In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors Endure

Technical skills taught in college have a short shelf life, while a liberal arts education prepares graduates for jobs that haven’t been invented yet.

Comments: 205

  1. Unquestionably, the most useful long term skill is the ability to write clear, concise English, which aligns closely to having strong recognize and and interpret variable information coupled with the ability to think on your feet and summarize accurately. Ultimately one should be able to speak authoritatively on broad range of content and be aware of the impact of change on what we know and think we know. Change is the everlasting constant, which means that modesty, adaptability and fluency are permanent resources to be valued and protected.

  2. @Dwight You conflated two different skill sets: good writing and good public speaking. I taught both and they demand different techniques and skills. Nonetheless, I wholeheartedly agree with you.

  3. I'll say it again: that useless English degree I pursued forty years ago has been the underpinning for diverse careers, the most recent leading to work at a major jet engine manufacturer. This business of knowing how to put sentences together? It's a highly technical skill and it can take you anywhere.

  4. @K Yates Actually it's been my experience as a software developer that many people in technical fields cannot effectively communicate either verbally and in writing. The result is communications breakdowns, where key details for projects are not discussed or documented. The result is delays and implementing solutions that do not totally satisfy business requirements.

  5. @K Yates And I'm sure you're position in that Jet Engine manufacturer is designing the fuel flow systems and fan bypass calculations needed to improve performance? You wouldn't be working in HR or Corporate Legal with that valuable English degree, would you?

  6. @havnaer: Sorry to disappoint, but I direct a team of people who design jet engine maintenance training. Regardless, I don't see that these skills involve a higher degree of virtue than the skills required for Corporate or Legal--or for computing BPR, for that matter.

  7. "problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability." As someone with both a liberal arts degree and an engineering degree (a mid-life career change to engineering), I feel the need to point out that you're wrong about problem-solving and critical thinking being skills that are missing from STEM fields. Those two things are the essence of engineering. The value of the liberal arts major is what K Yates points out: the business of knowing how to put sentences together. This is where we fail STEM students; you can have the most innovative ideas in the world, but if you cannot express them so that others can understand, the idea doesn't matter in the least. Writing and communication soft skills are every bit as important as technical proficiency.

  8. @LH I agree completely. An engineer with a good liberal arts background and the ability to write and speak well can go virtually anywhere and do well (I'm a former theater major, grad degree in engineering). To be successful, do both. In contrast to the article, I'd also like to point out that the important technical underpinnings of a good engineering education (calculus, physics, material science, etc.) have been and will be the same, even in 100 years. The latest tech will always change, but the basics never do.

  9. @LH exactly, thank you. I'd go so far as to say (no, I haven't googled to find 'research' that support my hypothesis) that the internet and related technologies are indicative of a discontinuity -- that, it is now more important to develop, early on, the sharp, clear-cut, analytical thinking more likely to be engendered by a STEM undergrad education, than it is to develop the OTOneH/OTOtherH mind-set more typical of a liberal arts undergrad education. (Yes, yes, ideally, one should have both, develop both.) Another hypothesis: 30-40 years ago, a good HS education in the US meant good basic numeracy and logical thinking. Not any more. So, now one needs a STEM undergrad education to pick up those skills and also signal to the world that one has those skills.

  10. @LH I agree completely. What I find strange is that Mr. Deming bluntly states that liberal arts focuses on those 'soft skills' like problem-solving, etc. Seriously? Of course, it all makes sense when later in the article Mr. Deming mentions his 'home discipline,' economics. Economics is a bunch of theories, nothing more. The loudest mouths seem to prevail. Ever look at a flow chart of the various micro/macro economic theories the luminaries have advocated over the years? It's a study in soft-spot-in-the-head skills more than anything else. They put a little math behind it, but in the end it's all just theories, which they cherry pick numbers to 'prove.' But, I'm biased. If I had to choose between a well spoken economist and a silent engineer to be stranded with on that desert island, I'd go with the engineer. Not because the engineer is a better problem solver (although that's true), but because I'm probably on that island to escape Donald Trump--a problem I place squarely on the shoulders of economists. I enjoyed the article though. It makes me remember why economists annoy me.

  11. Being immediately employable at solid, high pay right after graduation, is a considerable advantage for the future, and for generally building a life with resources. English or liberal arts majors have value. But not everyone will make up a postgraduation earnings gap later.

  12. I have a nagging suspicion the salary statistics quoted here are based solely on people who are actually employed. Blend in unemployed and underemployed people, and I'm fairly sure STEM would come out on top by a wide margin. Lies, lies and statistics...

  13. @t From what I can tell from the media and friends, new graduates with liberal arts degrees are so overabundant that their supply far exceeds demand and many have trouble finding good jobs (i.e., those with a living salary, fringe benefits and medical care). That is why so many fresh grads are living back at home with their folks, to the dismay of all involved.

  14. @t Survivor bias!

  15. @Mon Ray It's not that they can't find good jobs. It's that the salaries of liberal arts degree grads are too low to be able to afford the high cost of housing and living. Think teachers for example. If you read the article, you'd know that the gap in salaries are large when 23-25 for example.

  16. It was nice to read this. A little optimism never hurts.

  17. If your career does not require constant learning, sooner or later it will be disrupted. I’m not sure if I see what kind of problem solving or adaptivity skills that liberal arts education better prepares you than a stem one. No credited computer science program teaches what is needed in the market, we are taught how to learn them on our own. Of course management pays better. But you’re talking about the tip of the pyramid while ignoring the much larger base. The problem of the development as a whole person approach is in its vagueness. People don’t grow faster because they take courses. Growth happens through a diverse set of life experiences, liberal arts major or not.

  18. A wide ranging education, I agree is critical. But also you must continue to learn technical skills through out your career. Pick up a book, read and learn. When I started in Finance, it was a mainframe computer, paper everything and adding machines. The first pc I saw, sat, gathering dust in a corner. I immediately knew the impact on accounting and started reading the manual and programming worksheets. Students need to desire to continue learning for years after the end of college.

  19. As a recent stem graduate who has a high paying job - my salary likely won't rise except for maybe inflation because I don't care much for work. I have a great work life balance and can tolerate my job but I WFH 3 days a week and have a stress free life at 23. I wish my peers good luck while they play catch up for the next 20 years. I have my life figured out and many of my peers in csci are like me with a salary that is closer to the mid career median. They never really will catch up from an earnings standpoint by the way. My 401k/Roth IRA/HSA will be maxed out for the next 20 years and theirs will not be. I also love that you think we can't solve problems or are incapable of learning. First of all, we do solve problems. Second, I don't need to focus on my career anymore so why do it? There is more to life.

  20. @Kevin I've been in many different businesses in my life, and people with a casual attitude to work and no interest in advancing their career eventually get shunted into a dead-end part of the business and are the first to go during downsizing. You may be doing well now, but you're still young - complacency is not a winning strategy in the long run.

  21. @CD Agreed. Also, "I have my life figured out" (at 23), shows the kind of hubris which almost always leads to failure. Studying history might help one understand that pitfall.

  22. @bac2a Please see my reply to CD. Also Just an FYI, I actually majored in Economics. It is highly quantitative (I took a blend of math/csci/stats because they are the underpinnings of economics) like most of the social sciences. I only took 3 computer sciences classes but they are the 3 that matter for my job - most csci circulum you will not use in the 'real world'. I went out of my way to learn these skills on my own. There is a reason I am making 6 figures in the midwest at 23. It's not because I'm naive. Also I would love to see David's salary statistics without all of the social scientists with masters degrees in statistics salaries included.

  23. Deming is spot on. I was a honors history major in college. Then I was a M. A. in international eoconomics and politics and, much later a M. S. as an MIT Sloan Fellow. My grounding in history, critical thinking, and concise writing provided me a tremendous advantage in my perapetic professional careers. As a Foreign Service Officer, my ability to think and write concisely provided me daily access, as a junior officer, directly to the Secretary of State and others on a daily basis, during the Congolese hostage crisis. On occasion I was able to make bold analysis that was contrary to traditional thinking. This proved critical to our hostage rescue. Subsequently, when I created international bond ratings at Moody's Investor s Service, my grasp of history togther with my MIT skills enabled me to rate (or not rate) the credit of sovereign states. Subsequently, I ran a national consulting company (part of the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation). My broad background outsripped analytic technicians. I recall what the dean of the University of Thailand's engineering school said to me: "My greatest challenge is to teach engineerrs humanities, so that they could progress from the technical to broad management." I could later learn technical skills. However, without a broad humanities background, I would have been single rather than multiple dimensional. Also, reading broadly during my lifetime has kept me abreast of t he past, the present, and, on occasion, the likely future.

