Choosing a major in college is hard.
It's even harder when Forbes tries to give you the magic (or not-so magic) dollar amount you'll make based on what you choose.
Every year, PayScale releases a ranking of college majors based on the average annual salary of people with those degrees. Business sites such as Forbes and Business Insider often write several articles about said rankings and what they mean. Every year, engineering, computer science and mathematics are at the top. Arts, education and humanities are always at the bottom.
Even if you were to pursue a major for the sole purpose of getting rich, these lists don't make too much sense. These lists are compiled with two averages: starting median pay and mid-career median pay. While there are exceptions to every rule, very few people have the exact same career trajectories. PayScale says geography majors will make an average of $68,200 in the middle of their careers. Michael Jordan, geography major, made $110 million in 2015.
Also, the rankings give the yearly salary without even alluding to the hours people worked or the amount of vacation time they had. People in banking who make six figures in their twenties are often working close to 100 hour weeks. Those details aren’t mentioned in Forbes.
These lists are pretty much solely used by parents, who then email the links to their kids with the headline “Are you sure you don’t want to reconsider med school?” Society needs computer scientists, surgeons and engineers. But medical schools are already competitive enough without making excessive articles about why they’re the most lucrative careers. Kids who have other talents are pushing themselves to unhealthy limits for classes they hate to try to get these degrees they think it’s the only way they’ll make money.
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