Re: Alternate Pay Schemes

1

Are adjuncts categorized as faculty?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:05 PM
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It would be market based in the meaning of "artificially imposed upon the market and unenforceable without some kind of costly governing regime" and would result in bizarrely high salaries for professors and in that regard could be popular, who knows.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:06 PM
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There are so many weird assumptions in this post and in text's response I don't even know where to begin. Can someone explain?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:07 PM
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Okay, maybe they're not weird, but they're non-obvious to me.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:07 PM
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My assumption is that it would push some kids out of business and towards humanities majors, and that this would piss off the business professors, and then everyone would get more-or-less the same jobs after school, anyway.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:09 PM
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And then once there were more humanities majors, you'd hire more humanities professors, etc.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:10 PM
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F can you explain my assumptions? They're non-obvious to me.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:12 PM
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As far as I can tell, the business professors don't much care about having fewer undergrads. Here they definitely have lots of policies in place to make it hard for students to major in business.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:17 PM
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Interesting. Here it's probably one of our most popular majors, along with kinesiology.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:20 PM
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Oh, it's incredibly popular, but they won't just let you major in it just because you want to major in it.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:21 PM
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How does "would result in bizarrely high salaries for professors" happen?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:21 PM
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can you explain my assumptions? They're non-obvious to me.

Wait, that sounds like a job for a philosopher.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:21 PM
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8 is my impression too. I thought business majors are as difficult to admitted to as engineering majors.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:23 PM
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11: That's not an assumption. It's a deduction from an assumption.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:24 PM
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"costly governing regime"

Like the pre-existing administration?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:24 PM
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Maybe that's why so many of them come to Heebie U, relatively speaking.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:24 PM
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Or assumptions.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:25 PM
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The assumptions could be weird or the deducing faulty.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:26 PM
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For the sake of completeness, I should add that text could be right. Or that any combination of these three things could be happening.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:28 PM
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My general stereotype of business majors is that it's less prestigious than an arts or sciences degree, and certainly way less prestigious than engineering or law.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:30 PM
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8 is my impression too. I thought business majors are as difficult to admitted to as engineering majors.

This is REALLY not how I remember it. Business was close to the ultimate fallback option.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:33 PM
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I never imagined business would be a hard major to get into in some places. It seemed like the default major for a student of the demographic "Male, Not interested in college".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:34 PM
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21: I think it has been changing or varies by school. I remember thinking of undergraduate business majors as being one of the things football players did because basket weaving wasn't actually offered.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:35 PM
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22: Am I right that the female counterpart is Communications?


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:37 PM
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11: It happens when you tie tuition costs to professor's salaries. That's because there are already a lot of costs involved with running a university which tuition must cover. Now tuition must also be high enough to attract faculty into your department. Find the assumption.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:37 PM
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24: or Psychology, for some reason.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:37 PM
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In Heebie's uncle's world, there'd be a race to the bottom to find the most unpleasant (but still bearable to a subset of the population), socially useless job. Conversely, all astronauts would be independently wealthy.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:38 PM
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Back when I was at the University of Michigan in the 1980s getting to the undergrad business school program -- I think you applied as a sophomore -- was very competitive.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:39 PM
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26 to 25.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:39 PM
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12: No, the preexisting regime only really monitors intercollegiate athletics. I'm not aware of a body which dictates the way in which each university sets its faculty salary and enforces those decisions. I suppose I assumed that no such body exists. Was my assumption un-obvious?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:40 PM
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25

I'm not really getting it, but thanks for trying.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:40 PM
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31

I was assuming that Heebie was proposing this as a intrauniversity business model, rather than a suprauniversity rule.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:41 PM
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24: It was where I went, except that neither were actually unisex. It just tended one way or the other.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:42 PM
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My uncle peddles a semi-serious theory that wages should be solely determined in inverse proportion to the number of people who want to do the job.

Shouldn't the ability to do the job be a factor too?
For example, I would like to be a ballet dancer.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:42 PM
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27: Yes in that world incredibly smart people would compete in a cut throat manner for extremely tedious positions with long hours involving very little social contact or independent thought. Who could imagine such a place?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:42 PM
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Psychology exists at a weird space on the arts/sciences boundaries in a lot of places, which I think explains some of it?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:43 PM
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34 wasn't intended to be anonymous.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:43 PM
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UTexas is already heading down this path. A business major is charged 10% higher tuition than an liberal arts major. Now that differential tuition has started, I expect the differences will widen.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:43 PM
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35: Now I get you. You mean law school.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:43 PM
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F, I don't actually care if you get it. These are public.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:44 PM
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(Not) interestingly, I don't care if you don't care if I get it.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:45 PM
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35: Truly. It's just interesting that you can get to a similar state by removing the demand for that labor being done from the setup.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 1:49 PM
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|| Has anyone noted that the first-person poverty story we recently had on the front page here apparently turned out to be a fraud ? Or at least apparently massively exaggerated? ||>


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 2:04 PM
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43: Yes, later on in that thread.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 2:06 PM
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38: at UT is the business school tuition actually set in proportion to the business school faculty's salaries? Or do we merely assume that to be the case whenever one school charges more than another within any given university?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 2:16 PM
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Wouldn't the business schools just drive up their tuition in order to increase their salaries?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 2:20 PM
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No, it would take about 14 full-year in-state tuitions to pay an average BSchool faculty salary, but only 10.5 to pay an average science prof's salary and only 9.5 to pay an average liberal arts prof's salary.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 2:23 PM
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So while you can actually look at the numbers and compare them, they aren't causally related. Or do you not see the difference?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 2:25 PM
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Also, the fact that faculty salaries would inflate as a result of heebie's proposed rule would remain true even if it were merely an intra-university policy. I suppose the administrative costs would only marginally increase in that case.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 2:26 PM
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If you set the ratio to the current university-wide average, the university-wide average tuition will have no reason to change. The BSchool tuition would rise, the liberal arts tuition will fall, and the total tuition raised, by definition, will not change.

What administrative costs? The Provost says: here's the tuition your college will charge. Done. Tuition is already unilaterally set by the University administration.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 2:33 PM
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There may need to be some minor tweaking if, as Heebie hopes, students redistribute to cheaper majors, but the overall change will be minor.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 2:34 PM
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Isn't the end result of this setup that the university closes down everything but the business school? I guess that's the trend we're on anyway, but currently there's no incentive for the administration to force business schools to take more students. If their tuition was double, then there'd be a lot of pressure to take more students.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 2:41 PM
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In considering the marginal cost increase you would have to remember that each year faculty salaries would go up or down, which would then change the tuition rate. You would probably be factoring in both number of faculty and individual salary, which must be negotiated. Now it will be negotiated with the fact that the school will set its tuition rate based on salaries in mind. There is a lot of room for game playing, all of which must be dealt with by an administrator. Somebody could probably write a paper about it if he were inclined to write papers about things like that.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 2:47 PM
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Imagine yourself a potential academic in a market place where your salary will be based on the tuition paid into your specific department. It might result in a lot of students pushing themselves into fields to which they are not suited, and to which they provide marginal value.

It would be a lot like the medical profession, actually.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 2:50 PM
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How many professors choose their subject area based on how much it's going to pay when they become a professor? This just seems ludicrous to me. Not even taking into account the fact that professors almost universally make less than private sector employees in the same discipline and so therefore financial concerns cannot be a major deciding factor, only a handful of the most brilliant people could successfully obtain an academic position in more than a very few closely related subjects.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 3:02 PM
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And that at a significant chunk of professors choose their subject area for irrational personal reasons, i.e. they are irrationally passionate about learning one particular thing.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 3:03 PM
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55: Yes it would be ludicrous, wouldn't it? But then again we live in a world in which faculty salaries are not tied to department tuition rates.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 3:07 PM
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There are actually fields of study which would permit faculty to switch from one department to another. How would the new regime affect those individuals? Would departments have to compete with each other by raising tuition?

I do agree it would be ludicrous.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 3:09 PM
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Back when I was at the University of Michigan in the 1980s getting to the undergrad business school program -- I think you applied as a sophomore -- was very competitive.