  24. It doesn't matter what a driven, dedicated, intelligent person majors in at college - that person will succeed. I found this article peculiar in that the only measure of success was salary - is that all that matters? No comment on enjoying the job, work-life balance, benefiting society, etc. And it almost ignores that fact that averages in this context have little meaning give the large range of income.

  25. Physical sciences and mathematics are considered liberal arts. I've never heard of mathematics becoming obsolete. By the way, you don't explain if these observations are cross sectional or if you followed a cohort. Why use average not median? And as you almost suggest, do the analysis with social science and history ex management, law, and medicine. You also don't explain the effect of foreign labor - most, I would guess, are in STEM, diluting any advantage workers in hose fields would enjoy.

  26. The author of this article seems to think that engineering colleges are nothing more than advanced trade schools. Engineers don't just learn 4 years' worth of "skills" and then stagnate for the rest of their careers. Engineers are constantly learning new technologies on the job, and the problem-solving and critical thinking skills that are taught in engineering programs are essential to their success. Also, median salaries would probably be a lot more meaningful than average salaries when comparing STEM and non-STEM degrees.

  27. @Howard I agree and I suppose one could even be snarky and say this is the difference between liberal arts and science majors! ;) For those unaware, using the average can be deceptive because it is affected by the highest earners disproportionately so if you have a few "star" liberal arts majors who become CEOs, high-flying lawyers, etc. they'll "stretch" the numbers upwards whereas the median is merely the figure dividing the lower 50% vs. higher 50% earning groups. So the median is more useful for the average person. Now I'm not an engineer but one difference is my field - medicine -- values experience and acknowledges things constantly change. There are also multiple hoops to jump through to get the degree and years of training. Unlike some STEM companies, you aren't fired or laid off merely because of age. STEM companies - and not just their employees - suffer because they get rid of institutional knowledge and experience intentionally.

  28. what this is showing is those that become lawyers make more than STEM majors, but not those with liberal arts degrees that stay with starbucks or waiter/waitress job - which represents the vast bulk. Lawyers clearly make too much with their wimpy background - most would not be able to handle a STEM curriculum.

  29. @sh What this comment is showing is that some people with STEM degrees will never pass an opportunity to express their myopic and unbecoming sense of superiority over those who chose to study a non-STEM field. More fuel for the stereotype that engineers might be good at math, but their social skills aren't up to par. Signed, Someone with an English degree who is currently back in school pursuing a BS in computer science so I can make more money.

  30. @sh You're condescending towards lawyers and their "wimpy background" now until of course you need to rely on one to get through a divorce, get a will through probate, defend against a civil or criminal complaint or patent an invention. It's all well and good to be proud of your own accomplishments but why the need to denigrate a whole profession by comparison?

  31. All other points/comments aside for this article - a lot of care was taken to articulate exact average salaries for men, but not for women. Given that we know women are underpaid in most, if not all fields, could this please be fixed? We can't ignore gender disparities in this conversation.

  32. In my college years, I slept through most of my liberal arts classes because I thought they were a waste of time.

  33. I have a perspective that might be a bit different based on my experience. I received two bachelor's degrees forty years ago - one in engineering and one in history. Later I got a masters degree in environmental policy. At every step, academic advisers, employers and co-workers puzzled over why that combination of educational background made sense to me. The problem is not that technical knowledge has a limited shelf life (it does). But, any engineer or scientist worth his or her salt can transition the base technical skills to new technologies and situations. The most common problem is that technical problem solving skills, which are very sharply honed in university STEM programs, focus narrowly on technical solutions. That's fine if the problem is squarely in the technical realm. But few complex problems are strictly technical in nature. The liberal arts compliment the STEM fields and vice versa. I feel that the real problem lies in how STEM curricula restrict liberal arts to a few introductory courses necessary to satisfy a minimal requirement. Without depth, and especially without the acknowledgement of STEM educators and programs that liberal arts are critical to being truly educated AND developing broad problem-solving skills, we will continue to have STEM graduates who don't understand why more technology is not always the solution, and may create even bigger problems. Facebook, anyone?

  34. I think the main reason liberal arts majors catch up with STEM majors is that the further you rise in most organization, the less STEM skills matter and the more writing/communicating, organization, and social skill do. Obviously, there are exceptions, but the typical high level manager in an organization is not doing hands on technical work. He/she is talking to people, negotiating, writing emails, working on broader strategic matters, and dealing with administrative and organizational matters. For certain engineering disciplines, this happens fast -- e.g., most civil engineers are contract administrators, and that's something English majors often do better.

  35. In my field, my engineering degree taught me the alphabet for my career. On the job training taught me how to use the use those letters for the different projects. Technology has certainly changed over the past 30 years and have an impact on everything. You have to keep adapting. A strong background in writing skills is absolutely necessary in my job. Most of which consists of 90% writing and 10% technical evaluation.

  36. OK then, best thing to do: ride the upper envelope of the two chart lines. Enter the workforce with a STEM degree, ride the higher chart line (with flatter slope, per this article) for a while, and then switch to the other faster-rising one. (An MBA could help send the right signal about talent for the switch, so could many on-the-job experiences and appropriate training.) All good.

  37. Higher salaries in "management, business and law" usually require graduate degrees. If you want to compare apples to apples, compare engineers with master's degrees or PhD's to the social science majors with similar degrees.

  38. @L Wolf Yes, please do. My experience is that Manages with MBA's STILL make more than Engineers with MS and PhD's.

  39. Looking forward to reading the study/paper & methodology. From this essay, (1) it seems that they are only comparing people in full-time work, which ignores all of the folks who are NOT able to secure and maintain full-time work (much less likely for engineering/CS majors), (2) ignores life time earnings which are very heavily affected by starting salaries, and I suspect are far higher for technical grads, and (3) ignores the overall employment/advancement structure of engineering/CS roles - yes, many people start out doing programming and design work at high salaries. And many then move into technical sales or other leadership/management positions for technical companies, are you still calling these engineering jobs? I think you're characterizing this as "exit" from the STEM workforce, which is absurd because those individuals are very likely continuing to provide high value to the overall productivity of a company & the country. Not, for example, getting paid tons of money to be a hedge fund manager or lawyer - neither of which contribute positively to real economic growth/productivity. So, some flaws, but again, I'm looking forward to reading the *actual* study. I wonder if my two engineering degrees helped me parse this article, or will serve me in understanding and critiquing the study methodology. Maybe!

  40. @Mary. And you’ve numbered your salient points too! A necessity in any ‘effective’ writing in the work world, even if distasteful to some in the so-called humanities. Deming (how’s that for a famous name, but no relative it seems) isn’t looking at numbers from which important conclusions can be harvested. It would be a crime to wave this article at high school students wavering about college, or even wavering college students about to increase their crippling lifetime debt in graduate school.

  41. @Marat1784y W Edwards Deming? He put it most succinctly; “The aim of education should be to preserve and nurture the yearning for learning that a child is born with.” For what its worth, Dr Demings expertise was all about numbers and hard equations. Few people have understood how groups of people and complex systems interact quite as well as he did.

  42. I was an English major and now I'm a physican-scientist. It took me a couple of years to catch up with my STEM-trained colleagues, but now we're all exactly the same except I'm the only one who's read Hamlet.

  43. @Jstring: I was a physics major, and I read Hamlet. Lao-Tzu also ...

  44. @Jstring Nobody is 'exactly the same' as anyone else, not even two STEM-trained people, not even in a professional sense.

  45. @Jstring I'd say it is a lot easier for an engineer to read Hamlet than it is for an English major to catch up to a STEM major in a STEM field.

  46. Communicating is critical but so is counting. English Majors and social science students are not taught to understand mathematics nor laboratory sciences, and it makes them tend toward magical thinking because of the holes in their educations. The liberal education we offer is great but it's too limited because it really leaves people lacking the knowledge from the coursework STEM scholars learn.

