Liberal Arts Majors: Long-Term Prospects

From the Chronicle of Higher Education (click on the excerpts to go to the full article):

Skepticism over the value of a college degree, especially one in the liberal arts, is common these days. Rising college prices, increasing levels of student debt, and a still weak job market all heighten doubts. Return on investment has become a popular research question, and a higher-education association released on Wednesday a report arguing that a liberal-arts major is a worthwhile choice.

While humanities and social-science majors started out near the bottom of all college graduates in terms of salary, the report says, older people who majored in those fields—many of whom also held graduate degrees—outearned their peers who’d picked professional and pre-professional majors.

Right out of college, graduates in humanities and social science made, on average, $26,271 in 2010 and 2011, a bit more than those in science and mathematics but less than those in engineering and in professional and pre-professional fields, according to the report. But at their peak earning ages, 56 to 60, humanities and social-science majors earned $66,185, putting them some $2,000 ahead of professional and pre-professional majors in the same age bracket.

One big reason that older humanities and social-science majors outearn professional majors is that about 40 percent of people in the former group also hold a graduate degree. In fact, the report says, earning a graduate degree on top of a humanities or social-science undergraduate major corresponds with a median annual earnings rise of $19,550. Excluding the graduate-degree holders, humanities and social-science majors earned less than professional and pre-professional majors.

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