Majors that pay: STEM — and government

Payscale’s Majors That Pay You Back starts with engineering majors: Petroleum engineers start at $98,000 and earn a median mid-career salary of $163,000.  Then comes other STEM majors such as applied math, computer science, statistics and physics.

Government is the top-earning non-STEM major, as measured by mid-career pay, at the 14th spot. Government majors start at $42,000 and hit $95,600 by mid-career, according to Payscale.

Economics is 15th and international relations is 16th. Then it’s back to STEM majors till urban planning pops up at #40.

Education is #110 with a median starting salary of $37,200 and mid-career median of $55,000.

Some of the lowest-paying majors — special education, Biblical studies, social work and child and family studies — make the list of Majors That Change the World.

Most new jobs don’t require a college degree, notes Cost of College. However, most of the fastest growing jobs — retail sales, home health aide, personal care aide, clerical worker — pay poorly.

10 low-earning college majors

Anthropology leads Kiplinger’s Worst College Majors for Your Career. It combines low pay and high unemployment. Anthro majors are twice as likely as the average college graduate to end up working in retail in a job that doesn’t require a college education.

Unemployment rate: 6.9%
Recent grad employment rate: 10.5%
Median salary: $40,000
Median salary for recent grads: $28,000
Projected job growth for this field, 2010-2020: 21%
Likelihood of working retail: 2.1 times average

Many anthropology graduates “are studying a culture they didn’t expect: the intergenerational American household, as seen from their parents’ couch.”  Nearly a third of recent grads are in low-paying office or sales jobs. Recent graduates average $28,000 per year, less than the median pay for someone with only a high school diploma. Students interested in foreign cultures would do better to major in international relations, Kiplinger suggests.

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Fine arts, film/photography, studio arts, graphic design and drama/theater also are low-earnings, high-retail majors.  Also on the list: philosophy and religious studies, sociology, liberal arts and my major, English.

I’d guess that arts and theater majors understand they’re going to struggle to make a living. Do sociology majors know their odds?

Ann Althouse quotes from Kurt Vonnegut’s A Man Without a Country:

If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

I’m not sure writing bad poetry constitutes practicing art or enlarges the soul.