  47. @Casual Observer You are assuming that English majors don't take math or science or programming classes, that the LIberal Arts curriculum is limited to, well, artsy things. But that is most definitely not the case. Most LAC's have requirements of sorts that encourage and necessitate broad academic exposure and engagement. And the Comp Sci majors at LAC's take history, theater, and music classes. And if you are a Sociology major who is doing any kind of research you have data, and data must be crunched, and so high-level stats classes are a great idea...

  48. @Casual Observer This comment shows a profound ignorance of what liberal arts degrees offer. I majored in English, but I also took calculus, statistics, biology, and physics courses. These were required by my institutions. Liberal arts does not simply equal humanities. The hard sciences, social sciences, and math are all traditional liberal arts majors. Students in these majors, along with humanities majors, must take a wide variety of elective courses.

  49. @David Mathematical statistics and physics with calculus are not what most social science and humanities students study, and even life science students study. Usually, it's algebra with physics, and algebra with statistics. This results in a limited understanding of the subjects and reliance upon memorizing. The urgency to press students to graduate in four years limits the curriculum.

  50. All this is music to the ears of liberal arts instructors like myself. However, the author takes it for granted that typical liberal arts courses really do impart communication and critical thinking skills. Liberal arts students are self-selected to begin with, and college filters out the illiterate. The amount of value actually added is therefore less clear than some people suppose. Still, there's evidence that classes with intensive reading and writing requirements can be effective at fostering the important abilities mentioned.

  51. This is a thought-provoking article. I was an international relations major as an undergraduate, and later got a masters degree in city planning. The latter was almost like two more years of liberal arts because, in addition to the core curriculum of planning classes, we were encouraged to go outside the field to other departments. Still, in both my undergraduate and graduate careers, I took courses that were quantitative. As an undergraduate, I took a year of advanced math, as well as a year of economics, which emphasized quantitative methods. In graduate school, I took a year of computer programming. The first semester got down to the basics of how the computer operated at the machine level. The discipline of programming still keeps my mind organized. I also took urban economics, which again emphasized quantitative methods. Grounding in math and computers has helped me to this day. I made a very late stage career change, through some miracle. My computer courses served me well, because I could grasp the new technology, since I'd been taught the field at such a basic level. The broad knowledge from my liberal arts courses gave me a grasp of where we are in history and the dynamics of how cultures work. And I must thank Mrs. Argus, my typing teacher in high school. Without her, I'd still be hunting and pecking on everything from punch card machines to personal computers.

  52. I was a liberal arts major, with an emphasis on economics. My wife has an engineering degree - computer science. We earn similar salaries (well above the median and average in our area). We both have to work hard to keep abreast of changing elements in our respective work environments. My wife is often concerned that a young, fresh college graduate will supplant her; my office values my institutional knowledge and skill set after 25 years in the field. There is no right or wrong answer; I would encourage all young people, whether in college or not, to study what they want to study. Jobs will find them - most of us don't work directly in the field we majored in during college. A good attitude, ability to collaborate in a team setting, and an openness to work hard and take on new challenges will help employability.

  53. Mr. Deming has apparently swallowed the employment bait offered by academia...hook, line and sinker. For one thing, most engineering graduates don't find jobs in their chosen profession. For another thing, the engineering skills taught in college really don't change very much over time. When I got my electrical engineering degree in 1984 from the University of Minnesota, it was pretty much a degree tailored to physics and electronics. And the math they teach today is pretty much the same as it was then. Don't forget, the personal computer sitting in front of you was designed fourty (40) years ago, when IBM did its version of the desktop PC. And that Apple OS X operating system - it started as UNIX, that was injected into the public domain in 1982. There have been incremental improvements, but the fact is, it's all pretty much the same stuff. It's also why so much of it is built in Asia now: the basic patent have all expired. Academia seems to push the STEM jobs because it keeps them employed and relevant. But the fact of the matter is their disinformation campaigns are only serving to destroy the STEM professions. And employment is now highly regulated by middle-men because of the Internet. Those with a few years of experience, the right politics and young families seem to be preferred by the system. But at the same time, those people are the least able to take risks, which is why innovation in the United States has crawled to a standstill.

  54. I really did not want to write a comment (since I am a little disappointed with the article). The article seems to treat hasty generalizations as facts. I will only mention a couple of things and will refrain from further entanglement. It would be wise to also look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for numbers supporting the various claims in the article (beside giving salary #s, etc., BLS also gives information on employment, future demands, etc.). Although technology changes rapidly, any worthwhile STEM degree from a credible institution of higher learning must also prepare students for life-long learning (changes do happen in non-STEM fields too). You cannot complete a STEM degree successfully (or be a STEM practitioner) without those same "soft-skills" the author mentioned. These skills are also needed for life-long learning. Note, STEM students study more of other fields than other students (like ones in humanities, arts, etc.) study in STEM fields. No need to try to downgrade STEM fields (where some of the points made are not even accurate) in order to champion other fields. We need to celebrate all education in all fields. Apologies for the long comment...

  55. @Dr. Professor "It would be wise to also look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for numbers supporting the various claims in the article..." P'faw! Typical Engineer - thinking that data and facts can be used to prove anything. " The article seems to treat hasty generalizations as facts.... " Which is WHY Liberal Arts Majors can catch and exceed salary levels of their STEM colleagues. Making arguments persuasively is much more valuable than being correct.

  56. @havnaer- Thank you for supporting my point(s) :-)

  57. This piece seems completely daft and devoid of, dare I say it, actual analysis. Firstly, the notion that liberal arts offers any kind of comparative advantage of STEM in terms of problem solving skills and analysis is strange. These skills make up the bulk of STEM majors, and for Engineering are quite literally the core skill that graduates are supposed to attain. Further to that, any credit worthy STEM program, particularly those in Engineering do not teach job ready skills that David Deming implies, and goes on to say will become obsolete. The key aims of most programs are to teach the fundamental science that underpins nature and the material world, and to do so in a manner that develops the student into someone who can look at complex information, reduce it down to its fundamentals and solve problems. I don’t think that will ever become obsolete. By all means, lets stop bashing the liberal arts and support its strengths. But a careful and balanced view is always welcome

  58. @Sam STEM does teach what you say but it is rather shallow in comparison to a liberal arts education. All of the greatest minds in science that you can name from antiquity had deep backgrounds in what we today call liberal arts. Think of Pythagoras, Newton, Einstein, Turing. They had extensive education in the classics that underpinned their scientific educations.

  59. @sucram65 Comparing the education of minds from antiquity with the education of the "greatest minds in science" of the present day is not useful. There was no concentration in science in antiquity. And Turing was educated in a traditional British private school and then went on to study math at Cambridge. He struggled in English at his public school and was not the best of students although excelling in mathematics. But any British "public school" (which means private school in American English) would have had a heavy concentration on Latin and the classics, as opposed to any concentration on STEM subjects, especially aside from math. A more interesting inquiry would be the educational underpinnings of modern leaders in science -- Nobel prize winners, and other widely recognized scientists.

  60. This article is pretty misleading for several reasons. Although it's alluded to, the impact of graduate degrees, particularly in business and law, changes everything. Also, the reality is that, although STEM graduates can have their technical knowledge fade over time, they are the most likely candidates to learn new STEM skills and after 5 years, they are probably managing younger STEM graduates, rather than being front-line technical workers. Finally, lifetime earnings of STEM graduates will almost always be higher than liberal arts graduates.

  61. @Fred Graduate degrees also cost more money, and even when he's talking about business and law, the initial salaries are lower. STEM graduates can pay off their loans much faster and invest sooner, which in my opinion gives them the permanent advantage over the liberal arts major.

  62. As a history PhD in the '80s, when an extraordinary number of my fellows were out driving cabs, I learnt just enough about computers to fake my way into reasonably well-paying tech job. I occasionally had to explain to my superiors -- who had all come out of military training or tech training -- that the entire point of my training was to ensure that I knew how to learn. That I could and had mastered their high tech world because I had learned how to learn - anything at all. That was the point. They didn't really understand it, but they kept giving me bonuses and recommending me for advancement. To me, the whole thing was pretty much equivalent to my having learnt how to type in Grade 7 - a way to earn a living when I couldn't do what I wanted to do. Mercifully, techworld moved on without me and I went back to history. I still know how to deal with a command line and I still know better than to type in "zap". Not bad for an historian.

