Interesting Survey Results That Contain Valuable Career Insights For Us All

A recent article in the Washington Post (September 11, 2022* listed the median expected lifetime earnings of people who’d majored in about 100 different fields. Those who majored in the highest-earning field (chemical engineering) earned 2 1/2 times as much as those majoring in the lowest (theology). STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) majors rule: the sciences and engineering held eight of the 10 top spots (the other two belonging to the math-oriented fields of economics and finance), while the arts held down five of the lowest 10 positions.

Relatively lower earnings potential is the primary explanation for why fewer and fewer college students are opting to major in the liberal arts.

Contributing To The Greater Good

Needless to say, career choice shouldn’t be based solely on earnings potential. Taking satisfaction and pride in one’s work, and, for many contributing to “the greater good,” are often determining factors. And even looking at total lifetime earnings, the article contains an important caveat:..”typical earrings hide that how well you do matters just as much as what you study. Many of the highest-earning humanities majors earn more than the lowest -earning STEM majors….For example, the top quarter of history majors earn $4.2 million over their career. That puts them above the bottom quarter of earners from even the highest-paying majors.”

In other words outstanding performance can more than level the playing field from a strictly dollars-and-cents standpoint. And for most people outstanding performance is built on a foundation of engagement in work – truly enjoying one’s chosen vocation, enjoyment that propels extra effort and superior results. And there’s another critically important factor to consider in this picture. “Humanities majors can open up higher-earning opportunities later in life because they don’t lock students into a narrow programming language, certification, or career path. The critical thinking taught in humanities courses allows students to adapt to jobs that may not have existed when they enrolled in college.” And the broader perspective that liberal arts majors are encouraged to adopt can enable them to connect-the-dots and find creative solutions that stump more linearly-minded individuals .

“Humanities majors are declining in popularity as higher-paying STEM continues strong ascent”