My brother did not get in, under this exact circumstance. And yet! Still managed to bundle and slice and dice mortgage-backed securities at Bear-Stearns. Will wonders ever begin.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 3:15 PM
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55 -- actually I kinda disagree. I would imagine that most academics, if they had to, would be perfectly able to achieve a standard of competence equal to their own in a neighboring field. Wouldn't imagine they'd be able to do that within employment structures etc but. And certainly if you took a 22 year old that was capable of being an academic in whatever field about to begin post-grad study and told them that they couldn't do whatever this year, I'd be very surprised if they couldn't reach a similar standard in a different field.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 3:22 PM
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(Where "neighbouring" means, I'd imagine most academic chemists could, if it was the kind of thing that academics did, probably retrain within a four or five year timeframe as academic physicists, or academic English professors as sociologists or whatever.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 3:25 PM
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60

Possibly true for neighboring fields, but then again, neighboring fields tend to have similar faculty salary profiles.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 3:33 PM
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62 - Yeah. I do think a reasonably minority of academic chemists could probably become academic sociologists if they had to, but it's not exactly a realistic idea.

Certainly when people are deciding what to go into etc it's much more viable.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 3:45 PM
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I had an opportunity to switch into neuroscience in grad school (and a decent incentive at the time). I'm pretty sure I could have done it but I was put off by all the goo you have to deal with. Brains are mostly different kinds of goo and I don't like goo.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 3:52 PM
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re: 20

That would be my impression, too. Business [along with marketing and similar subjects] was always a dunces' subject. Not necessarily at postgraduate level, but certainly at undergraduate level.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 3:53 PM
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re: 60

Yes. I'm pretty sure that I could easily have achieved a similar level of education in lots of other subjects. In fact, with the probably exception of disciplines that require a very high level of mathematical ability,* I'd guess I could probably do OK at more or less anything. That isn't crazy ego talking, I'd guess the same thing would be true for many/most people who are capable of achieving academic success at that level.

* I'm perfectly fine at maths, but the higher the level, the more work I have to do, and I'm sure I'd top out well short of the level required to be a professional mathematician.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 3:56 PM
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re:60

In fact, that exact same claim -- the with a few exceptions, most people with a certain level of academic ability could have done equally as well in another discipline, or [stronger claim] rapidly switch discipline/pass-for-competent-in-that-discipline -- has come up here before.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 4:05 PM
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Do "business" majors from the schools where it is less prestigious* in fact earn less than their peers (either as starting salary or over time)? If so then "prestige" and $2.50 will buy you a coffee at Starbucks.

*My undergrad school didn't really have a business major, but it did have some business-esque degrees. I wouldn't have pegged people in those programs as the most academically smart people on campus, but I certainly wouldn't have said that their programs lacked prestige, and they were pretty hard to get into.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 4:15 PM
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I guess I meant "if they earn more, then prestige and $2.50 will buy you a coffee at Starbucks."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 4:16 PM
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68 -- er, mostly. Obviously it depends, but I'd expect a BSc/BEng/LLB graduate to tend to earn more than a commerce graduate. BA not so sure about, but still probably would.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 4:47 PM
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Somehow I had forgotten that business is something undergrads can major in. I thought, like law or medicine, it was something that only existed at the professional school level. But I guess I must have heard of undergrad business students before, somewhere.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 4:51 PM
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I feel like my ideal career would involve changing fields completely every four or five years. Instead I'm kind of halfway gesturing toward it after a decade.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 5:01 PM
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This seems like the place to go for answers. I've just skimmed it, but it looks like, from the chart on p. 32, that business majors do worse (median) than engineers, who blow everyone else away,* and computer science, but better than just about anyone else and much better than arts or social science majors.

*Petroleum engineering looks to be the absolute best major.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 5:03 PM
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73 -- I suspect it is massively dependent on the country. Certainly in the US I would be surprised but not shocked to find that was the case.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 5:11 PM
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(But in NZ I would be quite blown away to find commerce undergrads outperforming science or law graduates. But also I could be quite wrong.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 5:13 PM
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The link in 173 is really interesting. The takeaway seems to be that you should really most definitely become an engineer if that's an option (but not necessarily any other kind of STEM person).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 5:20 PM
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s/b 73. Tell your kids to become petroleum engineers, everyone!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 5:27 PM
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Because having a large income is the most important factor in making significant life decisions?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 5:33 PM
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No, but it sure would be useful in making some decisions more available to you.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 5:53 PM
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It's one relevant consideration, surely. I thought it was interesting to learn, for example, that while humanities majors with terminal B.A.s generally don't do that well, they don't do much worse than Life Sciences majors and do better than Psychology majors.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 5:54 PM
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For example, "US History" majors look like they do about as well at the median as "Molecular Biology" majors, which I never would have guessed intuitively.

Also the premium for being an engineer (as opposed to being just a STEM person) was much more than I would have guessed.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 6:06 PM
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Oh, definitely. There's no shortage of people for any sort of scientific job other than certain types of engineer and Wall Street Algorithm Asshole.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 6:44 PM
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Tell your kids to become petroleum engineers, everyone!

Jammies' mom did. She got three out of four.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 6:48 PM
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OP:

My uncle peddles a semi-serious theory that wages should be solely determined in inverse proportion to the number of people who want to do the job.

This is, I think, related to living wage theories, but those tend to have become discussions just about the minimum wage. There's also something called a just wage (I think; I'm actually forgetting the proper term), according to which remuneration should be in proportion to the value to society of the work done. Since the work done by, say, sanitation engineers (trash pickup guys) is extremely valuable, they should be paid a boatload more than they are. They do a job that not many people want to do, as it happens, but that's incidental to the value of their work to society.

It's a fascinating idea. My college circle of friends spent some time arguing over it back in the 80s. It would so totally restructure our current ways.

heebie, you should totally offer this as an alternative to your Uncle's theory. Whadya say? Then he'll have to explain why and/or how someone who, I dunno, cleans the floors or buckets at the x-rated peep show -- that contain accumulated ejaculate -- should be paid as much as the sanitation worker, just because people don't like to do either job.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 6:55 PM
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The petroleum engineer numbers are kind of stunning. Median salary at the 25% is $89,000; at the 75% is $189,000. No other major in any field even comes remotely close; it blows away all of the other engineering majors which in turn blow away every other group of majors.

I wonder if these kind of numbers can be sustainable given the impending move away from fossil fuels and . . . .hahahahaha no.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 6:59 PM
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Yeah, Jammies' younger siblings are quite wealthy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 7:01 PM
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Huh. My dad ended up as a petroleum engineer (after a detour PhD in theoretical chemistry). His life does seem pretty damn comfortable, though not opulent. I doubt he could have made that transition under currant circumstances: the oil company he worked for used to have a really good continuing education and internal advancement policy, but that sort of hint has been phased out everywhere.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 7:21 PM
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Hint s/b thing


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 7:22 PM
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And the salaries are probably even better than they look. I'd expect petroleum engineering is concentrated in inexpensive cities.

Many petroleum engineers probably lost their jobs when the price of oil crashed in the 80s, but it looks like we'll never see another crash like that.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 7:22 PM
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Also probably part of your job is traveling to places like Nigeria or Equitorial Guinea or the North Slope of Alaska or some rig off the coast of Louisiana. I mean, sure, you're job is kind of to ruin those places but I'll bet the travel is pretty interesting.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 7:27 PM
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*YOUR* goddamnit


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 7:28 PM
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I'm amused by how surprised Halford seems to be at how much money petroleum engineers make.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 7:39 PM
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Also, the link in 73 seems to show that petroleum engineers are basically all white men, which seems about right.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 7:39 PM
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I'm not surprised that there's a ton of money in the oil business. Just that the relative difference between it and any other college major is so high.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 7:40 PM
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My youngest brother, a white man, has just switched from a boring-to-me kind of engineering undergrad degree to a much more interesting graduate program in medii/cal im/aging engineering. Or at least that's his thesis project, and he's not sure whether to look for a job in industry or continue for the doctorate or both and I should probably have pressured him more about this since he needs to start applying, but Thanksgiving!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 7:46 PM
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I'm not surprised that there's a ton of money in the oil business. Just that the relative difference between it and any other college major is so high.

It's been two+ months since I looked at the Georgetown report, but my vague recollection is that the data is about what people with those majors (who are working at all) are earning -- NOT what people with those majors *who are working in those fields* are earning.

I'd expect petroleum engineers to have unusually high rates of working-in-the-field-for-which-they-were-trained. That might explain some of the variance.


Posted by: Wittt | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 7:54 PM
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Yes, 96 is right. It's what people with those majors earn, regardless of where they work.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 8:01 PM
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I'd expect petroleum engineers to have unusually high rates of working-in-the-field-for-which-they-were-trained. That might explain some of the variance.

