Study: For some majors, school selectivity doesn't matter

Business majors benefit most from an elite alma mater, science majors the least

A new study finds that attending an elite institution does not help people in certain fields make more money after graduation, Gillian White reports for The Atlantic.

Researchers from Brigham Young University and San Diego State University analyzed earnings 10 years after graduation of individuals from colleges and universities along a wide scale of selectivity. They controlled for levels of degree attainment and majors.

The found that the selectivity of school matters the most for students studying business—those who attended top schools earn 12% more than those who attended mid-level schools, who in turn earn 6% more than those from the least selective institutions.

The highest-paying majors... and why that list shouldn't matter

Education and social science majors also benefited from attending more selective schools.

Humanities majors from the most elite schools earned the same as those who went to mid-tier institutions—though they both earned more than graduates of the least selective schools.

Additionally, engineers at elite schools earned only slightly more than alumni of mid-tier schools.

Science majors saw the smallest differences between earnings—possibly because sciences tend to have the most standardized major requirements, meaning the curriculum varies less from institution to institution.

Meanwhile, the authors say it is possible business majors at the more selective schools benefit from better internship and networking opportunities.

And all graduates of the more elite institutions were also more likely to obtain higher levels of degrees, therefore increasing their future earnings. They are also more likely to complete college at all, says Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (White, The Atlantic, 8/17).

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