For the College-Bound, Are There Any Safe Bets? PayScale Joins The Debate

There was a time when a college degree was a quick route to a long, stable career. Nowadays deciding what to study in college can become the difference between success and a lifetime as an over-educated barista. has long been a great resource to help students decide what to study and where to attend college – our College Salary Report, College Selector Tool and College ROI Report summarize what millions of people report earning, where they went to school, what they studied and what they did with their degrees. The New York Times recently invited PayScale’s Lead Economist, Katie Bardaro, to summarize our findings and help answer the question “Which majors and careers have a reliable “return on investment”?”.

Katie summarizes what PayScale has been seeing for years – just having a college degree isn’t enough. In order to earn a healthy paycheck, students need to be realistic about which subjects pay off, namely the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors. If you’re planning to become an engineer, investing in a pricey education at a big-name school will probably pay off. Lower-paying majors should be realistic about how much they can really make after they graduate when choosing which college to attend.

That doesn’t mean that humanities majors should give up on hopes of a healthy paycheck. Katie recommends that they incorporate some of these skills into your studies by rounding out their education with courses in statistics, economics or other related STEM fields. Even for traditionally low-paying majors such as English, Arts and Education, “arming yourself with these skills is one way to get a leg up in the labor market.”

Read the entire article, as well as complementing and opposing viewpoints from other experts, here. You can also see our most recent College ROI Report and College Salary Report for detailed information about almost every college and major imaginable. And if you are trying to decide which college to attend, or know somebody who is, use our College Selector Tool to filter colleges by ROI, location, cost and more.

Choosing a college and a major is a big decision, but PayScale is here with easy-to-understand data to make the choice easier. And we’d love to hear how you would answer the questions raised in The New York Times’ Room for Debate feature in the comment section below.

College ROI


  1. Please prove to us that you're not a robot:

Find Out Exactly What You Should Be Paid

United States (change)

Comp Managers: Start Here »