US College Majors: Median Yearly Earnings

Intern season is over and all the college students are back at school. Seems like a good time to remind those of you about to assume a lot of debt to pay for all that learnin’ may want to take a look at this chart below.

Note the X-axis is gender ratio — the further to the right on that axis, the more woman are in that major. What does this suggest about gender pay gap?


Source: WonkBlog


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  1. rd commented on Sep 8

    I work in engineering. When I first started several decades ago, women simply didn’t exist in engineering school or work. I have been seeing a steady ramp up of the numbers graduating from university.

    What I have found working with them over the past couple of decades is that I generally try to get the women engineers and scientists on my teams. Its usually not difficult to accomplish because many of the male engineers and supervisors “don’t know what to do with them”. The reason for me to try to get them on my teams is very simple – the social pressure in middle school and high school tends to weed most of the women out of the hard science and math fields, even if they have natural attributes to do well technically. Once the ones who make it through this process get out of university into the work place, the lack of interest in using them has provided a self-selected, highly-motivated, competent group for me to use.

    The women engineers tend to be very organized and hard-working. They are used to keeping their heads down, so it often takes some work to get them to think outside the box and voice their opinions in meetings, but once they get that this is welcomed, they are off to the races. I have had some of them “graduate” from my teams where they move on and become project managers in their own right. Generally speaking their projects tend to be on-time, on-budget, and without blunders. I have had to step into numerous projects over the years as a trouble-shooter to get them back on track, but have never had to do that with a woman-led project.

    Hopefully, we will be able to close much of the gender pay-gap as more women go into engineering, business etc. That may also drive up competition for good, competent people in some of the lower paid areas which could raise those wages as well.

    • dsawy commented on Sep 8

      I’m a retired engineer. When I went through engineering school, we had a 7:1 male:female ratio – a relative high in that decade. After I graduated, the school resumed their 9 or 10:1 ratio.

      What I observed of the women graduating in my class is that half of them graduated with engineering degrees, but didn’t go into engineering. They went into marketing, technical sales, customer support, etc. Once they found out what is actually involved in being an engineer, they wanted to avoid the job of design engineer.

    • RiverboatGambler commented on Sep 8

      My business has sponsored university engineering programs to do open source work for agriculture.

      I have consistently heard from professors who chair these programs that there is large concern from individual researchers over devoting years to a student only to have them finish their degree and then choose to work in another field or not work entirely.

      The most talented researchers are producing a body of work that should be passed on. The researchers with the biggest budgets can only support 5-6 students at a time who might carry their work forward or in a different direction.

      The research we directly fund is done by students and overseen by professors. We fund research that matters to our industry. It is a major concern that a student would work on one of these issues, get their degree and then not pass the work on to anyone else because they decide to go to another industry or not work entirely.

      This is a breach of a social contract that would not have been taken lightly in days of apprenticeship. Because of this we actively seek students who we believe will work in the industry. It is more important than talent anyway because we tell them what problems to work on in the first place, and often how to solve them.

    • lucas commented on Sep 9

      Or maybe they found out the obstacles were just too great.

    • rd commented on Sep 9

      @dsawy – I saw similar outcomes in the early 1980s – one of the reasons they went into those areas was because companies were lined up at the door to hire them for those positions at salaries greater than traditional design jobs (the same occurred with blacks with the emphasis at that time of minority hiring). Many of them men were going into sales and management as well at the time, but at a lower ratio than the women and blacks – both were reaping the rewards of being very counter-cultural. Since then, many field have realized that engineering/physics/math majors are very good at many things, so many men and women have left the STEM fields to work in finance etc. where the money can get very big.

      @RiverboatGambler – Over the years I have seen many grad students in engineering (including ag eng) and science that could not get jobs in what they were really interested in and they did grad research in. So they worked in something else. In many cases I looked at their research topics, found them mildly interesting, but not of any significant value to the work that we did. We hired them anyway.

  2. WickedGreen commented on Sep 8

    BR, your disdain for forecasting in light of forward uncertainties comes in here, right?

    The chart is history – albeit actualized to the present circumstance.

    15 years from now?

    Should we invest in the robotic technology, to pay for the college degree – whatever that means by then – that will limit our kid’s chances in engineering?

  3. Blissex commented on Sep 9

    An interesting detail about the “gender pay gap” is that gay women and women under 30 have a much smaller or non-existent pay gap than hetero women or women over 30. The pay gap happens mostly to middle class married or child raising hetero women over 30, who are discriminated against for taking more interesting jobs or taking career breaks, enabled by the safety net of their spouse’s income.

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