Diane Stafford

Five college majors linked to better paychecks

Updated: 2013-09-11T22:40:26Z

By DIANE STAFFORD

The Kansas City Star

The first rule in career choice should be to do what you love.

Reality creates a second rule: Do what pays the bills.

Young people choosing college majors — or midlife people seeking a job change — need to pay attention to job market realities. Is there any hiring in the field you want to be in? Is there growth potential? Are wages enough to live the lifestyle you want?

There’s danger in assuming that today’s job market will be the same two years, four years, even six years from now after you’ve finished a degree path. But ignore income signals at your peril when choosing a course of study.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and several private job boards and consultants keep tabs on “hot” jobs and typical earnings. Here is recent insight from Bright.com, a job board that uses data science to compare the 50 most common college majors with average salaries being paid in jobs held by graduates with those degrees.

The five majors linked to the highest average salaries are accounting, pharmacy, finance, business administration and public relations, said Jacob Bollinger, Bright’s senior data analyst.

The five majors tied to the lowest average salaries are social work, criminal justice, psychology, elementary education and medical assistant, according to Bright’s analytics.

Clearly, outstanding workers — motivated by mission and passion — are needed in the lower-wage occupations. And we can talk forever about societal priorities and how some jobs are valued more than others, at least in paycheck size.

But given that pay disparities are real, statistical data can help you choose a major or an occupation.

What matters is that you make clear-eyed education and job application choices based on the best available information. And that includes knowing yourself. Earnings potential is important, but so is emotional self-fulfillment.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to stafford@kcstar.com. Read more from Diane at kansascity.com/workplace. Follow her on Twitter at kcstarstafford.

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