I suspect there's also a small number of them relative to most other majors.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 8:03 PM
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The downside of that travel is family life. My dad was considering a career-helping move from the Bay Area to coastal, rural Louisiana when I was in middle school (we weirdo Berkeley Mormon kids would have gone to Catholic boarding school in New Orleans), and when I was in high school, my dad was seriously tempted by a two-year posting in Kazachstan.

On the other hand, my parents are good friends with a woman who was a petroleum geologist married to another petroleum geologist (her former professor, actually), who spent many happy years traveling together with her family across the Arctic. So, trade-offs.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 8:07 PM
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I keep thinking there's something odd about the petroleum engineering salary. A quick search suggests it's not a commonly offered program of study, so teo's right in 98. I've got several friends who work in the industry (although not as petroleum engineers), and although they are well-compensated, I am not sure they make as much as that study suggests, even the ones with more than a bachelor's degree. That makes me think it's not just the industry having tons of money to throw at employees. It's really strange.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 8:39 PM
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I wonder whether it has something to do with promotion tracks, since the (not small) difference in starting salaries will continue to diverge over time. I know for a lot of fields, getting an MBA or advanced degree (in the right field) is a requirement for promotion. Maybe the petroleum engineers don't require more advanced degrees (not uncommon in engineering) AND they're the ones who get promoted as compared to the other entry level positions?


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 8:47 PM
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101 last is certainly possible. A very specific degree could very help in creating a career track, and presumably the course requirements would include geology, geophysics, modeling, and other things that would both be extremely useful and perhaps winnowing.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 9:05 PM
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I think it's probably a combination of the supply constraints and the fact that engineers are both highly specialized and absolutely crucial to getting the oil out in a way that not everyone who works in the industry is.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 9:09 PM
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My rich, retired friend spent a long career in the oil bidness (corporate, not E&P) and, indeed, seems to have spent a great deal of time traveling. Often in '90s-rap-video Gulfstream jets.

Another petro-executive expectation fulfilled: One of his old colleagues had a (colossal, log-cabin-style, Eagles-LP-cover-ish) house in Wyoming so near Dick Cheney's place that one's guilty white liberal heart thrilled in the wicked proximity.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 9:14 PM
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And also that the oil companies make shit-tons of profit.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 9:27 PM
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To 103.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 9:28 PM
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Right, and they couldn't do it without the engineers.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 9:29 PM
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Basically it's a rare, highly specialized career field that happens to be extremely important to what is right now a huge and very profitable industry.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 9:30 PM
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Friend of mine works at JP|_ until the regular contract terminations throw his domestic budget all ahoo, at which point he does a stint of applied physics for oil wells. I haven't asked how much he earns at the latter, but since he's subsidizing our space program, I assume a lot. (Other than that he lives very modestly.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 9:34 PM
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Basically it's a rare, highly specialized career field that happens to be extremely important to what is right now a huge and very profitable industry.

Someday it will be our turn. Someday!


Posted by: Opinionated Nuclear Engineer | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 9:48 PM
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ydnew is right in 100. There were only 14,641 petroleum engineering majors in the study (about 0.5% of the engineering majors). AFAIK, at most schools there is no separate major for "petroleum engineering". It's usually just a subset of chemical engineering, which is basically the next highest paid major. Petroleum engineering probably benefits over chemical engineering by a) having fewer stragglers who don't end up as petroleum engineers and b) being offered by a few well-connected and regional departments, like UT Austin, Tulsa, Texas Tech, LSU, Oklahoma and Colorado School of Mines and c) the fact that most of the schools offering petroleum engineering schools are in petroleum land means that students who go there are much more likely to take jobs in petroleum land.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 9:52 PM
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(Written before seeing F at 111.) A friend's husband has a PhD in geology and works at Exxon (I think his thing is determining where the best places for new extraction projects are). I don't know his exact salary, but I would guess it's comparable to the bachelor's in petroleum engineering median. The fact that the petroleum engineers are making more than I guess most of my friends are (with advanced degrees in technical fields) was sort of surprising to me, since the expertise is still specialized, in the same industry, and their jobs seem like they'd be comparable in terms of importance, but maybe there's a detail I'm not getting. That's why I was guessing it had to do with promotion track or number of graduates or something less obvious.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 10:00 PM
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The fact that the petroleum engineers are making more than I guess most of my friends are (with advanced degrees in technical fields) was sort of surprising to me, since the expertise is still specialized, in the same industry, and their jobs seem like they'd be comparable in terms of importance, but maybe there's a detail I'm not getting.

Yeah, it seems like it does just basically amount to there not being very many of them, which must be due mainly to there not being very many schools offering it as a specialization. It's not totally clear why more schools don't, but maybe most of the people who would be qualified to teach petroleum engineering at the college level can make way more money being petroleum engineers themselves.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 10:22 PM
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And since it's an applied field, there are also fewer people who are attracted to academia because they want to do research. That's probably the biggest difference from geology.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 10:23 PM
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Looking at undergrad degrees is definitely weird, right? Either you're in one of the weird, minor fields where there's a lot of hiring out of undergrad because it's a strange niche, you're in one of the slightly more common fields where it gives you a leg up in getting an advanced degree that actually provides a career boost, or, essentially, it's all noise having to do with the population of undergrads that more-or-less randomly picks that major. Using that as advice for people picking majors seems essentially exactly backwards. The real lesson should be that majors don't matter at all, which the vast majority of college students already understand, by evidence of their choice of majors.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 10:29 PM
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If 115 was any more circular it'd be to 115.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 10:29 PM
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There is really no significant difference in curriculum between a chemical engineering major and a petroleum engineering major, so it mostly exists as a separate major purely as a marketing and recruitment tool for the schools that have it.

There's basically only one reason to get a petroleum engineering degree: you want to be a petroleum engineer and live on the Gulf Coast.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 10:36 PM
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There is really no significant difference in curriculum between a chemical engineering major and a petroleum engineering major, so it mostly exists as a separate major purely as a marketing and recruitment tool for the schools that have it.

Huh. I didn't know that. In that case more schools should totally hop on that bandwagon.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 10:39 PM
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For proof of 115, see the table of "examples of majors that are dispersed across occupations". If you are a Liberal Arts or History or Philosophy or Psychology or Drama major, you are sort of randomly likely to do anything (18% management, 15% sales, 13% office work, etc.)


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 10:42 PM
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Ok, 117 was pretty much a lie. They throw in a bunch of geology that you wouldn't get in ChemE.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 10:44 PM
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There's basically only one reason to get a petroleum engineering degree: you want to be a petroleum engineer and live on the Gulf Coast.

See, that's the trouble with those guys. They lack vision. You're never gonna destroy the world if you think like that.


Posted by: Opinionated Nuclear Engineer | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 10:45 PM
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115: Yep. Though I thought it was interesting that all but one of the most-popular-among-black-students majors (misc. humanities) had sort of a community service focus.

If certain business majors don't stop snoring outrageously and let me sleep, I'm going to be even grouchier than I already am, but I don't think there are stats on that. There is no point having six bedroms if the snore sounds can be heard from any of them (or since I've promised to be on duty for all kids tonight and need to be easily reachable.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 10:50 PM
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I don't think 115 is right. The data is for people who have terminal BA degrees, and it shows pretty much exactly the opposite -- that there are huge expected gaps in earnings between majors and that they are not all the same. For instance, the median psych major has (IIRC) about 2/3 the income of the median business major -- even though both of these majors lead to a lot of people working in fields that they aren't narrowly trained for out of undergrad. So majors matter a lot -- that's exactly what this is saying.

Now, it's certainly true be that things look different when you are in grad school -- eg, all the "good" psych majors may go on to grad school, the business majors get MBAs, a few English majors that go to law school leapfrog the aeronautical engineers, etc. that would certainly lessen the relative strength of the engineers. Still, I wonder by how much. Engineers with graduate degrees also often end up earning a lot; most MBA programs are bad value; and with a few exceptions like law and business (sort of) the higher-paying graduate and professional degrees often prefer majors in the higher-paying undergrad degrees. A graduate degree in Early Childhood Ed (the worst-paying major) may give you some additional earnings advantage but probably not a great one. Majors are still likely to be pretty important.