  63. I have background on this topic. I have two degrees in Studio Art and one in Computer Science. I got my Art Degrees in the early 70's and my Computer Science degree in the late 70's. This means that my Computer Science degree involve putting "IBM Cards" in a Key Punch Machine. That sad fact fact not withstanding - I had a very successful 40 years as an Aerospace engineer working on aircraft avionic computers. You always have to be learning new skills. Now I'm retired and working in my studio! Point is - you don't necessarily have to only do one or the other - you can do both!

  64. The article says: "social science and history majors earned $131,154 — an average that is lifted, in part, by high-paying jobs in management, business and law." This is not a result of the liberal arts education, but of the attainment of an MBA, LLB, etc. For a fair comparison, look at physicists who go to law school - they get much higher paying jobs, e.g., as patent lawyers specializing in technical topics.

  65. @Darth Vader Yes. This is one of the many errors in the analysis. The article is a good example of Simpson's paradox (Edward. Not Homer). By using large bins to segregate the sample in two (liberal arts majors and STEM majors), he completely obscures all confounders in the sampling. It is important to make sure to control for all attributes in the sampling that affect the results. A more egregious error is illustrated in Figure A8 in the appendix. It shows that applied science STEM graduates head into management over time. This is EXACTLY the career path of the competent engineers: over time the good ones are the mid-level managers in engineering departments. It is wrong to classify these jobs as non-STEM since technical ability is a crucial part of the job.

  66. @Darth Vader If relatively few physicists go to law school, giving them equal weight with the larger number of liberal arts who go to law school is hardly a fair comparison. Further, would anyone minimize the value of pre-med education because most such people went on to medical school? That is effectively what you are doing when you say law and business degrees are not the result of a liberal arts education. Law and business schools rarely admit students who do not have undergraduate degrees. Although those degrees could be in almost anything, including physics, as you note, for many people, a path that leads through a liberal arts education to advanced degrees is the correct path for them.

  67. @rella You completely missed the point. Business schools and law schools teach technical skills and knowledge far above and beyond undergrad liberal arts educations and it is those technical skills that enable their graduates to earn those high salaries, not their undergraduate liberal arts education. If the liberal arts grads could earn those salaries in those fields, there would be no reason to go on to law school or an MBA program. They could just get those jobs out of undergrad. Clearly they can't.

  68. The premise of this article is faulty. Engineers don't learn how to be engineers in school. The primary thing they learn is how to think, analyze data in objective terms, formulate objective problem statements, and efficient trouble shooting plans. Over a 20+ year career I have never hired a single newly minted engineer because of specific skills they have. I have always cared about curiosity far more than anything else. And that is as transferable skill as any a liberal arts education will give you.

  69. @Groovygeek It is your premise which is faulty. And you've missed the point completely. I graduated with dual BA's in International Relations and Anthropology. I also have an MSc in Geography. Yet, my career has been in IT. I currently architect on-prem and cloud based datacenters. My liberal arts background taught me how to learn. Paraphrasing the commenter GWPDA below, I learned how to learn anything. I encounter lots of younger IT workers who came out of Computer Science programs but they only know how to process information in one way typically, and it takes a long time for them to unlearn and break out of the rigidity of their thinking that was hammered into them in school. A good liberal arts education simply can not be beat in the long term. That's what I tell my kids, and I'm a concrete example that they can look to every day.

  70. @sucram65 IT, that’s not a career, that’s a way to complicate simple processes.

  71. I would like to disagree with the author though I realize my view is slanted. Science & engineering curricula's main focus is to teach you how to learn. My engineering colleagues from school have nearly all become managers, VPs, & CEOs while my liberal arts friends' careers have typically involved industry changes resulting in resetting their place on the salary scale. The only exception that I have seen is those who went into the public sector. That seems to be one of the few paths to steady advancement & a secure retirement for the any degree that means I don't have to study too much crowd!

  72. My undergraduate degree was from the University of Chicago where I received a great liberal education in the 1950's. However, it never got me a job (possibly because I am female). My job teaching math was a result of my returning to school and receiving an advanced degree with education courses.

  73. What we need is to develop more education (vocation, community college) and job opportunities for those who do not or cannot move on to university or four-year college after the high school diploma.

  74. I work at a medical and scientific research organization. The majority of my colleagues are STEM-educated. I proudly tell them I was an English major and get a variety of reactions - incredulity, scoffs, laughter - all negative. Just today, I told an intern of my background and he said, "oh..." in a vaguely disgusted tone. Never mind that I received a large promotion within one year of working at the company...precisely because of these soft skills. I read, write, and communicate all day, every day. From my experiences with my colleges, most of them could benefit from the skills I learned as a *gasp* English major.

  75. @Margaret T I was a STEM major in the 70's. Early on I recognized the importance of soft skills so began to teach myself effective communications. It worked! I got promotions and recognition for these skills (as well as my technical skills). I'm retired now and I still use these soft skills every day. The technical skills? Not so much.

  76. Catching up is one thing, but I wonder what the cumulative earnings are by age 40? If STEM graduates had a greater cumulative income at that point in their lives, they would have had a much easier time dealing with student loan debt. Student loans are a significant drag on the lives of recent graduates, so being better able to pay student loans might create a better quality of life for STEM graduates.

  77. One important difference between STEM and liberal arts majors is that STEM graduates can bank more money early on in their working lives. If it’s as much as $20k more annually that the writer suggests that could be tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars saved by the time the liberal arts grad catches up. That in itself is an important distinction.

  78. What people are ignoring is that not everyone has the aptitude for STEM careers

  79. The real reason is not skill obsolescence. Technology has the same impact on liberal art majors - they use computers to do their work also. The actual reason is the imporation of hundreds of thousands of foreign H-1B Engineers and IT people who work for less. This drives down wages in the STEM sector for experienced Americans. If we allowed the importation of lawyers, management, etc their wages would be capped also.

  80. Many engineers I work with lack rounding or have never run a meeting under Robert's Rules of order. I'm a self-taught computer programmer with advanced degrees in political philosophy. I can easily pick up the latest programming language or technical skill on my own. I went to university to be challenged and to learn how to think critically. I studied ethics, languages, even a minor in music. Over my career, I've had countless projects that depended upon soft skills. Speaking three languages opened a lot of doors. For many years, I applied that minor in music to writing software for studios and theatre. I've developed and published major both research and commercial software for second language learning and instruction. I've sat on numerous industry and charity boards over the years, dealt with contracts, labour negotiations. None of those projects or opportunities in life would have come to me without a broad liberal arts skill set. Technical skills are easy to acquire solo (at least for me). Music, culture and language however requires immersion and community.

  81. Both the article and the comments -- admittedly, small, non-random sample -- lead me to hypothesize that liberal arts majors are more inclined to over-generalize from their own/friends' experiences. But, one swallow does not a summer make...or, to put it STEM-like, there's always a straight line through any two points, but, that doesn't mean it's the 'right' one (and yes, there really are multiple good, mathematical ways to define 'right')

  82. I am not sure the writer has actually taken computer science courses. I have a degree in Computer Science and graduated in 2007. I'd say most of the classes offered focused on problem solving, reasoning, logic, and math...not the hot topic of the day. A number of the CS courses I took did not even having coding in them and were more focused on theory. I am thankful for the courses I took on data structures and algorithms. They are foundational topics that help not only understand how computers work, but also those core concepts that software engineers of the future will always need. I am also in the position today where I interview candidates. We put very little emphasis on discreet skills (knowing one computer language over an other) and focus much more on two things. First the skills I outlined computer science courses focus on, problem solving, reasoning, logic, and math. Second, the soft skills the author mentioned, such as communication. While I think it is great for people to have an understanding of coding, I do agree we should be wary of everyone being a coder. I do not think liberal arts degrees would be well served by having some type of coding/CS requirement.

  83. I am a professor emeritus of civil engineering, and offer the following observations: Engineering curricula rely on a good liberal arts foundation, and further require critical thinking skills that can use the quantitative skills students develop though the study of math and science. Even though technology changes, core principles change very little. Many students choose engineering not only because they are interested in the subject, but also because they are able to finance their way through college through internships, avoiding crushing student loans. Their higher initial earnings help get them kick-started into the middle class. Finally, the "skills turnover" aspect seems exaggerated. Most engineers that I know relish the opportunity to learn new skills through continuing education, and are required to do so if they are licensed to practice in most states.

