We saw two reports recently that really caught out attention. The first was that the average college graduate starts his or her working life with more than $30,000 in student loan debts. The second was that nearly half of 2012’s college graduates are still either unemployed or underemployed in the sense that they are not working in jobs related to their fields of study.
Two-year Associate’s degrees
A third recent study found that if you spend more money to get a four-year Bachelor’s degree, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll end up with a better job and earn more money than a person with an Associates degree. In fact, many who graduate with two-year Associates degrees in occupational certificate programs will earn equally as much as those who have a traditional four-year degree. In some cases, they will earn even more.
Did you catch the qualifier?
If you read that last paragraph carefully, you might have noticed the qualifier “occupational certificate programs.” In other words, people who get their Associates degrees in areas where they can graduate with an occupational certificate can earn as much or more than a person who spends twice as much money and ends up with a Bachelor’s degree.
In support of this, here’s a short video about good jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.
Workers in Texas who have “technical” associates degrees earn a median annual salary of $50,827 – in their first year after graduation. However, these are people whose degrees include specialized training in fields such as healthcare and technology. In comparison, those with bachelor degrees earned about $11,000 less.
Aircraft technicians in Arkansas with an occupational certificate earn on the average of more than $40,000 their first year on the job. In comparison, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology earned about $26,000 their first year.
Over the long run
Over the long run, the average four-year graduate will out earn the average person who has an Associates degree. But that four-year degree will come with a very hefty price tag. The average annual tuition and fees for a public four-year college in the year 2012-13 was $8655. And the cost at a private school was nearly $30,000. In comparison, the average cost of a two-year degree (primarily at community colleges) is $3131.
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be anthropologists
If your child is attending or will attend a four-year college, there are definitely some majors that you would want to steer him or her away from. Here are the 10 of them.
- Film video and graphic arts
- Liberal Arts
- Business Administration/Management
- Fine arts
- Religious studies
- Law and public policy
To show why these majors would be bad choices, anthropologists have an unemployment rate of 10.5%, which is well above the national average. And their median salary is just $28,000. Now, go back and compare this with the average $50,827 salary of a Texan who graduated with a “technical” associates degree – and who probably spent around $3000 to earn it.
The problem is that many students choose to major in areas that interest them with no regard for what their futures would hold. He or she might think that it would be really cool to be an architect, without realizing architectural graduates face an unemployment rate of 13.9%. People majoring in the social sciences can look forward to an unemployment rate of 8.9%, while people who majored in the humanities or liberal arts will see an unemployment rate of 9.4%. This makes it highly unlikely that most of the people graduating with one of these degrees will ever be able to find a job in their fields of study.
Give your child a prod
If you or your child wants to be virtually guaranteed of a good paying job out of college, you should prod him or her to major in one of the STEM areas – science, technology engineering or math. These are the areas that pay the best and have the lowest unemployment rates. As an example of this, if you were to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering you could look forward to earning a median salary of $50,000 a year.
Do the math
Should you or your child spend $35,000 in order to end up in a job paying $28,000 a year – if they were able to find one at all – or pay $3000 for degree where they could earn $50,000 their first year out of school? While this is a question that only you or your child can answer, it certainly makes sense to do the math before deciding to get a Bachelor’s degree in architecture, the humanities or social science or a two-year Associates degree as a radiology testing technician where he or she could earn as much as $57,000 a year.
No matter how bleak the prospects for employment might be, you can’t factor out the more ethereal benefits of one of these degrees such as contentment, We have a friend whose daughter is amazingly bright and who will receive her degree next spring in philosophy. She knows that even with an advanced degree, she will never earn a lot during the course of her lifetime but she values happiness, a sense of fulfillment and self-satisfaction over salary. So if you or your child is absolutely committed to becoming an architect or a filmmaker, don’t despair. It will be okay so long as he or she chooses a major with their eyes wide open – understanding that their prospects for employment and earnings are dim at best.