For most people, a college degree is helpful for flourishing in the labor market. College graduates earn more than workers with less education—on average, about $600,000 more over their lifetimes than workers with only a high school education. College graduates also have much lower levels of unemployment, enjoy better health, and have lower mortality rates.
However, not all college experiences have the same benefits. A previous Hamilton Project economic analysis documented important variation in earnings across college majors: for the median degree holder, cumulative lifetime earnings ranged from about $800,000 to roughly $2 million. At the high end of the earnings distribution are graduates who majored in fields emphasizing quantitative skills, such as engineering, computer science, economics, and finance. At the low end are graduates who majored in fields that emphasize working with children or providing counseling services, including early childhood education, elementary education, social work, and fine arts.
In this year’s economic analysis, Hamilton Project research examines how students’ career paths after college explain earnings variation within majors. Read their May 2017 Economic Analysis here.
Explore earning potential of various career paths here.