The Value of Your Major

The report, What It’s Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce uses United States Census data to link undergraduate courses of study with future earnings. The data show quite plainly that some bachelor degrees are worth far more than others, and more surprisingly, that majors are segregated, with women making up the majority of students enrolled in the lower-paying majors while white males select the majors with the highest earning potential.

The degree areas with the highest median earnings were Petroleum Engineers at $120,000, followed by Pharmacy/Pharmaceutical Sciences at $105,000 with Mechanical, Metallurgical and Mining Engineering rounding out the top earners with a median salary of $80,000.

Lowest median earning majors were Counseling/Psychology at $29,000, Early Childhood Education $36,000 (we have heard this before), Theology and Religious and Human Services/Community Organizations both at $38,000 and Social Work with a median salary of $39,000. All of these majors earn less than the median earnings ($47,000) of Liberal Arts and Humanities students.

It comes as no surprise that the majors most often found in social and human services are at the lower end of the earning spectrum. Anecdote after anecdote points to people choosing to work in these and other typically “nonprofit” fields (health care, education, etc) for reasons other than a paycheck. Some leave high-paying, high-powered career tracks for more fulfilling nonprofit work, some are inspired to turn a volunteer gig into a vocation and some (like the author) take the scenic route.

I chose my major, Criminal Justice, because it was an area of study unlike anything I had encountered in high school. It seemed exciting, challenging and it had a tinge of the exotic to a 17-year-old girl from a New England suburban town. In retrospect, perhaps I had read too many detective novels. Six years later (I went directly into graduate school for Criminology – talk about a double-down) I found that I really enjoyed my courses in program planning and evaluation. I could see myself working with agencies to assist them in identifying and measuring their missions and goals. That revelation, combined with the push by funders for higher levels of accountability and outcomes measurement, was what initially led me to the not-for-profit realm.

What led you?

Looking back, perhaps I should have chosen a different major – a business or journalism degree may have been a safer or smarter choice. But chances are that I would have been bored to tears, and the road to where I was meant to be would only have been a longer one.

Did you enter college with a career path in mind or did you simply fall in love with a class and decided to major in it? Looking back, would you have chosen differently?

Alcohol and Your Health – A Resource for Women

According to 2008 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 19 percent of Pennsylvania women ages 18 to 44 reported drinking more than 4 drinks at one occasion during the past month. This amount is above the national median of 14.7 percent of women of childbearing age.

Alcohol and women’s health, including the causes and effects of alcohol abuse and methods of prevention and treatment of alcohol addiction, are a key area of research by the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) at the National Institute of Health (NIH). The report, Alcohol: A Women’s Health Issue, a collaboration between NIH and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is a thorough overview of the long-term impacts of alcohol use on the health and overall well-being of women.

The brief presents information on:

  • the specific (and unique) physical health effects of alcohol for women,
  • the risks of heavy drinking,
  • demographic data on women who are heavy drinkers, and
  • the future direction of research on this health concern.


The brief is available online at no cost. .

Census Data Show the New Face of Urban, Suburban America

A report on the 2010 Census data indicate demographic changes are increasing, most noticeably in urban regions of the country.

The report, Melting Pot Cities and Suburbs: Racial and Ethnic Change in Metro America in the 2000s, by William H. Frey from the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program describes considerable changes in the racial and ethnic makeup of cities and surrounding areas across the United States. Analysis of data from the 1990, 2000 and 2010 censuses found:

  • By 2010, 58 of 100 major metropolitan areas had a non-white majority. According to census data across all metros, 41 percent of residents of American cities were white, 26 percent Hispanic and 22 percent black.
  • Hispanic persons represent the largest minority segment of the population in large American cities.
  • In larger metropolitan areas, over half of minority groups now reside in the suburbs.

Both a summary of the report and the complete brief are available at the Brookings Institution website.

The data compiled by the team at Brookings tells a story of growing, mobile minority groups contrasted with the slow rate of growth of the maturing white segment of the population. Minorities (note: when combined, now in the majority) are the primarily force behind for population increases in cities and suburbs across the nation. What America looks like is changing – what are the opportunities and challenges of this reality for the nonprofit sector?

New Portal Gives Access to Health and Healthcare Data

Last week, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) debuted a web portal that provides indicator data on health and healthcare. The Health Indicators Warehouse houses over 1200 health and healthcare indicators from over 170 data sources as well as profiles, rankings, quality measures and utilization reports. According to the HHS announcement, the website will also support automated data services through application programming interfaces or APIs.

If your duties include policy analysis, program development, needs assessment, training or grant and/or proposal writing this is an excellent resource for data ranging from illness prevalence, to risk factors, to socioeconomic status.
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