Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What you major in is more important than where you go to school

Planet Money discovers compensating wage differentials:
Michael Gardner just graduated from City College in New York with a degree in psychology. He applied for more than 100 jobs, had trouble getting interviews and worked at Home Depot to make ends meet. ... 
Gardner just got a job earning $36,000 a year as a case worker — and he feels lucky to have it. "I came into the school knowing where I want to go and what I wanted to do," he said. "Honestly, I don't mind the money. It's more of a fulfilling thing for me."

Meanwhile, Engineers make about 3 times as much.  Now some of this is selection bias (different people choose Engineering vs. Psychology, but some is due to the causal effect of the different majors.


  1. Get a degree in petroleum engineering. Or anything to get into the Oil and Gas business right now. One of the only growth industries in the country.

  2. I agree with the title of this topic, “What you major in is more important than where you go to school.”
    I can remember when I first attended college, I looked for a business school that focused on business, primarily in accounting and this was back in 19XX because the name of the college looked good on your resume. If anyone has watched the television show called “Suits” hire first year associates only from Harvard. Not today!
    Today, technology, the environment and society have changed and colleges are offering a lot more degrees and opportunities to keep up the ever-changing world. For example, Empire State College is offering Advanced Certificates in Veteran’s Services, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Innovation Management and Technology Transfer just to name a few. Most if not all colleges’ assist in helping their graduating students by having job fairs come to the campus recruiting for potential candidates.
    As it relates to this topic, as the demand and supply change in a profession, they move in and out of industries and professions will result in a new equilibrium regardless if you attended a “name brand” college/university or not.

    Suzette McMillan, Empire State College, Dr. Singh, ECO-65155X

  3. In thinking about this topic, it makes a lot of sense. There are so many schools across the country and through out the world, but if you are not majoring in a subject that is in demand, you are not likely to get anywhere and will take a job out of your degree area. The job market is constantly shifting, even more so with the continuous changing of technology. Froeb, in chapter 9 of Managerial Economics talks about competitive industries, the indifference principal, and equilibrium. If there a particular job industry that is increasing its pay due to lack of supply if interest in employment, people will start to shift because the industry is providing compensation for the unappealing parts of the job. In turn this may cause a shift in the job force elsewhere. It is very important to look at the long term as to what the job market may bring and not where it is at the present moment.

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  5. This article couldn't be more correct in its statements. What you major in is by far more important than what school you attend. One of the reasons for this is the recession in which we just came out of. Demand plays a major role in what industries are hiring and what majors are important. In today's society you have to be able to differentiate yourself from other applicants. One way to do this is to major in a specialized field that is in high demand. An example of this could be physician assistants or nurses in the health care field. This is a specialized and competitive industry that requires a certain amount of knowledge to enter this field. Regardless of what school you attended you will be able to become employed due to the demand and specialty of the field.

    In contrast you have other fields which aren't in high demand such as construction, social work, and manufacturing just to name a few. In these low demand fields you have to be able to present some type of differentiation. You could have went to an ivy league school with a degree in psychology but unfortunately if there isn't a demand in this field your school credentials will not matter.

  6. There is much accuracy in the title of this article. Fields such as engineering and medical (doctor, surgeon) pay a significantly larger salary than a teacher or social worker. There may be two roommates at Harvard, one win an engineering degree and the other with a social services degree, and two other roommates at a local state college (not private) with the same degrees, but their salaries are not going to reflect the college names on their degrees. The engineers at both schools will end up receiving a larger salary than either of the individuals with he social services degree. While it is very impressive to say that you went to Harvard, Yale, or another excellent university, it is not as impressive/ important as what you studied. Degrees such as engineering and medical tend to be viewed as very difficult degrees to receive because the work is difficult and the popularity of hose working towards the degree might be more scarce than degrees like education, psychology, or social services.

  7. I agree what you major in does matter. However,I still think having any degree from Harvard or Yale still stands out among the rest - regardless of the type of degree. Harvard and Yale are still most preferred, School still matters.

    After that, degree is more important.

    However, I find it disturbing that most people still find psychology "a lower field" than any other medical science. That still shows our society still has biases towards mental illness.

    For example, if someone came in a wheelchair because they had their leg chopped off for whatever reason - diabetes, war, or car accident. Most of us would bend over backwards to help that person. However, if we met someone with mental illness and they are hostile, arrogant, and in general incompetent - most people would want him/her arrested and put away - out of our sight - out of our minds. Not caring whether or not that person was mentally ill. People still carry some stigma over Social Services as a type of mothering career. How sad is it that we don't respect mothering/caring type of careers? Social Services instantly means that we need to nurture someone - why does that hurt some people or why does it bother people? We humans deserve to be mothered.

    I cannot understand it.

    But yet the person with no legs can also be arrogant, and incompetent - we may give him many excuses he is feeling down or may be out of pain meds - any excuse for the visibly impaired people. But there is no excuse for the mentally ill who have no outward signs of disability.

  8. The title sure grabbed my attention. I speak about this all of the time. It’s pretty simple actually. More people than ever seem to be going to college and what you get your degree in makes a bigger difference than ever. You can no longer get a degree in theater or writing and expect to fall back on a career in management someday when you don’t get any acting roles or no one wants to publish your novel. My degree was in Athletic Administration, my dream was to work in professional sports along with millions of other sports fans. Of course the dream never happened for me, again I shared the same dream of millions of other sports fans, some of which had the insight to tack a law or accounting degree on to their resume. It was ok though, it was 1994 and at least I had a degree. There was a job fair at the coliseum, so I grabbed my resume, put on my suit and headed to find a job. Luckily for me the phone company had a booth and it looked like they were hiring since it was the most packed booth at the event. I stood in line for quite some time until the recruiter glanced at my resume. I will never forget this moment in 1994; he looked up from my resume and said “you have college, right”. I replied yes and he proceeded to place a yellow sticky paper on my resume, then he placed it on a pile that was much shorter than any other pile on the same table and that was it. I figured that I would never hear back from the phone company, but I did and it was the very next morning. The recruiter did not care what my degree was in, all he cared about was that I had it and it was from a good school. I started as a call center operator but my degree opened the door to management.
    That was then and this is now. I am in the same industry to this day and have been in management for years. My job description used to indicate that an associate degree was preferred, today a bachelors is mandatory and an MBA is preferred for the same job. Things have changed for certain. Today my degree would still get me the call center operator job but getting to management would be a little trickier without a management or business degree, an MBA or Six Sigma. It’s just the way the world works right now.

  9. While I do think this post does hold some credibility when it comes to undergraduate degrees and careers with a bachelor's degree, it definitely does not always ring true for graduate programs and degrees.

    Certain types of graduate programs, specifically business, medical, and law, give much precedence to which school was attended and that can be the difference in career and pay grade. While business and medical schools do matter to some extent, law school is by far the most influential factor when employers decide which graduates to hire. The top ranked schools boast graduates in the top firms around the country and there seems to be no coming change to the status quo.