Also worth remembering that these are aggregate numbers across all US colleges. Sure, you can go to Harvard and major in basket weaving and your expected peak median income may look like a petroleum engineer. But for somebody looking at what makes for a high paying career and is in the great mass of US undergrad education (I dunno, 95% of undergrads?) it does seem like picking your major wisely is fairly significant for your earning capacity. Obviously it's not destiny and any individual student can do well or poorly, but that's a long way from saying that majors don't matter.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 3-13 11:45 PM
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I haven't read enough of the linked study to weigh in on 115 v. 123, but my experience has definitely been that majors matter a lot more in the employment world than is apparent from the perspective of an undergrad. It's possible to get a fresh start by going to grad school in some cases, but even there undergraduate major can be an important factor in grad school admissions and having the wrong one can close surprisingly many doors.

(Having a bachelor's from a fancy school opens up a lot of additional doors regardless of major, of course, so I've done all right personally. But I do wish I had known some of this stuff in undergrad.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:30 AM
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My rich-white-people neighborhood in Calypsonia is chock full of petroleum engineers, and their accommodations are way nicer than mine. Also, when they come in-country, BP gives them a Land Rover to drive.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 5:09 AM
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Me, I had to buy my own 2008 Nissan Tiida.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 5:10 AM
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123.1: but you are, to coin a phrase, confusing correlation with causation. Actually, in grad school the case is probably much stronger that you are getting something like professional training with a direct causal relationship to income. In undergrad it might be a mildly useful synecdoche for aggregate level of giving a shit about school and/or making money, but that's all. The (non-engineering, non-computer science) major you pick as an individual has zero causal impact on your future earnings.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 6:02 AM
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Which is to say, Psychology majors probably (mildly) tend to be people who don't really give a shit about school and also don't really give a shit about making a bunch of money, whereas business students probably (mildly) tend to be people who don't really give a shit about school but definitely want to make money.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 6:04 AM
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For instance, the median psych major has (IIRC) about 2/3 the income of the median business major -- even though both of these majors lead to a lot of people working in fields that they aren't narrowly trained for out of undergrad. So majors matter a lot -- that's exactly what this is saying.

That seems like correlation/causation confusion to me. How do you know that it's not just that the sort of people who choose psych majors aim for different, lower paying careers than people who choose business majors? The top industry for business majors is finance, whereas for liberal arts it's education. That would explain a lot of the difference, no?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 6:15 AM
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Pwned by anonymity and by Tweety.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 6:16 AM
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Boo.


Posted by: Opinionated Anonymity | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 6:57 AM
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people who have terminal BA degrees

I worked my way through college*, and it did almost kill me.

*Youngsters probably aren't aware that there was a time when you could do that.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:00 AM
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Not that I even tried, but it would have been possible for me. Tuition and fees were under $2,000 a semester at my school. At one point, I had rent of $120/month. That place got a bit hard to study in because Old Milwaukee and seven of us in a house.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:06 AM
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The correlation/causation claim in 127/29 is, I think, missing the point.

It may be that the *education* one receives in any particular major doesn't do that much for your earning, or that certain majors attract people who are more driven anyway. That's not necessarily totally inconsistent with the study, for some majors, though clearly there are some majors, notably the engineering ones, where there's clearly specific relative economic value attributable to knowledge picked up in the classroom, and probably others (eg Earlly Childhood Education) where there's probably negative (relative) financial value specifically attributable to skills learned in the classroom.

But even if the specific education doesnt matter all that much that's not at all the same thing as saying "majors don't matter." First of all, there's clearly a signaling effect -- that is, whether for employers or employees, it looks like a person's choice of a major gives you significant information about what that person is likely to earn. Second, from the perspective of an undergraduate, you can game that system to your advantage -- if psych majors are largely (perceived as) lazy people who don't give a shit, it's to your advantage to major in business even if you're a lazy person who doesn't give a shit -- you can benefit from the broader perception.

Finally, it's nice pushback against the idea that just going to college matters, and your major doesn't matter that much. That's certainly a perspective that's pretty common (perhaps because it's more true, though not completely true, for the ultra-elite universities that get all the attention), and one that seems pretty wrong.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:25 AM
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And I retort that you are sort of missing the point. Maybe there's a signalling effect, maybe there isn't, but a correlation between majors and earnings doesn't tell you anything about that. Could it be that psych majors don't get the plum jobs because employers have a preconception that they aren't going to care about whatever widget manufactory is at issue? I guess. But it could also be that people do psych majors because they care about people and feelings, and jobs that involve people and feelings pay shitty.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:31 AM
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and jobs that involve people and feelings pay shitty

Massage therapists make good money.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:35 AM
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I said people and feelings, not feeling people.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:36 AM
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I deliberately misinterpreted a comment to make a stupid joke. And I'll do it again.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:37 AM
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Yes but if the issue is that jobs that involve people and feelings pay shittily then you can get paid more by majoring in something that doesn't involve those jobs!

To avoid talking past each other, let me put it more simply. Most colleges (I think) charge approximately the same undergrad tuition, or close to the same, regardless of major. But, what this study is saying is that college is a very, very different financial value proposition, from the student's perspective, based upon choice of major.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:39 AM
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Same for each undergraduate student at the institution, I mean.


Posted by: RH | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:40 AM
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Yes but if the issue is that jobs that involve people and feelings pay shittily then you can get paid more by majoring in something that doesn't involve those jobs!

Again, no. You can get paid more by not working at those jobs. If what you major in plays a causal role in your being more likely to work at those jobs then yes, what you say is true. If it does not play a causal role in your being more likely to work at those jobs then it doesn't make a difference what you major in.

But, what this study is saying is that college is a very, very different financial value proposition, from the student's perspective, based upon choice of major.

And, again, it does not say that. That would require a causal relationship, which might exist, but which information about the lifetime earnings of different majors is not sufficient to establish.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:45 AM
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Is your argument really that choosing a particular major doesn't make you more or less likely to work in certain jobs?

Again, there are a number of causal mechanisms that could be at work here -- either something internal to the educational quality of the major, some sort of signaling factor, or something totally external to the university, like higher paying employers choosing to hire particular groups of majors. I agree that the study doesn't definitively resolve those causal mechanisms. But, for each of these explanations majors *matter* -- that is, choice of a major is a significant event in people's lifetime earnings.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:54 AM
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But, what this study is saying is that college is a very, very different financial value proposition, from the student's perspective, based upon choice of major.

There's a pretty big assumption in there that the value proposition of a college degree is increased future earnings, rather than, say, a good education.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:56 AM
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Right, I don't disagree at all with 143. This is only about college as a driver of earnings, not about any other benefit. Doesn't make it useless to talk about, though.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:58 AM
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I think data that combines all schools is pretty useless because what students major in correlates with the quality of school. A bunch of low paying majors are things you can't major in at a good school. While for history I think part of what you're seeing is that students at good schools are more likely to be history majors. Similarly, part of the engineering bonus is that there aren't so many shitty engineering schools.

You need to fix the level of school you card about and look at the data for that level of school.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:59 AM
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Is your argument really that choosing a particular major doesn't make you more or less likely to work in certain jobs?

The argument is that the data doesn't show that the act of choosing a major changes your earning potential. The data could equally well be showing the effect of differences in temperament/ability in major choice


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:59 AM
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Is your argument really that choosing a particular major doesn't make you more or less likely to work in certain jobs?

It might! It could also be that your choice of major and the job you end up in have a common cause -- to wit, that's something you're interested in -- or it could be that the kind of job you want to end up in causes you to pick a certain major, but you could have just as easily chosen a different major and gotten the same job. Those are some of the possibilities that are perfectly consistent with the earnings data.

Majors "matter" in that majors are informative about what somebody's future earnings are likely to be. The question of whether they "matter" in terms of actually changing the likelihood that you will do certain jobs is not answered -- can not be answered, really -- by the information about future earnings.

Now, do I personally think that majors matter? Eh, I dunno, maybe a little bit at the margins in that some portion of people who randomly pick a major for no good reason are going to find that they really like the subject matter and want to work in it, which, if you decide you like people and feelings despite not having previously really had a taste for them could definitely lead to a future of joyful moments and relative penury, but mostly no.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 8:04 AM
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146 -- Again, even if it's a temperamental effect (which, btw, seems pretty unlikely -- different majors do train for different jobs, regardless of temperment) that's not the same thing as saying "majors don't matter." It just means that we'd then know that, say, being a psych major is a good proxy for being lazy or having a temperament that leads to low income.

145 is certainly possible but I'd bet elitism blinds us to the scope of the effect -- that is, there just aren't enough super elite students for this to matter that much outside of a small tranche. But I agree the study doesn't tell you anything about that effect.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 8:12 AM
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Warning to anyone choosing a major: Petroleum engineer is an extremely cyclical profession. And if a cycle has been up for a few years in a row, there's only one direction it can go. My law school class was full of petroleum engineering majors who had been laid off and needed to retool.

