Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Practical Tips For Using the “What’s It Worth?” College Majors Report in Choosing a College Major

What might you earn if you choose a college major in _____? Try the new, free “What it Worth?” college majors list and earnings report from Georgetown University.  I have a couple of tips below to quickly gather the information you need for your college major decision making. After matching your personality to majors, learning as much as you can about your options is part of smart career and education decision making.

The most practical value comes from “What’s It Worth’s” free, short PDF downloads about groups of majors - and specific information about each major.  I don’t think the “big picture” graphs are as helpful. Everyone knows engineering majors make more money than social work majors. What’s more interesting is to learn about specific majors, comparing them to one another in the same group, and the variety of occupations and majors within industries.

Tips for Using the “What’s It Worth?” Economic Value of College Majors Report:
1.  Go to their “Interactive” webpage, click on “Where is my major?” to download their PDF college majors list. Print it (2 pages) or read it online and highlight the majors that you’re considering - and the “major group” that contains them.
The report's "major groups" do not necessarily line up with the Holland personality types. Most, like Agriculture and Natural Resources, contain majors for multiple personality types like Agricultural Economics (Investigative Majors) and General Agriculture (Realistic Majors).  These groups aren’t helpful for a personality-major match, but do help you explore and learn more about a whole industry or study area. 

2.  From the main report page, click on each group of majors you want to explore to download the PDF for that group. I clicked on the green tab and downloaded “Agriculture & Natural Resources”.
You learn about a particular major’s:
  • Popularity
  • Median earnings of graduates (not including anyone with graduate degrees)
  • Earnings’ boost from a graduate degree
  • Destination industries (where graduates end up working)
  • Gender and racial composition, earnings comparisons

The full report is called, “What’s It Worth? - The Economic Value of Majors” from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.  It’s based on newly released Census (2009) data.  You can compare the median earnings between groups of majors. But there are limitations to the data, so check out what others are saying (including critiques)...

The New York Times “The Choice” Blog on "What It Worth?"
The Chronicle of Higher Education (Earnings Graphic)
(The comments on both are helpful - read them if you have time)

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