  84. Many bright graduates opine that where they went to college was not that important. If they combined passion with purpose, then a solid liberal-arts education should bode well. Even an ever-changing job market is searching for communicable skills and communication skill sets. Gender, ethnic and cultural differences will fluctuate, but our economy needs all the motivated, melded minds it can handle, from all over the place. Despite robots commanding a majority of jobs in the next decade or so, opportunities should abound for problem-solvers, deep thinkers, content providers and urban planners. All we know for sure is the constancy of change in our inability to predict the future for a five-year plan. Social media is a prime example at the moment, having seen monumental shifts in phones and tablets alone, especially since 2011. Doesn't cyber-security, among other enterprises, require not only a variety of skills but also diverse teams just to keep up?

  85. Engineers are some of the most free-thinking, artistic, and creative people that I know. The author of this article clearly is not an engineer, has not met an engineer, nor is familiar with an engineering education - which at its core fosters the valuable "soft skills" of problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability. It's an incorrect and ignorant assumption that an engineering education teaches a few current skill sets which the students learn by rote, and then become obsolete along with the technology as it progresses. Unfortunately, human resource officers in large and small companies share this ignorance and let these creative and empirically hard-working people go when a technology requirement changes because they do not understand the combination of intelligence, creativity, hard-work, and adaptability engineers will bring to the next technology. {And many engineers I know have also studied philosophy, literature, fine arts, and music in addition to being very knowledgeable about the physical sciences.)

  86. @Lorraine It's the usual line, though. I'm an engineering/humanities double major. 90% of the humanities folks I talk to think that all we learn in engineering classes is calculus and AutoCAD. I've had teachers tell me that "humanities will teach you teamwork" - I average as many team projects per individual engineering course as I've had in all of my humanities classes put together. There are useful skills I'm getting out of the humanities degree! "How to function in a group", "how to think about things critically", "how to deal with changing situations", etc. are not among them.

  87. @Lorraine I wish I could recommend this more than once.

  88. My take away as a liberal arts major, history/literature, way back in the day, and a career in data processing/storing/analyzing is that my liberal arts education taught me how to think, learn and respond to change. The numbers were the same but the pictures they gave could, and did, often and quickly change.

  89. I completely disagree that STEM fields do not focus on “soft skills” like problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability. Not only are these the skills I feel I took away from college with my Engineering degree, but also these are key competencies that are continuously evaluated as part of my performance appraisal. My degree is proof that I know how to learn, not evidence of a certain technical knowledge that may become obsolete.

  90. From what I can tell from the media and friends, new graduates with liberal arts degrees are so overabundant that their supply far exceeds demand and many have trouble finding good jobs (i.e., those with a living salary, fringe benefits and medical care). That is why so many fresh grads are living back at home with their folks, to the dismay of all involved.

  91. @Mon Ray all of my friends with liberal arts degrees have real, full-time jobs that require a degree. None of them live at home/work at Starbucks.

  92. @Mon Ray I hate to break your bubble, but in Asian culture, parents want children back. Children in Silicon Valley can save $50-100K over a few years to put a downpayment on a house. Living at home is not an issue with my family nor my other Asian friends.

  93. It depends. Two nieces both have art history degrees and both have very interesting fairly well paying jobs. No, they don’t make as much as a stock broker. They are happy and fully engaged in their work.

  94. the question should be who's providing more value to society in their 40s, the business person who's trying to sell you X or the engineer who built X?

  95. @Andrew that is an absurdly small scope of what business and non-STEM majors do. Also, how do you think the engineers are going to make money from building X, if nobody buys X?

  96. Agreed that technology has a shorter shelf life over any art/social studies. I can say from my experience that learning a new programming language is not difficult but rather extremely boring. After working in IT and related field for over 20 years now I get more excitement working with middle school students helping them with their real life problems. So agree with the author that it is inevitable that majority who started their career in high paying technology jobs will become stagnant and bored in their career and will look for non-technical skills to enjoy life. Fact is after reaching a certain age, I am not getting any satisfaction by building yet another app. It is also true that courses in Mathematics or any Science helps to develop the logical part of the brain and hence better problem solving. For those who are taking STEM just to earn higher salary are definitely the losers in the long run. Coding is now taught at Middle schools like music so there is no question that in the future coding will not get any extra benefit. STEM or not both require skills and perseverance and should be paid equal.

  97. I teach at an 'elite' university. Many of the students who elect STEM majors (especially computer science and engineering, and even economics) are first generation students, students from economically challenged backgrounds, and students of color. The humanities students tend, very often, to be from more comfortably off families, who are not being pressured to to major in something that will ensure a job. I think that, as usual, the students from upper-middle class backgrounds, or in the 1 % (who rarely take those majors) are once again reaping the benefits the American class system.

  98. The glass ceiling for STEM majors is the lack of communication and interactive skills. In our hierarchical organizations, rewards are promotions, but promotions mean people skills more than STEM skills, so the liberal arts majors have the edge in the higher paying management roles.

  99. I take issue with the idea that an engineering curriculum does not equip students with "problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability". The basic tenet of engineering is problem-solving. You define your problem, you evaluate your constraints, and then you start to solve. When your constraints change, you use your critical thinking skills to adapt your solution. You are mischaracterizing an entire field of study, and then using that mischaracterization to explain there is this trend in income. I do not doubt the trend, but I would think twice before implying that this educational system (WHICH YOU HAVE NOT EXPERIENCED FIRSTHAND) is the reason why this trend exists. Correlation does not imply causation.

  100. @Caroline Problem-solving in a context in which the problems have been presented to you, precisely because someone else has determined that they are amenable to being solved using your particular skill set, is one thing. Problem-solving in a context in which it is not self-evident what specialized skill set(s) should be brought to bear, and answering that question is a prerequisite to everything else, is something else entirely.

  101. @Rella. Not at all. Engineering and scientific problems are handed off as part of the process. You can’t get at some problem, so you always go around to other disciplines to help out. That means teamwork, always teamwork. Only some dreadfully isolated folks, philosophy professors come to mind first, have the hubris to imagine that they can address issues all by themselves. If you doubt what I’m saying; open up a few journals (the real, juried kind, please) in different fields and check it out. The difference is that we understand the limits of our own expertise, and have a good idea, because of education, about what other fields teach. Works!

  102. @Caroline I'm just surprised that so many readers agree with this piece. It's very biased and pretty clear that he has no idea what he's talking about. He's also ignoring the advantages of having a high starting salary. You can pay off your loans faster, which means you can invest earlier too. By age 40, who cares if you are on equal salary ground if the engineer has been investing much more for 15 years beforehand!!

  103. A rigorous liberal arts degree in any subject is tailor made for the modern economy that prioritizes critical thinking and philosophical discussion. However, I wonder how many liberal arts majors today are in fact pursuing a rigorous degree. I have not been an undergraduate in 25 years, but it seems that today's students often focus on victimology (a sub-field of identity politics) and activism. Such students choose to enroll as undergraduates with closed minds and an unwillingness to open them because only they are the righteous. I would argue that many graduate having acquired a narrow slice of knowledge without learning how to think properly. This is a pity, because many brilliant STEM graduates pretend that they operate in a vacuum and avoid thinking about things in critical ways. I asked my physicist grandfather many years ago how it could be that the Manhattan project participants could justify designing nuclear weapons. His answer? "They were only the scientists. Others made the decision to use the weapons." That was then, and still is, a cop-out. My proposal? Reinvigorate the sorry state of the contemporary liberal arts degree. At the same time, require STEM majors to study more philosophy and history.

  104. @BrooklynBond what's your evidence that today's liberal arts students "focus on victimology?" Just from "SJW" clickbait and assumptions? Students still have to follow an approved curriculum that includes looking at things from various/wider perspective.

  105. I think its a fallacy to argue that engineers/STEM graduates have to keep learning all their lives, while liberal arts graduates do not. High paying jobs in Management, Business and Law, do need advanced degrees in Management, Business and Law as well - not to mention constant, on the job learning, to keep up with changes and innovations and new best practices in their chosen domain. Also, engineers/programmers do grow in their jobs to be managers, technology leaders, and so on. They don't stop at just being engineers who churn out code. Did the statistics take into account engineers who got promoted into other role? Because, engineers do broaden their scopes as well, and don't stick to writing code lifelong.