Demand for philosophy majors, on the other hand, is reliably the same year after year.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 8:16 AM
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I'd guess that philosophy majors are more likely to be in law school than petroleum engineering majors.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 8:19 AM
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|| Remember when I mentioned that the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina University would be coming for a football playoff game this Saturday, and the forecast high was 16, and that was going to be kind of tough on those kids used to Myrtle Beach? Now they're forecasting 4 as the high for Saturday. Light breeze, though . . . |>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 8:21 AM
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Again, even if it's a temperamental effect (which, btw, seems pretty unlikely -- different majors do train for different jobs, regardless of temperment) that's not the same thing as saying "majors don't matter." It just means that we'd then know that, say, being a psych major is a good proxy for being lazy or having a temperament that leads to low income.

Well, fine, but how does that differ from saying that choice of car matters? Or for that matter, choice of personal transportation in general? Using a personal jet is a pretty good proxy for having a temperament that leads to high income.

Also, lots of majors don't train for any jobs (outside of academia). Which is kind of the point we're trying to make.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 8:24 AM
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Clearly an English degree didn't train me to sign my posts, either.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 8:26 AM
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You have an English degree but aren't a lawyer? Unpossible.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 8:29 AM
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Regarding the sort-of-sub-thread about Psych majors: isn't Psych pretty notorious as the default major for people who have strong preference and just want a diploma? It certainly was when I was in college.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 8:32 AM
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It's true, choice of jet matters. People say it doesn't, but taking a private jet signals to people that you're interested in having money.

(I am pretty sure this reasoning actually gets used to justify private air travel. Also, it's actually kind of better reasoning than "choice of major signals to employers that they should give you money")


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 8:32 AM
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155: At my undergrad institution Psych was relatively tough and attracted mostly people who wanted to either be shrinks or do research. The default don't-give-a-shit major was (or seemed to me, at least) English Lit, or maybe Art History.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 8:51 AM
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I remember wandering around looking for a job before I fled to law school wishing that I'd majored in something slightly more intentional than Medieval Studies -- I'd sort of believed that majors don't matter at all, but I got the distinct impression that mine was offputting.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 8:53 AM
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147/52 -- The purpose of the study is to show that people who study certain things in college benefit (financially), in the aggregate, much differently than people who study other things in college. It shows that. The question isn't whether choosing a major has some independent effect, unrelated to people's personal circumstances or reasons for choosing the course of study the world economy or aptitude or signalling or anything else, that in and of itself changes people's earnings prospects. I agree that the data doesn't show that but no one is asking it to. The only point is that, for a large population, choice of study provides us with a lot of information about someone's earning prospects. I think we all agree with that.

Now, why is this different than buying a car? Well, people go to college, primarily but not exclusively, to get a job and obtain some form of training. That is the good that people think they are buying, usually at great expense. At least in the US, there is an enormous amount of pressure out on people to "go to college" with the expectation that this will help their future earnings. But, it turns out, what they study in college has -- for whatever reason, whether because it reveals their internal laziness or disposition, because it's poor training, because the skill isn't in demand, or whatever other reason -- a lot to do with their financial outcomes after college. Since colleges are presumptively in the business of actually adding value to people's life prospects, it seems important to at least have information about how the various courses of study translate into actual earnings.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 8:58 AM
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I didn't primarily mean "super-elite," which are a rounding error, but say UC vs Cal State vs schools substantially worse than a Cal State.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:01 AM
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158: Did you offer to show them your rack?


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:03 AM
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160 -- yeah, there I just don't know the answer. But most of the majors there looked loke theyd be offered at all three. For example, mykids preschool teacher had an Early Childhood Ed degree from UCLA. She definitely didn't get paid a lot and worked very hard, despite having gone to a school that's really hard to get into.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:07 AM
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161: Employers were very disappointed by the iron maiden.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:08 AM
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159 is fine, but the answer to the question "what does the earnings data tell me about what major I should choose?", the answer is still "nothing".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:10 AM
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Answer answer answer.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:10 AM
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I'd bet that History majors in CA are disproportionately likely to go to a UC. It's possible (even likely!) that there are pairs of majors where A outearns B at each of these three levels, but B outearns A overall.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:16 AM
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||
Work just bought me a flat screen monitor. Why, exactly, is a wider screen supposed to be better? It seems to me that it just forces you to look side-to-side more and prevents you from taking in a whole page or image in one glance.

I don't get it.
|>


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:17 AM
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From Halford's 159: The question isn't whether choosing a major has some independent effect, unrelated to people's personal circumstances or reasons for choosing the course of study the world economy or aptitude or signalling or anything else, that in and of itself changes people's earnings prospects.

As a public service, I have identified the exact locus of the point on which S. Tweety and R. Halford are talking past each other.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:19 AM
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You can have two pages of a document open at once if you have a wide monitor.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:19 AM
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But really, all the cool people have two monitors.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:20 AM
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167: turn it sideways


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:20 AM
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167: turn it sideways

Indeed. I have a 4:3 main monitor and a vertically oriented 16:9 secondary monitor which is great for having a document open while working on the main monitor.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:24 AM
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turn it sideways

Mine doesn't do that.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:24 AM
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You could try turning your head sideways.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:25 AM
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Set your wordprocessing window to whatever width you like to work in, and enjoy the extra real estate to have your email visible without clicking back and forth?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:27 AM
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164 -- Well, the earnings data definitely does not tell you "nothing" about what major to choose. You learn, for instance, that petroleum engineers have done very well recently with just an undergraduate major, and that early childhood education majors have not. At the extremes, if you're deciding between petroleum engineering and early childhood education and have an interest in and believe you'd have an aptitude for both, and want to make money, it provides (non-decisive, but real) information about what's the better choice for earning money.

I mean, the petroleum engineer/early childhood ed decision should be obvious even to an 18 year old, but to take a more serious example it suggests that if you're interested in earning money with only an undergrad degree, and have an aptitude for math, you should almost certainly look to engineering as opposed to a number of other majors you might be good at. Does it provide determinative information? No, but surely a strong suggestion, more than I would have thought without looking at the study.

Finally, if you're an undergrad, it suggests that people at your college will not do "about the same" just by virtue of being at the college, no matter what they study. I know that's a crazy thing to think but IIRC it was pretty common for college age kids to think so.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:30 AM
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Set your wordprocessing window to whatever width you like to work in, and enjoy the extra real estate to have your email visible without clicking back and forth?

Because more distraction is definitely what I need.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:36 AM
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For ballpark estimates, roughly half of California bachelor's degrees come from the Cal State system and close to a quarter come from the UC system. The difference between a UC and a Cal State is roughly 20K in peak earning potential. So any correlation between choice of major and UC vs. CalState is going to have a huge affect on the data.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:37 AM
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At the extremes, if you're deciding between petroleum engineering and early childhood education and have an interest in and believe you'd have an aptitude for both, and want to make money, it provides (non-decisive, but real) information about what's the better choice for earning money.

As would looking at salaries in the careers in question, which seems to be a rather more direct and sensible approach.

Again, the assumption is that you take a particular degree to get a particular job, which is obviously true for petroleum engineering but less so for most other degrees. What could be interesting about the data is if it showed that different degrees, ostensibly similar in being not obviously vocational (eg history and phiiosophy, or French literature and German literature) , in fact have significantly different earnings outcomes.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:40 AM
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Aargh.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:42 AM
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Cal State awards 34% of Biology degrees, 47% of Psychology degrees, and 84% of Health/Physical Fitness degrees. So there really is a huge relationship between major and type of school.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:45 AM
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179 -- it does show that to some extent; for example, it shows that "US History" majors make, at the median, about 25% more than "International Studies" majors. Now, why that is, and whether it has to do with the effects UPETGI is talking about, is unknown.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:49 AM
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181 -- oddly, since biology is a low-earning major, that suggests that prospects for (terminal BA) bio majors are even worse than one might have thought.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:51 AM
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For the record, because I know you're all keenly interested, I didn't ask for a new monitor. My 15-year-old, 50-pound behemoth was just fine with me.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 9:52 AM
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173 ??

Flat screens will usually physically turn sideways, with software settings usually supported by an OS to let the computer know that it's sideways and which way is up.

I have know two competent and unambitious people who worked in totally unrelated cpacities who chose bio because they liked animals. So, agreeing with those above who point out that aggregating all Universities trashes useful data in this exe4rcise.

