Majors Matter: Differences in Wages Over Time in Texas
The wages of graduates from public colleges and universities in Texas vary radically across majors. This variation is evident immediately after students complete their studies, and it persists over time and is found at all levels of postsecondary education, ranging from short-term certificates to postgraduate studies and professional credentials.
This report highlights a narrow slice of the kinds of comparisons that are possible through the data reported on the College Measures Texas website. The data illustrate some important patterns, for example:
- What students study matters. While the median wages of completers generally increase with successively higher credential levels, subbaccalaureate credentials in some majors offer wages that rival or surpass those of graduates with bachelor’s degrees.
- Despite the importance that the nation places on high-quality early childhood education, the training programs that prepare students to work in this field consistently produce graduates that are among the lowest paid in their credential level.
- Many of the largest majors, especially those associated with the arts, produce students who earn low wages. Furthermore, the relative wages of graduates from different majors are remarkably stable over time—that is, “start low, end low.”
- The shortage of graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) does not translate uniformly into higher wages for graduates in these fields. According to evidence in Texas (and elsewhere), graduates with degrees in Biology do not do particularly well in the labor market. Rather, their wages tend to be similar to the median wages of graduates from all bachelor’s degree programs.
- In contrast, completers in Texas with credentials related to majors in engineering and technology tend to earn high median wages. This is also reflected in all College Measures partner states and in national data.
- Graduates in many health-related majors also earn high wages, as do technicians at every level of postsecondary education. Students who know how to fix things or help people be healthy earn higher median wages in the labor market.