Salary reality vs. choice in major: How college students react
A new Rutgers University study finds most college students will stick with the major they have chosen even if the salary is not what they thought.
The 5,000 students who were surveyed across Rutgers' three campuses lowered their salary expectations quite a bit when they were shown median earnings data, says Michelle Van Noy, associate director of the Education and Employment Research Center at the School of Management and Labor Relations. But they were more optimistic when they were shown the potential range of earnings.
The survey also finds that students' actual college major choices were not affected by the data, which Van Noy says was surprising considering there's a lot of anxiety about salary earnings, especially with increasing levels of student debt.
Across the board, students lowered their expectations when they saw their earnings possibilities for majors they had chosen, especially among business and STEM students. Those who viewed the median salary or salary range lowered their expected earnings by up to $10,000.
"Their expectations were inflated in those fields. Possibly because of a lot of the attention to the high earnings potential of those fields. Students think that they are going to make a lot more than is possible," says Van Noy.
Students are very optimistic about what their earnings are and Van Noy says this salary data is a little bit of a reality check that will hopefully will inspire students to think a little bit more about how to prepare for their careers.
Besides salary, students are thinking about benefits, job security, and whether they will be able to make a successful career.
Van Noy suggests when trying to decide on a major, do your homework. Look at the data. Gather experiences that will help you test out whether you like those careers or not, such as internships and job shadowing.
Van Noy said that low-income and first generation college students are less likely to rely on their family for help in selecting a major. Rather, many are using resources within colleges and universities to guide them. Rutgers offers a new course that brings this information right into the classroom. Van Noy hopes other colleges follow suit.
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