Which College Majors Earn More?

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Jul 14, 2011    •    505 Views

Although the unemployment rate is 9.2% for the entire labor force, it is 4.4% for college grads (and 10% for high school graduates, no college).

But which college graduates earn more? It depends on your undergraduate major. Counseling psychology or petroleum engineering? The difference is $91,000 a year. The median income for a counseling psychologist is $29,000 while for a petroleum engineer, $120,000. Divided by group, engineering, computers and mathematics are at the top while education, psychology and social work are at the bottom.

And finally, will more money make you happy? At the Aspen Institute, where happiness researchers have gathered, the money can make us happy group seems to have the most convincing research. (Here, you can watch the debate.)

The Economic Lesson

Happiness researchers frequently cite the Easterlin Paradox which implies that once we reach a certain level of wealth, more wealth does not lead to more happiness because of our quest to outdo our neighbors. On the other hand, economist Justin Wolfers used data to prove that people in rich countries are happier than those in poor countries and the rich are happier than the poor.

An Economic Question: Do you believe that “happiness” or “satisfaction” research is valid? Explain.


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