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Majors and Earnings Segregated by Race and Gender

Majors and Earnings Segregated by Race and Gender

By Lauren Bayne Anderson

June 01, 2011

A recent study found that students’ choice of undergraduate major was strongly tied to their future earnings, with the highest paid making 300 percent more than the lowest-paid. No news flash there.

But, the study also found something else: student’s choice of majors is highly segregated by race and gender. A recent article on, detailed the study which was based on first-of-its-kind Census data and compiled by Georgetown University.

When it comes to race, the story said, white men gravitate toward the highest-earning majors like engineering and pharmaceutical sciences, and women generally stick to the lowest earning majors like education, art and social work.

And the differences are stark. Petroleum engineering majors lead the list making about $120,000 a year, with computer science majors earning $98,000. Comparatively, counseling psychology majors rake in only $29,000 a year, and early childhood education majors see about $36,000 annually.

The most popular major all around? Business, which accounts for 25 percent of all students.

And while white men are still top of the totem pole when it comes to earnings, there is one group that beats them out in several occasions: Asians earn the top salaries in law and public policy, psychology and social work and biology and life sciences.

“It’s important that you go to college and get a (bachelor’s degree), but it’s almost three to four times more important what you take,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce in the article. “The majors that are most popular are not the ones that make the most money.”

The study also found:

  • Agriculture and natural resources are the field with the highest concentration of whites, the highest concentration of Asians is in computer and mathematics, and African Americans have the highest concentration in law and public policy, NewsOne’s story noted.
  • Geological and geophysical engineering, military technologies, pharmacology and school student counseling have virtually no unemployment.
  • Social psychology, nuclear engineering, and educational administration and supervision have the highest unemployment.

Information compiled from NewsOne.