In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but Liberal Arts Majors Endure

Turns out getting a liberal arts degree is a little less risky, in terms of salary, than some people may have previously assumed. In a recent New York Times article economist David Deming lays out his argument – early in their careers STEM majors earn higher incomes than people who studied history or a social science, but the gap does not continue indefinitely. By age 40, the average male liberal arts major is earning more than his computer science colleague; for women, STEM majors continue to earn more throughout their lifetimes than other college-educated women, but the difference decreases to a 10 percent gap by age 40.

Deming suggests these income trajectories converge for a variety of reasons: high-tech skills learned in college may become outdated decades later, an influx of recent college graduates increasing the competition for employment, and the importance of soft skills learned in social sciences and humanities programs. Written and verbal communication, problem-solving, and the ability to work in a team are all attributes employers look for when they hire. “In the liberal arts tradition, these skills are built through dialogue between instructors and students, and through close reading and analysis of a broad range of subjects and text,” Deming continues.

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