In my last post, I decided that I wasn’t convinced that graduates with liberal arts degrees end up earning more than preprofessional, or professional degrees. There may be something in the full report that would answer my questions, but I don’t have access to that so I went looking on my own across the internet for more sources and some more specific data.
All I found were articles quoting these same sources that I found in the PBK webpage that I talked about in the previous blog post referenced above.
So these sources have been widely quoted to justify a liberal arts degree. From my work as a textbook editor, I know that this is a common problem. It’s not unusual to have one source widely quoted. And if that source isn’t good, then “common knowledge” isn’t based on something that’s true. While I appreciate the effort in many of the articles I cam across, I’m still not convinced.
I found an article on the US News and World Report site interesting. The title sounded useful. Move Over STEM – Employers Value Liberal Arts, Too
But at the end of the article, the author had a commentary on the findings that was similar to mine.
However, this next article does give you a glimpse of another graph in the study we just discussed that I hadn’t seen yet, that addressed one of my concerns. It shows you the engineering degree salary data left off of the other graph.
However, business majors are still left off the graph.
Before we leave this, I’ll take a moment to acknowledge that picking apart this data could well be a skill I learned with my liberal arts and sciences degree. (In case you didn’t read my About page, that would be a BS in Chemistry and a PhD in Biology. Without over-explaining it, current salary $0. An interesting point, I don’t respond to any salary surveys, alumni or otherwise. So realize that liberal arts career data may be skewed by people like me.)
In my search, did find two graphs on earnings that I found more interesting.
I found the second one easier to understand at a glance. It’s lifetime earnings.
Given that I’m thinking that a lot of the earnings of the math and science graduates in the AAC&U and NCHEMS study come from physics graduate studies majors, I’ll zero in on them.
Sure enough, physics majors are up there toward the bottom of the engineering degrees with a few business degrees like finance mixed in, way above the average line in black marked “All Majors.” If you look above that line, you get an idea of the liberal arts and science majors that might be responsible for the upper earnings range.
However, I can’t find any of what would qualify as the preprofessional or professional degrees. Nursing is the the upper range, but lawyers and doctors aren’t included. Lawyers might be responsible for the high earnings of political science and government majors. But from my experience, many premed students are Biology majors, and their earnings are below the average black line.
Next, I’ll try to examine this from a different direction. Do liberal arts college or university graduates earn more?