Majors place high, low in recent income rankings
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 11:09
The results are in: a September 2013 Planet Money survey by National Public Radio ranked nationwide college majors on their median post-graduation salaries, and engineering majors dominated the list.
Specialized engineering fields claimed eight of the top 10 spots on the high-income list, while social science and liberal art degrees ranked lowest in the list of income-earning majors.
The study was conducted in regard to figures for full-time employees holding bachelor-level degrees in their field.
Petroleum engineering ranked highest overall on the list, with a median salary of $120,000 expected for even a first-year college graduate.
In sharp contrast, the median salary for a bachelor’s degree holder in counseling psychology was found to be only $29,000 per year for a person of any age.
Also on the lowest earning end of the scale were early childhood education, social work, theater arts and communication disorder sciences, for which median salaries ranged between $35,000 and $40,000, according to study infographics from NPR.
Study infographics also note that median salaries for mechanical, electrical, chemical and aerospace engineers can range upwards of $80,000 to nearly $90,000.
This prospect bodes well for Stephanie Saenz, a junior mechanical engineering major of Mexico.
Saenz said she chose mechanical engineering as her major because she was interested in learning how things work and being able to do things by herself.
“And I like challenges also,” Saenz said.
Engineering fields are very challenging areas of study, according to Brad Edgar, director and associate professor of mechanical engineering.
“It’s a difficult subject,” Edgar said. “It has to really be a calling, you have to have the right kind of personality.”
The lucrative salary outlook was not one of the deciding factors in Saenz’s selection of mechanical engineering as her major.
“I didn’t know how good the engineering salary was until I came (to the United States) and they told me,” Saenz said. “That was never in my considerations.”
Saenz said she hopes to conduct research in micro-nanotechnology after completing her degree requirements at A-State.
For those looking into the lower-income range of the scale, money is not all that matters.
“It’s a passion,” Sherris Bond, instructor for teacher education, said. “When it comes to your passion in life you don’t really take into consideration the money factor.”
Bond worked as an elementary school teacher in the Jonesboro area for 33 years, then briefly retired before entering her position as an instructor at A-State. She said money was frequently tight throughout her career, but that the emotional fulfillment from her job outweighed the low financial return.
“You find a way because you love the profession,” Bond said.
For Jenni McDonough, a Cabot native studying to earn her degree in social work, the appeal of working with disenfranchised people prevails over the call of potentially higher salaries in alternate career fields.
“I think I’m pretty much set (in my major),” McDonough said. “My heart breaks for broken people. I’m drawn to people who are hurting.”
McDonough has yet to finalize employment plans for after her graduation. Yet she recognizes that since there are limited financial resources available in her field, she will have to be responsible in managing her money. According to the NPR study, social work majors can currently expect a salary of around $39,000.
“I know (my salary) will be enough to live off of, but I will have to budget and manage my money more than most people (will have to),” McDonough said.
Bond advises that all students, regardless of major, pursue graduate degrees in their area of specification.
“I could be making 20 to 30 thousand dollars more per year than I make now if I had (earned a graduate degree),” Bond said. “Don’t ever put yourself in a box. Had I known a long time ago that I might someday be (teaching college-level courses), I would have pursued my doctorate degree.”
Regardless of ending salary goals, learners need to focus on something they can enjoy, according to Edgar.
“A starting salary doesn’t keep you interested long,” Edgar said.
A-State Career Services offers help to all students in finding information about specific careers and majors, creating resumes, reviewing and applying for area job postings and practicing interview techniques, according to the Career Services website.
Career Services is located on the second floor of the student union and is open Monday through Friday.