Forget everything you know about being a liberal arts major—we might not be doomed to a life of poverty after all.
This past spring, I worked during an orientation where different professors spoke and I heard something that both surprised and elated me: "Liberal arts majors make more money than STEM majors.”
You might be wondering who told me this and what qualifies them to say this. It was an English professor who teaches freshman writing courses that spoke to incoming honors students for their first day on campus.
Of course I was excited because I’m an English major. The concept of being able to make more money than peers studying science and mathematics, taking numerous labs in a given semester, while I pursue a flexible major that I enjoy, was great.
The validation of having the ability to make more money as a liberal arts major is something that is lacking in most people and a primary reason that people choose majors they don’t feel passionate about.
We see all the time lists of the best and worst majors when it comes to employment. Engineers, business, and nursing students always make lists of the best professions to go into.
When it comes to the worst majors to have: English, theater, anthropology, and other “easy” majors always make these lists.
People tend to think liberal arts majors are easy, and this is the reason why they are paid less. In reality, people who seek degrees in the liberal arts and social sciences are the ones who tend to work for social service and social work, two major fields that simply cannot compensate workers as much as other private sectors.
According to U.S. Census data from 2010 and 2011, along with the National Center for Higher Education Management, us liberal arts majors might not be doomed.
Data show that we, as liberal arts majors, might not start out so hot, making $5,000 a year less than our pre-professional counterparts in the years following graduation. That wage gap changes when we hit mid-life. Data show that around 50-60 years of age we end up making around $2,000 more a year than our pre-professional friends.
The catch, however, is that this mainly applies to liberal arts degree holders who also hold post-baccalaureate degrees, i.e. Masters and Doctorate level. While the cost of seeking a post-B.A. is high, the rewards seem to be great.
When we look at unemployment, we will always lose. Not dramatically, us having an employment rate of around 3.5 and our peers at 3.5, but post-grad years don’t look as optimistic.
Well, maybe our majors are easy and maybe our jobs pay less. But these differences, both data from studies and first-hand accounts can tell you, don’t have significant weight.
STEM and business majors, you can keep your extra money; I’d take a major I love any day.