Recently there has been considerable discussion about the impact of graduating from college, graduating in the midst of a recession, and the choice of a college major on a person’s lifetime earnings.

As reported in a June New York Times article, Yale economist, Laura Kahn reckons that the typical economics major earns roughly 1/3 more over her lifetime than her average peer.  This gap grows even larger in a recession.

In a 2013 study by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, the authors conclude:

Not all majors are equal: Engineering and economics graduates, for example, typically earn almost double what social work and education graduates receive by mid-career;

While we are quite pleased (and not surprised) that economics majors do well on the job market, we understand there are many trajectories to a successful life and career.  From our years of advising Brandeis students, we have three thoughts to add to the discussion:

  1. The job market highly values quantitative skills.  In the Times article, the five majors with the highest value added are (in order):  Economics, Finance, Computer Programming, Civil Engineering and Accounting.  All of these majors emphasize analytical thinking and numerical analysis. Fortunately, Brandeis has a wide variety of courses across numerous departments that will help you build your quantitative skills.  Any of us on the economics faculty can point you to dozens of exciting quantitative courses both within our own department and throughout the university.
  1. It is important to be able to express your ideas and insights with clarity and eloquence both on paper and in person.  To advance in your career you will often need to present your ideas to your colleagues and superiors. Brandeis professors in the humanities do a first-rate job teaching  how to craft a persuasive argument.  If you want to watch a master communicator at work, listen to our president, Fredrick Lawrence, articulate an argument.  Learn to speak (and write!) like Fred.
  1. Focus more on learning skills. Focus less on your GPA.  Grading in courses that teach quantitative skills tends to be less forgiving than others; in your calculus class, most questions have only one right answer.  Having a professor who will work with you on your writing is a luxury you most likely won’t have once you leave Brandeis; take advantage of this opportunity now.  Taking courses that build new skills may lower your GPA.  But employers hire individuals with skills –and your GPA is not a skill.

A Brandeis education will prepare you for both a fulfilling intellectual life and a rewarding career.  Work hard and enjoy your time here. And remember, economics majors make more money than finance majors!


Comments

1 Comment so far

  1. MailMailing on November 18, 2016 6:37 pm

    “Not all majors are equal: Engineering and economics graduates, for example, typically earn almost double what social work and education graduates receive by mid-career”

    100% true

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