By Ryan Velez
We often hear various stereotypes regarding college majors and their earning potential, as well as connecting them to struggles later in life. There will always be exceptions to these rules, but a recent Black Enterprise article puts a different spin on the topic, harkening back to a Georgetown study that showed that African American students tended to cluster in majors that lead to low-paying careers, and were severely underrepresented in high-paying majors. This is compounded by an article from Diverse Issues in Higher Education, which quoted several Black students as saying that in choosing a career, money wasn’t an important consideration. So, are Black students shooting themselves in the foot?
Part of the reason why Black students may need to more aware of the earning potential of their majors is that in many cases, they are already starting at the bottom, with African-Americans earning the least and having the least assets compared to other racial groups. Forbes notes that the highest-earning major out of the gate is electrical engineering, with an average starting salary of $62,428. Experience and location mean that salaries can range from as low as $25,000 to as high as $130,000. Liberal arts generally earn lower on average, with the bottom rung being Pre-K & Kindergarten education, with a starting salary of $35,626. Sadly, this salary doesn’t match the profession’s value, but it is clear what we as a society value.
It isn’t impossible to command a good wage as a liberal arts major. In fact, English majors, often the butts of jokes regarding low-paying majors, are beginning to see more and more value in the tech world, helping companies with their communications as well as using the skill sets they learn to improve the companies they work for. In addition, Black Enterprise points out that mindlessly replacing liberal arts programs with STEM isn’t going to be the ideal solution. We all have different skills that will serve some fields better than others.
However, every incoming college student should take the time to look at the potential earnings at their field of choice. In addition, liberal arts programs are best served with additional training or study in a STEM field. This isn’t just to make for better-looking resumes, but also to better integrate the soft skills that liberal arts provide into the highest-paying companies that need them. With black students, this is especially important.