NPR's "Planet Money" recently aired a segment — originally broadcast in September 2013 — on which college majors lead to higher-paying jobs. The difference in salaries among college majors is significant. While the most lucrative majors can land jobs with salaries over $100,000 a year, the least lucrative typically earn graduates around $30,000 annually.
Comparing the experiences of two college students with different majors illustrates just how stark the difference is.
Erin Ford graduated from the University of Texas in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering. Many recruiters spoke to her on campus, and she was able to land a paid summer internship, which turned into a full-time position after she graduated. At only 24, she was making $110,000 a year.
In 2013, Michael Gardner graduated from City College in New York with a psychology degree. He applied for over 100 jobs, but had trouble getting interviews and worked at Home Depot. Gardner recently got a job making $36,000 a year as a case worker, and he reports feeling fortunate about the new position.
The majors with the highest earnings include Petroleum Engineering, Pharmacy Sciences/Administration, Mathematics and Computer Science, Aerospace Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Electrical Engineering. By contrast, the majors with the lowest reported earnings include Health/Medical Preparatory Programs, Visual and Performing Arts, Communication Disorders Sciences, Studio Arts, Drama and Theater Arts, Social Work and Human Services/Community Organization.
Anthony Carnevale, an economist at Georgetown University, spoke with "Planet Money" and offered helpful advice for college students to consider: Your success in the job market often depends more on what major you choose rather than the school you attend.