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College major regrets… And what to consider instead


(More Content Now) About 19.9 million students arrived on college campuses this fall. For many, a decision is looming — time to choose a major and prepare for a career.

Increasingly, there are many public resources that allow students to compare lifetime earnings trajectories across majors and degree types. The U.S. Education Department has released troves of data at collegescorecard.ed.gov that shows how much money students borrow and later earn, by college major, university and even program.

The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution has also produced a web tool (hamiltonproject.org/charts/career_earnings_by_college_major). One key takeaway: Economics/engineering majors out-earn sociology/English majors by more than 40 percent, on average. Put differently, the top-paying college majors (in STEM fields, health and business) earn $3.4 million more than the lowest-paying majors over a lifetime.

The most-regretted college majors, according to ZipRecruiter’s College Grads Survey
Percentage who regret their choice of college major, and their leading reasons for regret

1. English and Foreign Languages, 42 percent: Impractical, limited job opportunities
2. Biological and Physical Sciences, 35 percent: Hard to find a job without advanced degrees or licenses
3. Education, 31 percent: Low pay and job satisfaction, limited job opportunities
4. Social Sciences and Law, 29 percent: Too general, impractical, hard to find a job without further studies
5. Communications, 27 percent: Too general

The least-regretted college majors, according to ZipRecruiter’s College Grads Survey
Percentage who regret their choice of college major, and their leading reasons for regret

1. Computer Science/Mathematics, 12.78 percent: Stressful
2. Business, 15.5 percent: Too general
3. Engineering, 15.91 percent: The best jobs require advanced degrees
4. Health Administration and Assisting, 17.95 percent: Low job satisfaction
5. Health Sciences and Technologies, 18.94 percent: Low job satisfaction

Source: ZipRecruiter survey of 5,225 job seekers who were active on the platform in June 2019, and who self-identified as college graduates.

The most valuable college degrees, according to the ZipRecruiter Skills Index

1. Computer science. Overall index score: 82/100; median annual earnings: $83K
Turning ideas into products and services increasingly requires computer science skills, but only 3.7 percent of college students are computer and information sciences majors. So if you can hack the homework, the major can put you at a distinct advantage in the labor market.

2. Bachelor of science in nursing. Overall index score: 73/100; median annual earnings: $80K
Health care is projected to add more jobs between 2016 and 2026 than any other industry. It even grew 5 percent during the recession. The median annual wage for college-educated health care practitioners (such as registered nurses, physicians and surgeons, and dental hygienists) was $66,440 in 2018, far higher than the median annual wage for all occupations in the economy: $38,640.

3. Economics/business management and administration
Overall index score: 62/100; median annual earnings: $55K
The professional and business services sector is adding jobs at a rapid pace — the share of workers employed here is at an all-time high. Wages in many business-related occupations are also far above average.

 

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