Saturday, July 27, 2013

College: Is it Worth It? Maybe.

Diploma resting on cashA counterpoint to 8 college degrees with a poor return on investment. According to Dawn Dugan at, the following degrees have a great return on investment:

  • Math
  • Information Technology
  • Economics
  • Human Resources (this is a degree?)
  • Biology
  • Engineering
  • Marketing
and (surprise!) 
  • English


  1. Math always ranks high in this kind of survey; so where are the lines of students banging on the door to be math majors? We have trouble filling our UD courses, and engineering gets most of the quantitatively strong people anyway.

    Also, both surveys measure relative "success" by lifetime earnings, conditioned on having a job related to your major in the first place. I think more useful would be "percentage of graduates employed in an industry requiring university-level knowledge related to the major" (within five years of graduation, say).

    1. @Peter K: Don't worry, we've long been poaching the lines of students banging the doors to be math majors over here at the physics department.

      Jokes aside, we're having more trouble than ever getting physics majors, because seemingly fewer students than ever have the background, especially in math, to major in physics. I am terrified by the quality of the engineering majors I get in my physics classes: fewer than 20% plausibly have the makings of good engineers, with regard to math background, work ethic, interest and aptitude in learning, etc.

  2. HR is a management degree and is more often called HR Management. It can be quite a technical area.

  3. I don't think ROI addresses my life goals adequately. I'd rather be, say, a starving poet or cellist or art historian in Heaven than a rich actuary in Hell.

  4. That's it! I'm going back to school and getting a degree in comparative theology. It's not on the list part that I read; therefore, it must result in a high paying job.

    1. Oh,wait, I only read the red part. This won't be on the test will it?

  5. Wait, so the reason I'm not getting my money's worth is because I didn't major in English? My parents have a lot of explaining to do!

  6. Their methodology uses average salaries for non-entry-level jobs.

    And Math is likely to get you an Ops Research job only if you bulked up a bunch on electives. Industrial Engineering with a math minor is probably a better bet.

  7. Overviews like this one are generally so broad as to almost be useless, unless the purpose is to drive TMZ-like click counts/page views. The subcategories under IT/Math/English/etc belie the very technical & oft wide differences in those sub-genres (like Prof Pangloss mentioned), not to mention the methodological issues with using avg salaries for non-entry level jobs (mentioned by Alan).


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