Also, teo's 124 is a really good point. For working purposes, most people will be summarized by a few words in the mids of others, likely school and major at the beginning of work life. State Tech Bio grad and Cornell Classicist are like nametags, a concise summary of capacity and interest. It is for this reason that discussing the data as if this were a psych experiment is IMO misguided-- one of the main salient aspects (resume reader's response) is missing. For this reason, I think that a degree from a rapidly improving school is a worse idea than a degree in a new field or a handrolled major.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 10:06 AM
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I was recently offered a second monitor, and actually turned it down. In my current role, I don't do much multitasking*.

*That is to say, I generally call up blogs serially instead of all at once.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 10:10 AM
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184: You really need two flat screen monitors. Best computer thing ever.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 10:13 AM
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Flat screens will usually physically turn sideways

Yeah, it's the monitor stand that doesn't rotate. I'm going to try horizontal for a while, but I may cobble together some ill-advised vertical brace for it if I can't get used to it.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 10:13 AM
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But really, all the cool people have two monitors.

The least cool person I know uses six monitors.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 10:16 AM
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As for 167, at least for me it's more common to need to see two windows side-by-side (code and results, LaTeX and PDF output, etc) than it is to take in all of a page at once.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 10:18 AM
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It's not a linear relationship.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 10:19 AM
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You could probably rig up a pair of glasses that use mirrors to rotate everything you see. Or maybe Google Glass has a setting for this.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 10:20 AM
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192 is a great idea for faimly holiday gatherings


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 10:25 AM
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192: But if you wear them too long, your brain will automatically re-orient everything for you, so they stop working.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 10:29 AM
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Long enough is more than half an hour, I think.

An HS friend's dad made a pair of fully inverting goggles (up down and also left-right) and wore them for a week while using Chicago public transit and working as a night watchman/university lecturer. He looked like a six-four Phineas Freak before he put on these homemade slabs of prism that protruded from his face 6 inches. He looked like a low-budget movie monster afterwards.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 10:38 AM
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Is this one of those cases where asking "why?" isn't a good idea?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:00 AM
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Though everybody gets better at moving through the world, most people don't have their visual imagery flip back upside-up.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:09 AM
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I wonder if you'd habituate if you were staring at sideways text all day. Hey, maybe if you just keep your monitor normal and put sideways text on it, your brain will learn the rotation.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:09 AM
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At some point I spent a few months learning to read upside down. It was trickier than I thought it would be, as I never got up to full speed.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:12 AM
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The downsides are that you'd have to be careful when you get up from your desk, and you wouldn't get to wear any goggles at all.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:14 AM
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I'm relatively good at writing upside down, because I do it all the time in office hours, so that piece of paper can face the student across my desk.

The trick is to write the first line or two right-side up. Then whenever you need to write a "5" or a "p" or something, you just find one in the first two lines to copy. Usually you're not trying to write great quantities.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:15 AM
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199: I think it depends on when you learn. I used to read The New Yorker across the table from my mom before I went to kindergarten and I can still read fluently and quite quickly in English but not in other alphabets.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:16 AM
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I can't read other alphabets when they are upside down either.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:39 AM
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What you do with a wide monitor is that you move your taskbar from the bottom of the screen, over to one of the sides. That way you can trade some of your extra horizontal space for more valuable vertical space.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:41 AM
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Back to this college major/earning issue that for some reason interests me a lot, the study shows a median income of $86,000 for Chemical Engineering majors ($60k/$120k at the 25/75 percentiles) and median income of $58,000 (39k/86k) for Chemistry majors. That's a huge difference.

These are people who, one would assume, have fairly similar aptitudes and interests, and Chemistry isn't just a degree that's offered at third-tier institutions. Hard to read that as anything other than a huge premium for being specifically trained as an engineer.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:46 AM
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Huh? A chemical engineer hired at an oil company will earn the same as petroleum engineer. Only the chemical engineers might go into other industries, and the petroleum engineer probably won't.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:51 AM
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I don't see any way in which 105 and 106 are inconsistent.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:53 AM
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205: I think it's more complicated than that. It could be that people majoring in chemistry, for instance, are more likely to go on to graduate school, which excludes them from these numbers, IIUC.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:59 AM
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Or people majoring in Chemistry (a basic science) could be less career focused than people who major in Chemical Engineering (a pretty specific thing!) who pretty much already know what job they want.

I'm also not convinced that Chemistry and Chemical Engineering are likely to turn out to be very similar majors. I'm sure in both you take classes in chemistry, but.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:06 PM
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I was going to say earlier but I got distracted by work (well, a talk, but that's kind of like work): the only reason we can make such strong inferences about, say, the petroleum engineering major from that study (which we can! I'm not that much of a pedant) is that we have a really strong prior understanding that 1. engineering majors tend to be job training in a way a lot of other majors aren't and 2. a major that specific has to be something like a vocational credential for that field. Without that understanding we'd be left with the same informative-as-a-correlational-aggregate-but-not-usefully-informative-about-what-a-specific-major-does-for-a-person problem I was so helpfully trying to walk us through earlier.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:09 PM
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I'm also a little confused because I thought engineering students usually got master's degrees?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:10 PM
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I am so confused by this discussion. Of course being an engineering undergrad is necessary to earning an engineering salary. Engineering firms want precisely what is taught in engineering undergrads. They want the kids who took Strength of Materials, not some flighty physics class from which they could derive strengths of materials.

Engineers learn very close to what they'll use professionally, and professionals want that when they hire. There is no mystery about this, nor any confusion about correlation.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:15 PM
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Although now that I think about it I know people with engineering degrees from one of the UC schools who only got a BA. I guess I was thinking that because the U of Urple/ville had a 5-year BA+MA program they tried to persuade everyone at my high school to enroll in. And I've had almost no contact with engineers or engineering students since then.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:15 PM
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Why did I write "Urple/ville"? I don't know. I blame Vicodin.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:16 PM
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not some flighty physics class from which they could derive strengths of materials.

The compressibilty of any substance is of order atomic binding energy divided by the atomic radius cubed, so that's... let's see... alpha^5 times the electron mass to the fourth power, up to order-one numbers. What else could you need to know?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:19 PM
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Strength of Materials

Phillip Pullman really needs a new theme for his titles.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:23 PM
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213: You're welcome to hang out with my little brother next time you visit your parents if you think more exposure would do you good. They have the hard-sell Guaranteed Med School program too, and that plus the way they give(/gave?) full rides out like Tootsie Rolls at a parade always made me kind of uneasy with them.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:24 PM
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What kinda bolts do you need to attach that to the roof to resist overturning (not shear, shear comes next) from wind loads?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:24 PM
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212.last: and, indeed, nobody is confused about that. But that information didn't (doesn't) come from the lifetime salary data.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:24 PM
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What step is missing? The information that engineering majors go on to be engineers, and engineers are well paid? And there's no other way to be a well paid engineer?

Is that the information that is missing from the lifetime salary data that would allow you to connect the choice of major to the lifetime salary?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:31 PM
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That seems sufficient.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:34 PM
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Did you not know those things? Or did you know them, but you're arguing a stupid point just for fun?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:37 PM
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Can you not read or are you just obliviously self-regarding?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:39 PM
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I've lost sight of the current point of disagreement -- can someone state it for me?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:54 PM
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It's about how psychology majors are too self-regarding and how engineers argue stupid points for fun.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:59 PM
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I contend that the survey doesn't tell you much about why choice of major has differential effects on salary; for engineering majors the answer is obvious because of prior information we all basically have, but for the other ones it's pretty obscure.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 12:59 PM
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If we had statistics broken down by school, we'd see that Harvard students get paid well because they have high grades, which must reflect how industrious they are.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:05 PM
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I'm not sure that we actually disagree, as opposed to just enjoying fighting. As I understand it Tweety is making a valid but narrow statistical point that just looking at lifetime earnings alone, and noticing that different majors earn in the aggregate median incomes of very different amounts, can't tell you (by itself and without knowing anything else) whether or not choice of major is a totally independent causal factor that is responsible for the different incomes. And that's right!

But, what I (and maybe Megan) are saying is that if you combine that information with just a little bit about what we know about the real world, it's pretty clear that choosing many majors, especially but not exclusively strongly pre-professional ones like engineering, makes a big real-world difference in your likely income, and the numbers suggest as much, so if you're deciding between a few different majors that you otherwise think you might be interested in/good at, it's probably useful to know and to think about these lifetime income numbers, even if you don't take them as absolutely decisive, and to realize that your choice of major may have big financial consequences.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:05 PM
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I'm not sure that we actually disagree, as opposed to just enjoying fighting.

