Choice of college degree can cost you millions

  @Luhby October 16, 2012: 9:41 AM ET
chart census degrees

Lifetime earnings by major

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Want to make $3.5 million? Major in engineering.

That's how much those who graduate with an engineering degree can expect to earn over a 40-year career, according to new Census Bureau data.

Which major earns the least? Education, which comes in at $1.8 million. That's even lower than arts majors, who can expect to earn $2 million.

Typical college graduates can expect to take home $2.4 million during their career.

The Census calculated this data by taking the median earnings for each group in various age increments between 25 and 64.

Of course, the occupation one selects can also have an impact on earnings. Engineers working in management earn $4.1 million over their lifetimes, while those working in education, only $1.8 million. Education majors who pursue computers or math jobs can earn $2.6 million, while those in the service sector make only $1.3 million -- less than people with only high school degrees, the Census Bureau said.

Those with master's degrees can expect to earn $2.8 million over their career, while doctorate degree holders take home $3.5 million. People with professional degrees earn the biggest bucks, $4.2 million.

Biggest jump in U.S. wages in more than 5 years

There was more bad news for education majors in a related study the Census Bureau conducted. This field was the second most popular, with 8 million graduates, but the least likely to be employed full-time, year-round at 41%. Part of the reason is because teachers who do not work over the summer are not considered year-round employees.

The 12-million strong business majors, on the other hand, were among the most likely to be employed, at 64.1%. Computers, math and statistics majors, along with engineers, had even better employment rates.

Paying for college: Obama vs. Romney

On the flip side, fewer than half of visual and performing arts majors were employed full-time, year round. Same went for literature and language majors.

Women earned less than men in every field of degree. And earnings tended to be higher for those who worked in the private sector rather than the government, except for educators, where the reverse was true. To top of page



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