  106. I can provide some anecdotal truth to Mr. Deming's argument. My father had a career in computer science and information technology from the 70s into the 90s and early aughts. He did very well for himself until the technology started moving in new directions. As his skills became outdated, he struggled to maintain his edge in the new environment. He retired earlier than he would have liked, partly due to the increasing obsolescence of some of his knowledge. I suspect some of the commenters here haven't had a 30 to 40 year career in technology, so they have yet to confront the somewhat bitter truth that it is the rare person who can keep up with rapid change after such a career. Certain technical jobs require specialization. Occasionally that specialization becomes obsolete and it is very difficult to pick up and start over when you are nearing the end of your career. It's much easier for an employer to hire a young, hungry engineer at a lower salary than to bring in a higher paid engineer with a slightly outdated specialty. I was an English major and have "soft" skills which, fortunately, have not diminished over time. Despite an economy where it is harder to maintain the lifestyle my father provided us growing up, I have done as well or better than he did. Further, as long as I retain my health and my mental acuity, there is no stale date coming for me. There are people in my profession having successful careers well past retirement age.

  107. If the author is comparing average salaries, the study is meaningless. The correct statistic is median.

  108. @Mr. Van Bet you learned that in your STEM classes, not Art History.

  109. @Mr. Van Correct, not to mention the other flaws in his analysis, already helpfully pointed out by other commenters. This STEM graduate is not impressed with the author's data analysis and critical thinking.

  110. @Mr. Van I, also, would have appreciated the median and standard of deviation- among other numbers, to get a sense of the data. But, I also want to see more qualitative data to get a sense of his point- not mere conjecture and informal observations.

  111. "By age 40, the average salary of all male college graduates was $111,870, and social science and history majors earned $131,154.." Huh? On the coasts maybe, not here in the Midwest.

  112. @Midwest Josh Did the author ever say that there was no regional variation? A nationwide average is just that. What is your point?

  113. You keep on thinking your analysis makes sense. STEM professor here to tell you that your math doesn't add up. That, and the fact that engineers have PLENTY of "soft skills", or else they couldn't function in diverse teams that include non-STEM partners Your bias is radiant.

  114. I am an arts major and my partner is an engineer and you could not be farther from truth. Salary depends on capabilities not age, and they are far far lower for humanities graduates than they are for those with engineering degrees. Professors also don’t work full time jobs so salaries also reflect that. I am a professor and I see the differences in my paid leave- 2 months of summer break. Can we please stop deluding ourselves about bridging the gap!

  115. @Apps yeaaa. I am a humanities professor also. I don't know what you're doing at your school, but I for sure am working 50+ hours a week - 60 if you include research. Perhaps it is because we are in different fields (I am a theorist)? That difference may also be a factor relating to the type of institution that sends your check as well as the level you are at your university. Also, the author doesn't say older people aren't able to keep up and, therefore, fall behind in salary, but rather that STEM majors have larger turnover and have to constantly retrain and potentially start from scratch, while humanities folks are building upon existing skills.

  116. Trust me engineers are working those hours too. I don’t know why we are comparing two different fields which have so many internal differences. Gender and age both make a difference as does race. I am a person of color who makes less than many of my friends because of my color as well. I teach literature so maybe that has something to do with it. But there is a pay gap and it is major. I would not encourage my students to think that humanities will bring money. Happiness perhaps, money, ummm....

  117. The average salary for male college graduates isn’t over 100k? This sounds false on its face.

  118. Programming languages are just tools. Engineering education is about fundamental concepts that do not change (math, physics, chemistry) and problem-solving methodologies. Critical thinking and creativity are key to engineering. I don’t know about other engineers, but I took AI courses back in the 80s. One of which was in the philosophy department. Engineers take courses in the humanities, too. Lifelong learning is important for all. This article makes no sense.

  119. I studied business, humanities, and social sciences in college. The combination worked for me--first as an editor, then as a banker, and finally as a foundation executive. I can't overstate the importance of good writing and communication skills--not to mention solid critical-thinking skills--in today's working environment. There's much to be said for a liberal education! Generalists are needed in our world. Robert Steiner Pleasant Hill, California

  120. @Robert Steiner It may be that I’m missing something about your educational system, but the ability to communicate clearly, and have solid analytical skills are to the core of STEM subjects. Generalist v specialist is entirely orthogonal to this.

  121. @Robert Steiner Bravo!

  122. @Mg I have nothing but admiration for engineers. My father was an engineer, and many of my friends are engineers or technical professionals. But the fact is that many technically-trained people lack the fine-tuned verbal, writing, and communication skills that may come from a good liberal education. Some admit to this. And some make up this lack by pursuing M.B.A.'s. "Orthogonal"? Please! Case in point.

  123. I'm not sure why there is so much hate towards non-STEM majors. Virtually no one goes into those majors with the expectations to make a lot of money. It seems from these comments that engineers relish the idea of non-STEM majors making much less money than them. Why such schadenfreude? What's wrong with a history major making 6 figures?

  124. Sorry most technical people update their experience ove their lifetime. Scientist are always reading. This is especially true of people working in high tech fields. I don't understand why people feel STEM is mutually exclusive with other liberal arts. I was a science mayor, Biology, but have considerable coursework in Anthropology and German literature. I do not believe I was that unusual.

  125. About time this kind of thing is mentioned.

  126. According to the NYT, the average lifetime earnings of a liberal arts major is $2.5M. For computer science and various engineering majors it between $3.5M to $4M. That's a big difference. Catching up approximately 20 years later is not really catching up. "For students chasing lasting wealth, the best choice of a college major" is pretty obvious. The author should have done his research. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/03/education/edlife/choosing-a-college-major.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Feducation&action=click&contentCollection=education®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront

  127. Mr Getty (of Getty Oil) was once asked why he hired Classics majors to run his oil company. His answer?: "Because they sell more oil."

  128. Yet another "liberal arts are better than STEM" article. You know it must be packed with vague statements. "A liberal arts education fosters valuable “soft skills” like problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability" Any engineer who has swam in the deep side of pool with Calc 1-3, DE, Linear Algebra, Probability, Thermodynamics, Transport Theory, Fluid Mechanics, E&M Theory, Modern Physics, Materials Sciences, Fourier Analysis, etc, etc., with a good dose of Humanities knows a LOT more about critical thinking and adaptability that you'd care to imagine. These are NOT flavor of the month classes, but deep core subjects that are the underpinnings of the modern world.

  129. @HistoryRhymes Fantastic comment. So few people realize and know how hard it is to become a mechanical, electrical or chemical engineer. I am going through the engineering journey now and it is very difficult. I just finished DE and realized that I likely have nearly as much math under my belt than the author of this article, Dave Deming, decidedly a non-engineer.

  130. @HistoryRhymes "...Any engineer who has swam in the deep side of pool with Calc 1-3, DE, Linear Algebra, Probability, Thermodynamics, Transport Theory, Fluid Mechanics, E&M Theory, Modern Physics, Materials Sciences, Fourier Analysis, etc, etc...." Back when I was in College, the washout rate for Engineers was well over 50% due to the complexity of these subjects. Typical Engineering grads had to attend 5 years to graduate with a BS degree, partly because the required technical curriculum required 4 years and General Education and non-technical electives had to be added on top. Where does a STEM student find time to fit in the FUN electives from Liberal Arts and Social Studies? He doesn't.

  131. Please do a study of Liberal Arts -STEM Colleges like Berea College (www.berea.edu) and then revisit your assumptions. Nit all technically inclined people are oblivious to the arts and not all artistically inclines people avoid Science and Technology. This is box thinking at its best.

  132. "A liberal arts education fosters valuable “soft skills” like problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability. " The same is absolutely true for a good STEM education.

