College Majors: The Economic Value

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Major

The choice of a college major can determine students’ quality of life. In the video entitled “The Economic Value of College Majors,” Dr. Carnevale cites several factors that young people should consider before choosing a major (Georgetown CEW, 2015). The first factor is a choice between a high-school degree and a college degree. People with a college degree generally earn a million dollars more than their counterparts with a high-school degree over their careers (Georgetown CEW, 2015). The second factor is the average income earned by people with a particular major. Dr. Carnevale says that college degrees are not equally profitable. For example, people who major in science, engineering, or business can earn three million more than their peers with a major in arts, psychology, or history over their careers (Georgetown CEW, 2015). However, this is true about average incomes; even in less profitable majors, individuals can have successful careers with salaries exceeding the average incomes in more profitable majors.

One final factor that students have to consider is their own values and interests. Dr. Carnevale argues that students who choose majors that do not correspond with their interests perform worse in college and at work (Georgetown CEW, 2015). Among all factors mentioned in the video, this one is the most important to me. Although I realize that having a high-paying job is crucial to one’s quality of life, I would not be able to work in a field in which I am not interested. A high income alone would not contribute to my psychological well-being. I need to feel that I perform a meaningful job and that I work in the field where I truly belong. Therefore, when choosing a major, I will consider the average salaries, but the main reason for my choice will be my interests.

Researching the Major

Although a college degree increases individuals’ likelihood of earning higher wages, the choice of a specific major may lead to different financial outcomes. The phrase “Not all Bachelor’s degrees are created equal” means that people with one particular major can have a higher average income than their peers with another major. For example, research shows that individuals with architecture and engineering majors earn an average of $83,000 per year, while the average annual income of those with education majors is $45,000 (Carnevale et al., 2015). Therefore, the choice of a major determines individuals’ income further in life.

I am considering two business majors – accounting and finance, and my desired salary is $70,000 a year. Research shows that the median income in the accounting major is $69,000, and the median income in the finance major is $73,000 (Carnevale et al., 2015). These data refer to the salaries of individuals without a graduate degree. As Dr. Carnevale notes, not all majors require a graduate school to earn significantly higher wages (Georgetown CEW, 2015). Business majors are among such fields in which a graduate premium is relatively low. Since the average incomes of people with a Bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance match my desired salary, I may not need to enroll in graduate school. However, if I decide to increase my salary to $90,000 and more, I will need to obtain a graduate degree. It means that I will need to get a substantial student loan to cover the tuition fees.

As for the location, I would like to pursue my career in New York. In this state, the median salary is $72,000 for the accounting major and $79,000 for the finance major (“The Economic Value of Majors,” n.d.). In comparison, in Mississippi, the median wage is $56,000 in accounting and $62,000 in finance (“The Economic Value of Majors,” n.d.). The average salary in Mississippi among all occupations is $42,700 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). Hence, by pursuing an accounting or finance major, I would be able to earn more than average if I worked in Mississippi, and I would earn my desired salary if I pursued my career in New York.


Carnevale, A. P., Cheah, B., & Hanson, A. R. (2015). The economic value of college majors. Web.

The economic value of majors. (n.d.). Georgetown University.

Georgetown CEW. (2015). The economic value of college majors [Video]. YouTube.

US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). May 2021 state occupational employment and wage estimates Mississippi.

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ChalkyPapers. "College Majors: The Economic Value." March 13, 2023.