What's the value of a college degree?

Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:46pm EDT
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By Lauren Young

NEW YORK (Reuters) - How much is that college degree really worth? That depends on your major. It turns out that some undergraduate and graduate diplomas are worth a lot more during a lifetime of work.

In fact, the difference in earnings between one major and another can be more than 300 percent, according to recent research from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. Researchers there crunched U.S. Census data looking at 171 majors in 15 categories.

The full study, "Hard Times: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal," is available from the school's website (link.reuters.com/wev87s).

Anthony Carnevale, the center's director, explains why students need to pay attention to their earnings potential when picking a major.

Why is it important to get a college degree?

Access to college is what distinguishes the middle class from low-income Americans. People with at least some college education stay in the middle class or move up.

Over the next decade, there will be 31 million job openings that will require at least some form of education - 9 million newly created jobs along with 22 million jobs from baby boomers who are retiring. Roughly two-thirds of those jobs will require some form of education or formal training beyond high school.

After the recession of 1981 to 1982, what you took in college largely determined what you'd become in life.   Continued...

British author J.K. Rowling looks towards a speaker at the 357th Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts June 5, 2008, during which Rowling received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. REUTERS/Brian Snyder