Study Finds that Most Students Are Too Optimistic about Their Majors’ Earning Potential
How much money can you expect to earn after you complete the coursework for your major and graduate college? Do you really know what your earning potential will be?
According to “Labor Market Expectations and Major Choice for Low-Income, First-Generation College Students: Evidence from an Information Experiment,” a study conducted in 2017 by Alexander I. Ruder (University of South Carolina and Rutgers) and Michelle Van Noy (Rutgers), many students, especially those who come from lower income backgrounds, are overly optimistic about how much they will earn. Ruder and Van Noy polled 2,965 students and determined that students who grew up in financially disadvantaged circumstances were especially prone to overestimate the potential earnings that their major and college degree would enable them to earn.
We encourage you to read this study and explore the data it presents. And at the same time, we would encourage you (and your students, if you are an educator), to take these additional steps when deciding on a college major.
Explore Career Projections in the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
If you become an aerospace engineer, for example, will you still be able to find a job in 2025, or in 2029? This very useful handbook offers projections that can help steer students toward professions that promise long-term security and job growth.
Talk to Career Counselors at College Counseling and Career Offices
They are often in a position to answer questions that no one else can. What percentage of museum studies majors who graduated from your college last year found jobs, for example? What did those jobs pay? Professional counselors who know the trends for graduates at their colleges can offer insights that are hard to find elsewhere.
Schedule Informational Interviews with Potential Employers
They too can answer reality-based questions. What kind of jobs have they hired for in the last few years, for example? Did the graduates they hired possess certain specific experiences, like prior internships at their companies? What is the starting pay for the graduates they hired? This kind of real-world information can help students pick majors, determine specialties, and take other steps to get a strong foothold in professional life.
Get a Mentor Who Is Working in the Profession
They can offer the kind of real-world advice that is difficult to obtain from any other source. If possible, find a mentor who works for a potential employer in a nearby location.
Assist Professors Who Are Currently Employed in Business or Industry
Helping a professor conduct research is another way to gain inside knowledge of what it is like to work in a profession. Plus, currently employed faculty members can sometimes help students identify and apply for jobs.
The knowledge you will gain as an intern, and the contacts you will make can often help you get your first job and launch your career.
Read Employment Ads Every Week
They can help you know who is hiring, what kind of jobs are being filled, what kind of starting salary you can expect, and more. The knowledge you will gain will help you get a step above the students who participated in the study conducted by Ruder and Van Noy that we wrote about at the start of today’s post. Instead of thinking you know how much you will earn in a given profession, you will have some realistic knowledge that can help you choose a major and get a start in your chosen career.
We Invite You to Explore Your Students’ College & Career Options with Us . . .
Students who participate in the National Career & College Pathway Study will gain new insights about making educational decisions that align with their interests, passions, and aptitudes. Participants will receive information on college and career opportunities that match their interests.
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