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March 28, 2014

Which Colleges and Which Majors Will Make You the Richest, and Which Will Make You the Poorest?

First, the ones that will increase your net earnings (over the course of 20 years) by the highest margin. You won't be surprised to learn that computer science degrees (from different elite colleges) make up nine of the ten college/major combinations; the only non-computer science one in the top ten is an economics degree from a minor little school called Standford.

And then there's the colleges that will actually make you poorer -- when you deduct the cost of college (and cost of not working for four years) from the marginal increase in your net earnings, it sums to below zero -- and the specific majors which will make you poorer on the deal, too.

There's not a big surprise here, either. The majors which tend to be bad investments are Art, Humanities, English, and Education.

On that last one, teachers might say that this is a reason that they should be paid more; I'd suggest an alternate conclusion. My conclusion is that the Education degree should not be a major, but instead just an intensive minor. People with an education degree cannot work in any other area with that degree except education, which traps them in a fairly low-paid field. They cannot easily -- even if they wished to -- jump ship to another career.

And I really have trouble believing that teachers should spend most of their time studying, in a meta, bullshitty sort of way, the Theory of Education, as opposed to studying a specific subject matter (math, history, whatever else).

I am very skeptical that the Theory of Education itself can be gainfully studied as a four-year major. I have to think that after the first four or five courses, there's a lot of repetition, and a lot of higher abstract theorizing that very few in-the-field teachers have need of.

But I don't think the entrenched Education establishment would like that proposal, because it would mean an end to their phony-baloney jobs in college Education departments.

One way in which these numbers are misleading, or at least incomplete, is that they disguise an important fact: Students going to Caltech for comp science are going to make a lot more money than a student going to Murray State College for Arts whether they went to college or not. The Caltech comp science guy is, look, coming into the classroom a lot smarter than the Murray State Arts grad. Even if they both dropped out of school on the first day of classes, the guy who was at Caltech would make more money that the Murray State student.

But that's just an argument for another point: There are a lot of fairly useless degrees out there, degrees that will actually have a negative impact on someone's economic fortunes, and that means that there are a lot of people going to college who just shouldn't be going to college.

They should just start working after high school, at least if they want to maximize their earnings, which, whether they know it at 18 or not, they will, at least by age 28, if not earlier.

It's around age 28 where all the bullshit-bullshit and excuses of the college years start falling away and people start realizing, damnit, I need to start making some money.

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posted by Ace at 01:49 PM

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