  133. Baloney. A word I seldom use. Aside from the basic idea that a so-called liberal arts education really instills much that high school has not already developed in a person so inclined, which is both non-quantifiable and likely unsupportable, the author neglects entirely the effect of higher initial salary on lifetime income and savings. Also prominent is the the tired old mythology that technically-oriented folk are notably deficient in written and verbal skills, and therefore make poor managers. Yes, many of my old MIT classmates would today be classified as somewhere ‘on the spectrum’ and were scared silly by having to take freshman English, but in truth, today’s business world is vitally concerned with being able to understand statistics, quantitation, and predictive models. The idea that a manager’s ability to pull up a phrase from the great books qualifies as important is largely a British hallucination at this point. Clear writing also has lost much of its importance, even in the Times, which today is pretty sloppy about editing. In the business world, phrases, bullet points and tech jargon represent effectiveness. Even decades ago, my first exposure to a large company was surprise that nobody cared at all about ‘good writing’. Beyond that, it’s pretty clear that the money you make early on is worth far more than what you get after 40, when, in truth, most educational credentials matter not, and anybody can get kicked to the curb.

  134. There is a big difference between STEM education at a 4-year university and the many coding schools and certification programs that have sprung up to teach tech and coding skills. Yes, programming languages do change and become obsolete, but the fundamentals of computer science taught at university changes much more slowly and with the the fundamentals, it's much easier to navigate the year by year changes in technology. And not to knock the liberal arts (i minored in a few), critical thinking and problem solving are part of the foundation of a good STEM degree.

  135. Honestly, if you want the best of both worlds study architecture as an undergrad. Trained architects have the combo of engineering and broader liberal arts all underpinned by creative problem solving.

  136. Generally agree. I was a history and literature major in in the 1960s and completed a PhD in intellectual history. I taught at the university level for fourteen years, spent twelve years as an investment banker, five years in public education, and now am working toward retirement after almost twenty-five years as a chaplain. It has been an adventure that I began with a liberal arts education as an undergraduate and graduate student. What is all too often forgotten is that science and engineering are an art.

  137. @Oldgus Wow! Where did you get a PhD in Intellectual History? I majored in Intellectual History at the University of Rochester, graduating PBK in 1965, taking courses from the likes of Hayden White. Minored in Fine Arts and Comp Lit, was editor-in-chief of the university newspaper, became a US Naval Officer for five years (I'm French), and then got an MBA at Stanford. Could always think circles around the STEM graduates. Did investment banking for 20-plus years and retired. I'll take a liberal arts graduate as a new hire any day of the week.

  138. @Chris Wyser-Pratte "Could always think circles around the STEM graduates". Precisely, as liberal arts education is inherently discursive and circuitous and STEM education is all about rigor and precision (which nevertheless allows for the creation of broader society: biotech, aerospace, civil engineering etc). Investment Banking is primarily a career of acting as a pure functionary. It is a highly remunerative career, but does not inherently create anything of tangible valuable. You make money for other people, and get paid a lot of money. If one can put numbers into spreadsheets and look and sound intelligible, one can be an investment banker. It is not Rocket Science, hence, why many college Ivy League football players, who may very well have CTE, are recruited en masse as investment bankers. In my career, Biostat, I have never met one former Varsity athlete of a helmet sport. I deal with numbers, but unlike an investment banker, I understand the high science and intersection of genomics and statistics to enable the creation of life-saving drugs. I get paid much less than an investment banker, yet my true value to society is worth several hundred investment bankers.

  139. As I've told my engineering students over the years, "There is no shortage of people figuring out how do do something, but there is a dire shortage of people asking if it's the best something we should be doing."

  140. If the author had STEM math skills he would know that the higher initial earnings (that can be saved and invested for decades) are much more valuable than parity or higher earnings later in life. The author should plot two side by side individuals, exiting college with say $40K in student loans, $40K in living expenses/year, and investing the excess earnings after student loans paid at 8% gains per year. He will find out that the STEM graduate would end up massively ahead in lifetime earnings, wealth accumulation, financial security, etc. In fact, he will find out that id the STEM graduate "retired" at 45, and the liberal arts graduate continued to work till 65, the STEM graduate would still be ahead. Yes, early on earnings are *that* important. Do the math (if you can) and you will see.

  141. Computer scientists and engineers may often mischaracterize liberal educations, this article is just plain wrong about STEM educations. Skills change, but the foundations rarely do. Someone who understand computer science can pick up the latest language or tool or architecture or whatever else. Also, I took several "AI" and machine learning courses prior to 2003. Maybe Dr. Ng's specific course didn't exist at Stanford until 2003, but there were many prior AI courses there. Larry Page and Sergey Brin were PhD students in AI and HCI. The article might have a good point buried in it, but it's hidden by many mischaracterizations and outright falsehoods.

  142. A major flaw in this author's analysis is in failing to adjust for differences in Survivor Bias between STEM graduates and liberal arts graduates. It is undisputable that a much higher percentage of STEM graduates actually get jobs in their professions versus liberal arts graduates who too frequently experience employment disappointments. It is almost a cliché to mention the legions of, say, graduates in social studies, the arts, journalism, etc. whose job asperations have been thwarted because of a lack of demand.

  143. @Leonard Miller Lack of job demand is not a reflection of the value of the liberal arts education. It is a measure of the failure of our culture to recognize the value of the broad bank of learning in question.

  144. @julia Also, did the analysis separate by ethnicity and race. As is well known, the STEM fields are disproportionately represented by Asians, Indians and other cultures, often from recent immigrant families, who would not rank high on the communications and other western-centric attributes that this author seems to associate with liberal arts success. As David Brooks once demeaningly said, what do they know about the Enlightenment.

  145. One of my saddest memories from college was of a student reacting angrily to our required "Cultural Analysis" course: "I know they're just trying to make us better people. Well, THAT'S NOT WHY I CAME HERE."

  146. That Engineering degree I got in the 80's that turned into a coding career is still going strong. No, I don't use the same tools I used back then. Yes, I worked hard to stay up-to-date and relevant. Hard to argue with a household income at > 90th percentile for the U.S. while doing what I love based on a solid education in the fundamentals of STEM.

  147. I was an English major. Reading has given me many many hours of pleasure and solace in my life. I made a good living as a writer. You’d be surprised. Speeches, annual reports, marketing and fund raising materials, company communications to various constituents, proposals, project summaries. Along the way I earned my MBA. Retired, earned an MFA in poetry. Taught writing (research papers) at a local college for 15 years. If you can write, you will always have a job.

  148. @Zejee I agree. I have been a technical editor/writer for 28 years. It also has the benefit of being a good profession for a working mother.

  149. In 2015 Georgetown Univ. published a study that closely touches on this subject of this column titled," The Economic Value of College Majors" On the main point in this column of the career value of STEM vs. liberal arts majors they reported median starting wages of $43k for the former and $37k for the latter. At mid-career, however, the differential median wages were $76k for STEM majors vs. $51k for liberal arts majors. Clearly, STEM majors do far better than liberal arts majors if wages is the measure, but wages is only one measure of the value of a field, satisfaction, or even passion, for a chosen field is the other and in that regard any field of study may have the greater long term value for those drawn to them.

  150. History is not a good measure. The liberal arts folks are being weeded out. As a liberal arts graduate in a STEM field, I can assure you that people with technical degrees get past HR, while liberal arts people do not. Yesterday's business people could be from liberal arts. Today, you need a technical degree to do marketing or project/program management. This is true even for generalists in math or biology; if you don't have advanced work in the subject matter (or a patron investor who wants you as their inside proxy), you can forget about leadership roles. This is the nature of productivity: the only value-add products from the US are increasingly narrow engineering or integration niches. Those will evaporate as well, since China graduates 10X the STEM leaders we do and has plenty of capital now.

  151. @we Tp Your good points reinforce the transitory nature of having tech training alone. Obviously some balance in hard and soft skills is the real key. But its also clear to many industry leaders and visionaries at Caltech, MIT, etc that the worrisome decline in innovation in US (as reflected in steady slowing of productivity in recent years) is connected with the increase in hard STEMsters in more leadership roles. The well rounded (had some social science and liberal arts) STEM grads are the more successful.

