Higher education is a significant investment, and the cost of pursuing an undergraduate degree has grown exponentially over the past few decades. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, one year of undergraduate education today costs about the same as four years of undergraduate education did in 1980. Over the same time period, post-graduation earnings have remained relatively flat after adjusting for inflation. The combination of rising tuition and low wage growth has brought the value of higher education programs into question.
Despite slow wage growth, certain college majors fare better in the labor market. Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reveals that the median wage for 22- to 27-year-old bachelor’s degree holders is $40,000 per year, but degrees related to engineering, business, and computer science tend to command far higher salaries. By contrast, graduates of academic programs in the liberal arts, social sciences, and fine arts are likely to earn less than the national median. Similar data from the Department of Education reveals that the median earnings for public, four-year university graduates six years after beginning school is $36,737.
In addition to academic major, another strong indicator of future career earnings is the college that awarded the degree. Earning potential varies significantly by institution.
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