The number one factor that determines student salaries

The major a college student chooses may be more predictive of future earnings than the college they graduate from, reports a new study from University of Texas System (UT) and Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Researchers analyzed 50,984 UT System students who earned a bachelor's degree between 2008 and 2011. To control for characteristics such as test scores, demographics, and family income, researchers compared the UT System sample to the Texas Workforce Commission's data on state earnings and employment of similar degree recipients.

According to the report, the top-earning majors, architecture and engineering, netted about $40,000 more than biology and life science majors, the lowest-earning degrees among those analyzed. Similarly, the study found that architecture and engineering graduates earn medium incomes more than 61% higher than all graduates from more selective colleges.

Majoring in this could double students' earnings

The findings suggest that graduating with a particular major outweighs the benefits of graduating from a "top" school with a lower-earning degree, reports Pat Donachie for Educative Dive.

To increase a mid-tier school's ROI on earnings for post-graduate careers, Donachie encourages colleges to establish programs with higher earnings for graduates, as well as strengthen existing ones.

Similarly, as colleges navigate matching student interest to program investments, concretely demonstrating ROI will be crucial to student recruitment, he predicts.

Researchers also note that black and Latino graduates earn about $6,000 less per year than their white and Asian peers. In fact, the largest salary disparities between different races and ethnicities occurred in top-earning majors.  

As the report indicated lower percentages of black and Latino students graduating into high-earning fields, Donachie urges administrators to recruit underserved students to these programs (Donachie, Education Dive, 8/15).

Switching majors isn't always a bad idea

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