Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What are the returns to education?
To start with, note that the data are 2010 median weekly earnings for persons age 25 and over, and earnings are for full-time wage and salary workers. So, everyone is lumped together—regardless of age, the school they attended, their major discipline, their academic performance, and even the field in which they’re working. And anyone working part-time is excluded entirely.

Breaking the data down further is illustrative. Among workers making $20,000 or less annually, 6 percent have master’s degrees or higher, 14 percent have bachelor’s degrees, and 9 percent have associate’s degrees. Among those making between $20,000 and $35,000 annually, 5 percent have a master’s or higher, 15 percent have a bachelor’s, and 11 percent have an associate’s degree...

Earnings also vary greatly depending on the student’s major. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that median earnings run from $29,000 for counseling-psychology majors to $120,000 for petroleum-engineering majors.

Is it “worth it” to spend the time and money for a degree in petroleum engineering? If you can do it, probably “yes.” But is it “worth it” to get a counseling degree? That’s far from clear.
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