Gender Disparities in Academic Majors and Graduates’ Incomes Persist

September 18, 2023

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Title: Student Loans: 78% Of Those Who Hold the 20 Most Lucrative College Degrees Are Men

Author: Alex Gailey

Source: Bankrate

Prospective and current college students as well as graduates are aptly concerned with the return on investment they can expect from their college degrees. Students’ return on investment is often augmented by the academic major they pursue and, ultimately, the degree they hold, with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree holders typically earning higher salaries than those with education, liberal arts, or humanities degrees.

In a new study from Bankrate, Alex Gailey explores the earnings differences across academic majors, highlighting the stark gender disparities in men and women’s academic major selections and subsequent incomes.

Drawing from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data released in 2022, Bankrate found that women continue to earn less than men despite comprising “most of the country’s college-educated workforce” and increasing their representation in male-dominated academic majors and fields.

Key findings from the study include:

  • Out of over 150 academic majors examined, the top 20 majors with the highest median salaries—or those considered the most lucrative fields of study—are all related to STEM. Nearly four out of five (78 percent) of these lucrative degree holders are men.
  • Women comprise the lowest percentage of lucrative degree holders (11 percent) in aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, and transportation sciences and technologies, which are ranked sixth, ninth, and twentieth, respectively, in terms of median salaries.
  • Women comprise most degree holders (56 percent) in only one major on the top 20 list—pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences, and administration—which is ranked third in median income.
  • Women are overrepresented in lower-earning majors, which are typically associated with care work (e.g., education, nursing, social work, etc.). Of the top 20 areas of study among women, degree holders’ median salaries peak at $70,000 compared to men’s $110,000. On average, women college graduates earn 79 cents on the dollar earned by men college graduates.
  • Despite the persistent gender wage gap, college degrees overall pay off for graduates regardless of their academic major or gender. Gailey points readers to a study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which found that college graduates earn nearly 75 percent more or a dividend of over $30,000 greater than high school graduates.

To read the full article, click here.

—Alyssa Stefanese Yates

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