New mouseover text!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:07 PM
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228: But I think Sifu's point is that the table of income numbers isn't doing any work here; the conclusion that students who want to have a higher income should consider pre-professional programs is something we all already knew, and the table doesn't tell us much.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:10 PM
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It might tell us that petroleum engineers have a surprising advantage over other apparently similar pre-professional majors.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:15 PM
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230 -- It certainly told me a lot about what the size of the gap may be, and where it's located. Maybe it's just my ignorance, but I wouldn't have guessed that the gap between Chemistry and Chemical Engineering was that big. Nor would I have guessed that many (but not all) biological and life sciences degrees earn out roughly as much as generalist humanities degrees, or that generalist humanities degrees do (generally) better than psychology degrees (indeed, I'd have thought that both the life science and psychology degrees were more immediately "pre-professional"). Or that even the non-engineering physical sciences do so much better than the biological/life sciences.

There's also some interesting information about the relative earn-outs of different majors within categories; I would have expected economics to earn out more than sociology, but the extent of the gap surprised me.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:16 PM
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230: right. And for majors that aren't per-professional the reason behind the income difference is much less clear, and the chart does nothing to elucidate it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:17 PM
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Kind of on-topic for its educational and labor market-related themes, Yglesias continues to degenerate.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:23 PM
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More fun facts: "Mathematics and Computer Science" pays out at $98,000 median income ($75k/$134k), whereas "Mathematics" pays out at $67k ($42k/$100k) and "Computer Science" pays out at $75k ($50k/$100k). Also "Computer Science" and "Computer Engineering" have essentially identical median incomes.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:25 PM
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I think 230 is wrong. It's not "pre-professional programs" it's engineering. Lots of pre-professional programs (education!) aren't going to earn much. I do think the data is clear enough to support the "engineering is really special" claim.

I just don't think the data is enough to make strong conclusions about other majors.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:28 PM
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Yeah, I was wondering about the numbers in 235. I suspect there's some weird affect causing that gap between M&CS vs. CS. Because it doesn't really make sense. How many schools offer M&CS?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:29 PM
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This is making up stories, but I wonder if M&CS is a signal of increased rigor over CS? That is, a CS department may be training the "Have you tried turning it off and on again" guy, but a M&CS department is likelier to be training people who end up working at Google?

Obviously, anything like this wouldn't be universal, but a couple of big programs where it was true could shape the data.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:33 PM
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It turns out "Mathematics and Computer Science" has the second fewest people of all the majors they looked at, with less than a hundredth of a percent of students. So that data is pretty worthless.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:33 PM
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236.1: Yeah, I guess so. Medicine would also be special, but the focus on terminal bachelor's degrees keeps that from showing up here.

235 has to be some kind of fluke.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:36 PM
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My guess would have been that "Math & CS" would only be a major at a school that was too small to have proper math and CS departments.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:36 PM
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So that data is pretty worthless.

That doesn't follow. The question is what is the absolute number of people in that sample.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:37 PM
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Googling, it looks like that major is a mix of places where it's one department and places with separate math and CS departments that offer a joint degree to students who take enough classes in both departments.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:45 PM
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Re: chem vs chem eng - Pretty big difference, between chemistry and ChemE majors, in terms of knowledge base and courses taken, actually. At most places, chemistry is a liberal arts and sciences degree and can be granted as either a BA or a BS. Classes are often tiered at big universities (So Organic I for BA/premed and Organic I for majors). A BA in chemistry is usually for those who want to teach but need a subject degree as well as an education credential. (Probably most chemistry majors are teachers, not lab technicians.) Chemical Engineering is usually an engineering degree, with all the different general education requirements. The biggest difference? More math/abstraction vs more hands-on lab work and qualitative analysis. Chemistry majors who are actually working as chemists often perform fairly rote work - the field usually requires a PhD to be considered for promotions or independent projects. For chemical engineers, a BS is basically what you need to work as a chemical engineer in several industries, and anything more that a master's degree usually puts you in academia. I suspect the same generalization holds for similar sets like biology vs biomedical engineering.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:50 PM
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with all the different general education requirements

What does that mean? Engineering students usually don't have to take the same sorts of core courses other students do?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:53 PM
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245: Yes, that's exactly what I mean.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:55 PM
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Interesting. I didn't know that.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:56 PM
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My guess would have been that "Math & CS" would only be a major at a school that was too small to have proper math and CS departments.

Yeah, seriously, what kind of clown college would squish CS together with some other department in an ungodly hybrid?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 1:56 PM
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More detail? At my university, there was a Rhet/Comp requirement for LAS majors. Everyone had to either take it or place out with a high AP score. The College of Engineering required all engineering majors to take Drafting 101, but they had a different Rhet/Comp course run through the college that was intended to teach technical writing. Engineers were required to take at least three semesters of calculus. LAS requirements varied by degree and major, but even some sciences required only two semesters (looking at you, biology). Foreign language requirements were different, too somehow, although I can't remember how. Basically, LAS had quite a few general education requirements, and the College of Engineering had all kinds of technical requirements and few gen eds.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:01 PM
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248: Yeah, there are always exceptions. They also combine physics and astro in one big department. And, of course, they combined all of their buildings into one crazy labyrinth.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:02 PM
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I feel like this thread would be much more informative if we had a regular commenter who was also an economic sociologist focusing on the US labor market. Someone go recruit one, quick.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:05 PM
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250: Some of astro is combined with meteorology and geology, which makes much more sense.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:08 PM
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My son declared ChemE last year, and is thinking maybe he'd like to shift to Chem. It's not affecting his schedule yet.

All my suggestions that he take some geology have been ignored politely disregarded.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:10 PM
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This whole analysis neglects the effect of parking availabilty by the buildings of various majors. This probably varies according to the age of the building, so you're seeing that bad parking leads to bad outcomes.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:10 PM
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Here the astronomers are like a fifteen-minute walk from the main campus. Which is really annoying, since I want to talk to them more but it's too much of a pain to go over there often.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:13 PM
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And I think all the engineering types are moving across the river?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:13 PM
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I didn't realize that this whole BS vs. BA version of the same degree existed until moving here. I assumed that if you were at a school that offered BS and BA it would just be that the sciences gave a BS and the humanities a BA. It never occurred to me that there was tiering within the majors. How do people looking at resumes keep track of at which schools BA is an inferior degree? It seems really complicated.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:14 PM
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I think Chicago offered both a BA (or AB, or whatever they were calling it) and a BS when I was there, and the BS required some extra hoop to be jumped through that I didn't bother with.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:16 PM
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Wasn't Sifu asking about this as an undergrad, a couple of years back? He could graduate with a BA or do something extra for a BS? I don't remember if we found out what he did.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:18 PM
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I have a BA and MA, which is bad because it suggests I support college athletics at the University of Alabama and because most of what I do for a living is S, not A.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:18 PM
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254 The U here has suddenly had a 7-8% enrollment drop, which has effects rippling all over.* One I hadn't thought of: parking tickets are way down, since even students running late can find a legal spot.

If anyone knows a HS senior who'd be willing to consider a lifetime of wearing maroon & silver, tell them to get in touch with the President: he'll probably fly out and make a pitch himself.

* Salaries, intro classes in some fields, bookstore revenue, cafeterias, off-campus rental market, etc etc. Folks here are just glad they won the Cat-Griz game, because a extra home playoff game is worth a ton of money on campus and off, especially at the end of finals week, when students would otherwise leave town.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:20 PM
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I do agree that having BA/BS signify how rigorous the requirements are within a single major is completely ridiculous. Call the more rigorous degree 'honors' or something.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:21 PM
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253: Not sure what year he is, but the two diverge at junior year. A ChemE will keep more options open (especially in terms of independent research), since most people figure a ChemE can do chemistry, but a chemist can't engineer.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:21 PM
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262: "Honors" was disconnected from major at my school. You had to be accepted to the program and then write a thesis to get honors.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:24 PM
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263 -- Right, he's a soph. But not sure he really wants to be an engineer. Law is actually the perfect profession for him, but it's been ruled out.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:25 PM
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I have a BS which is on its face completely ridiculous, considering aptitude inclination or ability, but then it's Economics, and so perfectly appropriate.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:27 PM
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U of C had some GPA standard for honors (surprisingly low, I say as someone who had to look up what the funny gold star on her diploma meant).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:27 PM
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Well, there were university honors and then there were departmental honors. So you could have a BA, a BS, a BA with department honors, a BS with department honors, a BA with university honors, ....


