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Posted on Wed. Jul. 09, 2014 - 12:32 am EDT

Study: Your major matters

Math, science graduates earn more than counterparts

WASHINGTON — What you study – math and science are a plus – seems to matter more than whether your alma mater is public or private when it comes to finding a high-paying job after college, according to a report released Tuesday by the Education Department.

The survey of the class of 2008, by the National Center for Education Statistics, provides an interesting snapshot of the nation’s educated elite following a crushing economic recession: Overall, college grads reported lower unemployment rates than the national average, although black and Asian college graduates were twice as likely to be out of work than their white classmates.

College grads from private four-year schools earned about the same as those from public four-year schools, about $50,000 a year.

But while a paltry 16 percent of students took home degrees in science, technology, engineering or math – the STEM disciplines – those who did were paid significantly better – averaging $65,000 a year, compared with $49,500 of graduates of other degrees.

The findings are based on a survey of 17,110 students done in 2012, about four years after the students obtained their bachelor’s degrees.

The survey found a strong correlation between earning money and highly specialized degrees.

More than 95 percent of grads who studied computer and information sciences, for example, were employed full-time at the time of the survey and earned $72,600 on average. Engineering students reported similar job and salary prospects.

That’s compared with a humanities graduate who was more likely to report working multiple jobs and earn a full-time salary averaging only $43,100.

Asian graduates reported earning more than other ethnicities, averaging $62,500 in full-time jobs, compared with $47,300 earned by Hispanics, $48,800 by blacks and $52,400 by whites.

Likewise, male grads reported earning more – $57,800 on average – than their female classmates in full-time jobs, who averaged $47,400.

And yet, C.N. Le, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts, said there is a “glass-ceiling effect” in the STEM fields.

“In a lot of cases, STEM jobs have fewer promotion ladders than other positions” in areas like finance or advertising, he said.


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