would also argue that someone who loves what they do, and wakes up excited to go to work every morning will find a lot more happiness in life than someone who dreads going to work everyday but makes really good money. But one thing people don't realize is you can still pursue your hobbies and passions without making them your career. Find a way to incorporate your passions with your career, or find a career path that allows you to use your strengths and maintain your passions and hobbies on the side. There's always a way, you just have to search for it. I'm a sophomore in college and I'm majoring in athletic training because sports have been such a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. Athletic trainers may not make a ton of money, but 50,000 is enough to live off of and so far I can really see myself loving the career I will have and helping a lot of athletes. That's what's important to me. Find a way to support yourself and your family and be happy and pursue your hobbies. It can be done, but you have to find the way.

S.A  on  5/12/2015 3:16:31 PM commented:

I love this.

Jennifer M.  on  5/12/2015 3:13:44 PM commented:

Personally my major is Mathematics and while STEM geared degrees are in high demand that is not my reason for choosing this major. I truly love math! One should do what makes them happy and not soley based on income. Money is not everything, you could choose money and become miserable for the rest of your life!

Bryan N.  on  5/12/2015 2:44:55 PM commented:

Pursue your dreams. We have been taught by our parents that. Sure, they wished you for the best, like being a doctor or a lawyer, but once you grow up and learn your favorite activities, that can become your job as well. Make money while doing your favorite thing is the dream that everyone wants. Unless we talk financially and the pay rates....

Cayla R.  on  5/12/2015 2:38:34 PM commented:

In my opinion, I personally believe that students should be given as much information about their choice of major as possible before they set out on their quest. Sometimes students will change their major once they find out how much they could potentionally make once out of college. Students need to find out a balance and figure out how much their schooling would be first, and then figure out the estimated rate their dream field would offer, because if the schooling is more expensive than their future yearly income then it may be a good idea to switch or alter their major. On the side of dreams, every student should follow their dreams of becoming whatever they find a passion in. As long as each student has done their own research on their future major and they set realistic goals, they should be able to pursue anything dealing involved in becoming successful and most importantly happy, in their major and future career. So many individuals nowadays look at just the dollar signs only when choosing their majors and end up pursuing careers that they are not truly happy with.

Marisa T  on  5/12/2015 2:36:22 PM commented:

I'm currently a high school student and believe that is true as well. I want to got to school and teach death and blind students, and be an interpreter and eventually be a entrepreneur. I want to own my own day cares because I enjoy working with children. And believe education is very important.

Steven. G  on  5/12/2015 2:22:04 PM commented:

I agree with the sentiment that majors in high demand should be followed more. There is an exception to this sentiment and that is an undergraduate student who is extraordinary in their desired major then that student should purse their major regardless of potentially high unemployment rates. The extraordinary student will find employment because of the students skill and knowledge in their desire specific major. As an incoming college freshmen I am more concern about "how am I going to pay my loans?" Completing college and doing the work is difficult, but my motivation for striving to find a high paying major is what will guide me to pay off these loans.

Taylor F  on  5/12/2015 2:20:28 PM commented:

very informative!

Marlyn barrera  on  5/12/2015 2:20:12 PM commented:

students graduating from high school should do what they have always dreamed of doing or should just Persue their passion. There are so many young people who do not go in to college just because they think there passion will not get them any where or it will just take almost 6 years of college which scares them. It is understandable that some students would like to peruse their parents career but there are a couple who have been pushed to the limit and decide that it is not for them and then they do not know what kind of major fits them!

Lashe D  on  5/12/2015 2:19:54 PM commented:

I believe everyone should pursue their passion . They should choose a something that they'll love doing for the rest of their lives . They should also consider, if the career, would be financially stable for them, after schooling. I think people should balance both when discussing college, and major choices.

Katherine M  on  5/12/2015 2:15:05 PM commented:

Students should be encourage to have general or multiple degrees that can help them get to or around their dream/what-they're-good-at job. Who knows what's in our - ourselves' and the human race's - future. Your major might save us from destruction.

Karisa W.  on  5/12/2015 2:12:50 PM commented:

I think that students should choose their major based on their passion. Just because there are high unemployment rates in their field does not mean that they won't find a job. It may be tedious, but if they want it enough they will chase after a career that will be beneficial for them socially and financially. In order for work to be enjoyable, it has to be a job that you love to do.

Jeremy C  on  5/12/2015 2:03:17 PM commented:

they should balance both

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by Susan Dutca-Lovell
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    We're bringing the heat with these fiery summer scholarships for which you can apply this summer break. While scholarships are offered year-round, many students have more free time during the summer to devote to scholarship essays and applications, so we encourage you to prioritize financial aid in-between basking in the sun.

Sizzling Summer 2019 Scholarships

June 5, 2019 11:21 AM
by Susan Dutca-Lovell
We're bringing the heat with these fiery summer scholarships for which you can apply this summer break. While scholarships are offered year-round, many students have more free time during the
 China's Ministry of Education is warning its students about studying in the United States in its first study abroad alert of the year. Students are advised to prepare accordingly given the potential difficulties in acquiring visas since the visa review period has been extended, the validity period has been shortened and the refusal rate has increased.

China Warns Students Against Studying in the U.S.

June 4, 2019 4:24 PM
by Susan Dutca-Lovell
China's Ministry of Education is warning its students about studying in the United States in its first "study abroad alert" of the year. Students are advised to "prepare accordingly" given the