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:29 PM
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267: That's right. I think you needed good grades also. This was separate from the Cum, Sum, etc honors. Or maybe not. It's been so long.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:31 PM
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I feel like I'm posting too many comments today and should be doing something more productive. But "just had surgery" seemed like an unusually good excuse to waste a whole day, or maybe even two, sitting on the sofa.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:35 PM
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But, what I (and maybe Megan) are saying is that if you combine that information with just a little bit about what we know about the real world, it's pretty clear that choosing many majors, especially but not exclusively strongly pre-professional ones like engineering, makes a big real-world difference in your likely incom

But this isn't about choice of major. It's about choosing a career. Obviously you're not going to chooose a strongly pre-professional major if you're not already seriously contemplating that profession. And some careers (engineering!) pay more than others (education!). Especially more than those that people with non-pre-professional degrees tend to be interested in.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:36 PM
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If getting a grad degree really does remove you from this study, I'd say that pretty much entirely explains the difference in salary between Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. More than half of Chemistry majors go on to get a grad degree, and as ydnew points out, those who don't are relegated to repetitive technician/analysis jobs that don't pay nearly as well as engineering jobs. Plenty of Chem majors make big bucks, but they all have Ph.D.s. On the other hand ChemE majors almost never get grad degrees and they still make big bucks even with just a BS.

Also, a fairly large proportion of Chemistry majors are really pre-meds in disguise. It is possible there are a few pre-meds who major in chemistry, but then fail to get into med school and be relatively unprepared for real chemistry jobs.

You could make an argument that ChemE is one of the most difficult undergrad degrees, because not only do you have to learn all the physics and advanced math associated with any engineering major, but you also have to understand chemistry.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:37 PM
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Grad degree does not remove individuals. Later tables refer to fraction with grad degree in 25th and 75th percentile.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:40 PM
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271 -- yes, I think we can all agree that choice of major is also relevant to choice of career. Majors aren't just free-floating courses of study that one adopts at whim.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:41 PM
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259: I jumped through the extra hoop and got the B.S. And now I have an A.M. so I'm just all about the slightly weird degrees. Maybe I'll end up with a Ph.B.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:43 PM
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273 -- maybe I'm missing something but I don't think so. Check out footnote 1:

Our study evaluates
the economic impact of
different majors only on
full-time, full-year workers,
and all of our data, with one
exception, analyzes holders
of Bachelor's degrees only
(those who do not get a
graduate degree)


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:46 PM
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I like the nice pattern in line length there.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:47 PM
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My son declared ChemE last year, and is thinking maybe he'd like to shift to Chem.

As a chem major dropout I'll echo 263. Reading Chemjobber might give some needed perspective.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:50 PM
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Yeah, that's very pretty.

Also, I hadn't realized it excluded people with graduate degrees. That definitely has to gum up the works!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:51 PM
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276: Exclusion of graduate degrees seems like it totally explains the engineering premium -- engineering jobs are going to be the highest paid jobs you're likely to end up in without a graduate degree. Almost any profession is going to involve a professional degree; lots of high-status jobs that aren't tightly related to an undergraduate major are nonetheless going to have a lot of people with some kind of graduate degree.

It's a comparison that's going to pull out most of the successful people in majors other than engineering.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 2:58 PM
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not only do you have to learn all the physics and advanced math associated with any engineering major

The response to this that came to mind is too snotty to post, I think.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 3:04 PM
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281: phrase it with all the tactful kindness and humanistic empathy associated with any business major.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 3:06 PM
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You are correct. What a stupid exercise, then.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 3:15 PM
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engineering jobs are going to be the highest paid jobs you're likely to end up in without a graduate degree. Almost any profession is going to involve a professional degree; lots of high-status jobs that aren't tightly related to an undergraduate major are nonetheless going to have a lot of people with some kind of graduate degree

Yes, this is certainly true. I wonder though if the relative groupings of majors by total income would change very much, though (the absolute numbers for earnings would of course change a lot). That is the list may still be a pretty good guide to earning potential by major even if grad schools were taken into account.

Many high-earning engineers also get graduate degrees; the lowest- earning of the undergrad majors like education (unsurprisingly) also have very high percentages of students who get graduate degrees, but those students also don't get paid a lot even with a graduate degree. There are a few high-paying graduate or professional programs for which undergraduate major doesn't really matter all that much (law, notably, and to a lesser extent business), but not all that many, and it may be the case that the high-earning undergrad majors tend, generally, to produce high-earning graduate students. For example including in doctors to the figures for the Life Sciences would change the numbers some, but maybe not the relative positions all that much in aggregate (the numbers already include nursing degrees). In any case, it would be interesting to find out.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 3:20 PM
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283 to 276.

Here is a rebuttal to the whole study:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGqHdHaY3D8


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 3:21 PM
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Page 8 of this report from the same people seems to include graduate degrees and from a quick glance it looks like the relative positions stay about the same.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 3:26 PM
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This paper, slightly earlier, also has a bunch of data about majors, including grad degrees, and seems to support pretty much the same conclusion about relative earnings from the different majors -- that is, the relative positions stay about the same, with the engineers on top.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 3:35 PM
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286

Well, yes and no. Comparing Engineering and Science, you get a large difference in salary for college graduates (~24k) but a much smaller difference for grad degree holders (~10k). If, as the other report suggests, over half of science majors get grad degrees, but less than a quarter of engineers do, the average salary for scientists and engineers are very close.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 3:53 PM
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That is, even among the total population of people who just get grad degrees, people with engineering majors still do better in the aggregate (and substantially so) than people in other fields, people with business . But there are differences -- among people with graduate degrees, economics majors catch up completely.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 3:56 PM
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289 before seeing 288. Yes, it looks like by going to graduate school physical science majors can earn about what engineering majors earn without going to graduate school (though of course graduate school has its own costs). But if engineers have graduate degrees they still earn more (though not as dramatically as much more) than the physical science majors.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 4:00 PM
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s/b "than the physical science majors with graduate degrees."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 4:01 PM
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If you assume you can treat median salaries as means (I know, I know), you can back out overall average salaries for the field as a whole regardless of grad degree status:

Engineering: 90k
math, sci, cs: 80k
health, soc sci, bus: 70k
lib art, law, ag, comm: 55k
psych, ed, arts: 50k

There's clearly a difference, but it's muted.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 4:08 PM
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But if engineers have graduate degrees they still earn more (though not as dramatically as much more) than the physical science majors.

But the distributions of earnings of those two groups are going to have really substantial overlap, so I don't think this is very meaningful. If our hypothetical decision-making college student genuinely doesn't care about the major except as a way to try to optimize future earnings, maybe they'll end up working at a hedge fund or something and making three times these median numbers anyway.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 4:12 PM
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Whoops. Made a spreadsheet error.

Eng: 84k
Sci, math, comp sci: 78k
health, soc sci, bus: 67k
lib art, law, ag: 55k
comm, psych, ed, arts: 49k


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 4:14 PM
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It seems like by now this should have become a food or a sex or a bike thread.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 4:20 PM
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Hey, let's everyone share their major and salary!


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 4:23 PM
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But the distributions of earnings of those two groups are going to have really substantial overlap

This is where the 75/25 numbers were helpful. For people with terminal undergrad degrees, it's very clear that the engineers (generally) do way better even when considering potential overlap; it would be interesting to see the same numbers for the graduate degree population, but I don't think they're included.

Obviously any individual student can do way better than these median numbers. My wife has a terminal B.A. in anthropology from a non-Harvard and makes more than the median salary for an engineer with an graduate degree, thanks to tons of hustling in a high-paying industry. But that's not a great reason to think that it doesn't matter financially if you major in anthropology or chemical engineering.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 4:50 PM
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hustling in a high-paying industry

Too easy?


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 7:42 PM
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Just easy enough, I think.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 10:38 PM
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Speaking of rich hustlers, remember those people who decided the best way to help the world was to maximize their income and give lots of money to charities, with a particular focus on one that distributes bed nets to fight malaria because it's allegedly the best return on investment in terms of lives saved? Turns out maybe that wasn't the best choice.

(Snark aside, that post is actually really interesting and a great window into the issues and pitfalls involved in this sort of approach to charity.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 4-13 11:20 PM
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