Business Trails STEM In Salaries

Interestingly, the value of STEM degrees surges the further one gets into a career. For the 25- to 59-year-old age group, the median annual salary for STEM majors is $76,000. Business majors catch health-related majors at $65,000, up from $60,000 in last year’s report, but the national median for college graduates gains even more, nearly catching business majors at $61,000. Teaching drops to last of the major subgroups at $46,000—just $10,000 more than high school graduates at $36,000.

Median Wages For College Educated Workers (ages 25-59)

Major SupergroupAnnual Earnings
STEM$76,000
Health$65,000
Business$65,000
All majors$61,000
Social sciences$60,000
Career focused$54,000
Arts, liberal arts and humanities$51,000
Teaching and serving$46,000
High school graduate$36,000

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey micro data, 2009-2013.

Obviously, the report’s findings come with a few caveats. “The value of college has gone up but the averages hide a huge variation in degree levels,” Carnevale says. The variation is largely on account of the diversity of subgroups. Hospitality majors, for example, are usually classified as business majors, in spite of typically lower earnings than accounting or finance majors.

Same goes for STEM degrees. “Science degrees at the BA level tend not to pay as well as business,” Carnevale says. “But if you get a graduate degree in a field like biology or psychology, you can earn higher amounts.” An example of this in the study is when the researchers break STEM up into a few categories. Architecture and engineering majors made a median of $50,000 right out of college. Those majoring in “computers, statistics and mathematics” made $43,000 and physical sciences made $32,000 (aligned with teaching).

Median Wages Of College Educated Workers By Major Group (ages 21-24)

Major GroupAnnual Earnings
Architecture and Engineering$50,000
Computers, statistics, and mathematics$43,000
Health$41,000
Business$37,000
Social sciences$33,000
All majors$33,000
Physical sciences$32,000
Education$32,000
Law and public policy$31,000
Communications and journalism$31,000
Humanities and liberal arts$30,000
Agriculture and natural sciences$30,000
Biology and life sciences$29,000
Psychology and social work$28,000
Arts$27,000
Industrial arts, consumer services, and recreation$27,000
High school graduate$22,000

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey micro data, 2009-2013.

“Biology at the BA level is not a great major,” Carnevale says. “It has problems with jobs and money. Biology and education majors need to go to graduate school. The other that is like that is psychology. Doing something with a psychology degree is not enough. Then you have to do counseling or social work with a masters or research with a PhD.

Not surprisingly, graduates falling into the less lucrative STEM majors are the most likely to gain a graduate degree. Nearly 58% of all biology and life science majors earn graduate degrees. Half of physical science majors will earn an advance degree and 45% of psychology and social work majors will get a graduate degree of some sort.

However, business students are the second most unlikely to pursue further education. Only 22% of business majors go on for more school—just barely above communications and journalism majors at 21%. Business students might want to look at gaining an advanced degree as the median wage premium for an advanced business degree is 33%, more than the average of all majors at 28%. Still, those are a long way from biology and life sciences, which have a graduate degree wage premium of about 63%.

Median Wages Of College Educated Workers By Major Group (ages 25-59)

Major GroupAnnual Earnings
Architecture and Engineering$83,000
Computers, statistics, and mathematics$76,000
Health$65,000
Business$65,000
Physical sciences$65,000
All majors$61,000
Social sciences$60,000
Agriculture and natural resources$56,000
Biology and life sciences$56,000
Communications and journalism$54,000
Law and public policy$54,000
Humanities and liberal arts$52,000
Industrial arts, consumer services, and recreation$52,000
Arts$49,000
Psychology and social work$47,000
Education$45,000
High school graduate$36,000

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analysis of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey micro data, 2009-2013.