How Choosing The Right Major Can Solve All Your Student Debt Woes
October 4, 2012

With rising tuition, rising student debt and high unemployment rates among people with higher education degrees, many students are starting to question whether going to college makes sense. Higher education proponents have pointed out the dangers of throwing the baby out with the bath water. College is a necessary step along the path to entering the professional world in almost any field; so students shouldn’t eliminate higher education, but they should be looking at what majors will get them jobs, good jobs. With so many great resources available to help students manage and optimize debt, there’s no reason not to take out student loans, as long as you make sure to choose an area of study that will allow you repay them. Research shows that some college majors lead to high paying jobs right out of school, while others are not so fortunate.

Earlier this year, Georgetown University released a study entitled, “Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal.” The study found that students’ choice of major hugely impacts their ability to find work as well as their earnings potential. What areas of study will almost certainly lead you to a good job, with a good starting salary and a great future salary?

The highest rate of unemployment the study found was among architecture majors, due to the industry’s utter collapse in recent years, followed closely by the arts and social sciences. Basically, anything in the humanities, anything non-technical, and your risk of post-college joblessness goes up. Students studying math and computer science on the other hand have incredibly low rates of unemployment right out of school.

Significantly, the study draws a correlation here between unemployment rates and technology: “People who make technology are better off than people who use technology.” It’s pretty easy to see why, take a glance around a room just about anywhere and you’re likely to see eight out of ten people glued to one brand new device or another. Take for example the new Nook 7-Inch HD Android Tablet. Imagine how many different people and how many different industries went into creating this next permutation of this device. Focus was placed on creating a more comfortable grip, on making it lighter, creating a space for your fingers to rest without touching the screen, and of course, improving the display. How many people are out there buying this new little gem? According to Scott Herren of Citrix Systems, Inc.: “there are almost as many consumer devices in the world now as there are people.”

It’s clear when you look at the research that the number one major for a great value on the cost of college and life afterwards is engineering. There are many, many fields wide open to engineering majors right out of college. Eight out of ten of TIME’s list of the highest earning majors are engineering specialties; and according to the Georgetown study, at $55,000 a year, engineers have the highest median earnings of all recent college graduates. This is partially because the rigorous nature of engineering programs leads to confidence among prospective employers that they are hiring a competent person.

Arguably, college tuition is unreasonably high, as are the resulting levels of student debt. America is a country where it pays to know how to work the system. Unless you’re determined to lead an alternative lifestyle, it’s best not to chuck higher education altogether. Instead, take advantage of the information out there for how to get the best value out of your education, which includes getting help from the experts on how best to optimize accrued debt.