What Each College Major Is Actually Worth

AP Photo/MSU/Megan Bean
AP Photo/MSU/Megan Bean

As the average college debt soars past $30,000, a new report from Georgetown University details just how much money students give up by choosing sociology over calculus.

On average, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees are worth $25,000 more per year than liberal arts. Even particularly talented law majors (the top 75th percentile) will not earn more than a mediocre computer scientist.

The economist in me likes to think about this another way: how much would each class be worth if schools handed out a check for taking science classes verses other majors?

Here’s some back-of-the-napkin calculations: If we just include what graduates make in entry level jobs in the first 5 years of their careers and assume that there is about 12 degree-specific required earnings for a particular degree, then a STEM degree would pay about $5,800 per class. That is, “Dear Art History majors, take this Advanced Computing class instead and we’ll give you a $5,800 check cashable in 5 years.”

Of course, money is not the only reason students pick a major. But when the hard facts are presented, I suspect that students might make different choices while in college–and the economy would be better for it.

Read the full report here.