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Posted at 11:52 AM ET, 05/24/2011

Highest-paying majors: No, English is still not one of them


Student loan debt at graduation isn’t pretty these days. See full graphic here. (The Washington Post/Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce )
Your mother told you not to major in English for a reason.

It turns out the choice of undergraduate major in college is strongly tied to a student’s future earnings, so much so that the highest-paying majors will provide students with salaries more than four times the lowest-paying, according to a study released Tuesday.

The report by Georgetown University in Washington “What's It Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors” analyzes data collected by the U.S. Census, which for the first time asked individuals about their undergraduate majors.

The Post’s Peter Whoriskey reports: “During the past two decades, the average amount of debt a student takes on has roughly doubled in real terms, leading more parents and students to focus on the financial returns of their college investments.”

The study found that petroleum engineering gives the best return of any major. Here are some of the study’s other findings:

— The median annual earnings for someone with a bachelor’s degree in engineering was $75,000, $47,000 in the humanities, $44,000 in the arts, $42,000 in education or in psychology.

— The individual major with the highest median earnings was petroleum engineering, at $120,000, followed by pharmaceutical sciences at $105,000, and math and computer sciences at $98,000.

— The lowest earnings median was for those majoring in counseling or psychology, at $29,000, and early childhood education, at $36,000.

— Workers with a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature have median earnings of $48,000.

“I don’t want to slight Shakespeare,” said Anthony Carnevale, one of the report’s authors. “But this study slights Shakespeare.”

By  |  11:52 AM ET, 05/24/2011

 
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