  152. STEM majors who leave their technical jobs (high exit rates) are leaving them for managerial jobs that generally also require the original technical credentials. These are higher paying than technical jobs or most managerial jobs. That data seems to have been left out; the study is comparing a lifetime of jobs by Arts and Science majors with jobs held from ages 25-40 by STEM majors. This is not an apples to apples comparison. Does a chemical engineer who becomes a manager earn more than an English major who becomes a manager? Yes, because he's generally in a managerial position that requires a chemical engineer, and because he was promoted from his high paying engineer's job to get there. Highly selective data gathering here, it seems. And please: "A liberal arts education fosters valuable 'soft skills' like problem-solving". I'd rather have an engineer do my problem solving. STEM majors do not spend most of their time in school learning about specific technologies. They learn how to communicate about and manipulate the physical universe using the tools of math and science. Those skills do not suddenly disappear. Calculus, physics and chemistry don't suddenly get modified. Most of the knowledge conveyed is universal and unchanging. Their degree taught them how to communicate and learn about science, which allows them to pick up new technologies as needed. Are you better prepared for life and work having learned post-modern literary criticism? I think not.

  153. @Tom Meadowcroft I suppose it depends on the problems you want solved. "What is beauty", for example, is a philosophy problem. I can't do much for that. "How much concrete do I need to make this building stable" is an engineering problem. But there's a lot more people who are willing to pay to find out how much concrete they need to make their building stable than there are people willing to pay to examine what beauty is.

  154. @Tom Meadowcroft Not necessarily. Interest and talent count heavily in a fulfilling life’s choices.

  155. What's with the race and gender dynamics in the image? Is this supposed to be a story to encourage white men who like to read as opposed to darker men who don't?

  156. Why compare averages? How good does such a statistic get approved by NYTimes? NYTimes, it is clear that your building is full of non-STEM employees with poor Math skills. You should use Median, not average. When you use average or mean, you imply that if incomes were equally divided among the population, an individual on average will earn xyz dollars. With Mean, you are able to tell, 50% earn below xyz dollars, 50% earn above xyz dollars. In such a study, median reflects upon the economic well being of the labor class, while averages and mean reflect upon the economic well being of the industry.

  157. Oh you came SO close, barely touching on one of the main reasons why STEM salaries stagnate. H1B, baby. STEM Graduates from the U.S. have to compete with the entire planet, not just their peers in this country. There are millions of STEM professionals in China and India, thousands in the Philippines, Eastern Europe, and Africa - and EVERY ONE of them is eligible for jobs in the U.S. through the H1B program, typically at lower salaries than offered to Americans. Don't get me wrong, these foreign Engineers are VERY good; and when you can get one with a Master's or PhD for the price of an American with a BS, what company wouldn't jump at the chance? And it doesn't help that Mr. Deming furthers the impression that all Engineers are socially and emotionally incompetent; incapable of leading or even dealing with actual human beings. Each one of us is portrayed as Sheldon Cooper (or, if H1B, Raj Kuthrapali). I used to encourage students to enter STEM fields. With few exceptions, I don't any longer. Better for them to become Attorneys or Bankers. The study is easier and the financial rewards are greater. And as Mr. Deming points out - even graduates with "frivolous" degrees, like Art History or Communications are ultimately propelled past Engineers to become their substantially better paid bosses. What most surprises my foreign-educated colleagues when they come here is how little respect Engineers get. We're the Rodney Dangerfields of the professions.

  158. @havnaer - H1B does not drive salaries down as they represent a small fraction of the workforce (85K visas a year only). What drives salaries down if you are a 40-year old programmer is that you are competing with a 22-year old coming out of school with better skills. But I do agree - engineering and the sciences have very little respect in the US. That is why the field is filled with immigrants. And these are the same immigrants who are behind the startups in this country...

  159. "Offshoring" is the problem more than H1B. My IT job went overseas. Thanks IBM.

  160. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing, like a real engineering degree to solidify critical thinking, problem solving, and adaptability. While the constant changing of current practices in our digital world is certainly a problem for those who work in 'tech,' required skills do not change weekly for traditional engineering disciplines like chemical engineering, structural engineering, mechanical engineering, etc. In fact, you are not much use in those disciplines until you have a few years under your belt. Lumping software development and a good deal of what's called 'computer science' together with the rest of engineering is a mistake. There are many disciplines of engineering where years of experience are necessary and valued. The same applies to the pure sciences. That said, young people should not feel pressured to enter STEM disciplines...the rigor involved is not for everyone. Another thing to consider is that money in hand at the start of any career, whether to pay off those pesky loans required to obtain both the BA and BS, or to save for a house, or to provide for a family, is way better than waiting until you're forty. That's pretty simple math....something we engineers are pretty good at.

  161. @CF What the author ignores is that by the time both groups reach 40 years old, the STEM majors will have earned $ 120,000 - $ 140,000 more than the Liberal Arts Majors, based upon the numbers in the article. Then they both earn approximately the same later in life. Further, the $ 120,000 - $ 140,000 is worth more in inflation adjusted dollars. $100 in 2001 is worth $144 in 2019, adjusted for inflation. So $130,000 in additional earnings for someone that graduated in 2001 would yield about $ 160,000 additional by the time that the Liberal Arts Major equalizes in salary now. ($130,000 x 1.22 on average assuming a constant inflation rate and a constant rate of convergence of the two salary scales). But numbers don't seem to be the author's strong point. Are the numbers for Computer Science and Engineering salaries based upon the college major or upon the average salary in that field? What about the engineers that become lawyers or managers? Liberal Arts Majors don't have a monopoly on that career path. Seems to be trying to justify a decision to major in a Liberal Arts Field in college with some very questionable logic and questionable numbers.

  162. Engineering and applied science requires exceptional communication skills. Some of the most effective and thoughtful communicators I have come across are from engineering and applied science. The have to be excellent communicators to integrate their sophisticated technologies into businesses. This article seems like STEM bashing. Further, engineering and applied science generates about as many CEOs as any other field. Are these not included in the average? Another issue here is the nature of the earnings. In the US, law school requires four years of college. In many other rich countries its high school to law school. Yes, this drives their salaries lower, but it also gives their citizens much better access to legal services. I recall the US ranks about 65th for access to civil legal services. Embarrassing.

  163. As a personal project, I've started digging into data when I read articles on the NYTimes and other publications. Here, I've tried to reproduce and verify the salary claims. I followed the link to the the census survey provided, but it's unclear how and where the data comparing mid career with early career salary was determined by major. The link provided goes to the general "American Community Survey", but it's unclear which specific data set was used to generate the numbers. More info here would have helped. I went to another source, Payscale's salary survey: https://www.payscale.com/college-salary-report/majors-that-pay-you-back. STEM majors dominate the list of highest paying starting and mid career salary. The other high mid career salary majors tend to be concentrated in Finance, which, like STEM, is often math-intensive. The payscale data does not generally support the contention that history pays as well as CS, nor do mid-career salaries in the humanities match STEM fields, overall. This is interesting as it appears to be in direct conflict with the claims made here, though I was unable to locate the specific data set used from the link. Payscale does addresses the question of including BA/BS holders who have a grad degree, something addressed in this article. I believe it is included in "all degree levels". https://www.payscale.com/college-salary-report/methodology#top It has been eye opening how difficult it is to get at the data cited in editorials.

  164. Humanities majors do just fine. The problem is that all students are burdened by too much debt. Let's not cast our replies as a new Two Cultures debate. Engineers tell us how, and we need that. But Humanists often ask "is it even worth doing," which is a question Business types often only frame with a cost/benefit ratio. I'm glad I know who Faust was. More of my STEM and Business peers would benefit from that lesson.

  165. The author's idea of a STEM education is laughably narrow. As a former hardware design engineer from Silicon Valley with an M.S. in Electrical Engineering, the constant thread in what we are taught are critical thinking and problem solving. Every country needs both liberal arts graduates and STEM graduates. China and India are nipping at our heels in terms of technological innovations. Go look at graduate engineering programs here and there are more foreign-born students than American-born students. I think one of the main problems is that STEM fields are not valued in U.S. culture, and STEM students are routinely denigrated as nerds. That an article in the NYT does more of the same is the opposite of helpful. I am forever grateful for the excellent education I received as an engineering student. And, what do you know, I was also required to take quite a few humanities courses to graduate. Are liberal arts majors required to take Electronic Circuit Theory or Thermodynamics?

  166. In this day and time it is easy to dismiss the liberal arts education and so it is. STEM is too narrow for anyone wanting a well rounded education, however prestigious the jobs. The fields of study within the liberal arts provide a solid foundation for future focus, as well as basic skills needed in most jobs as well as specialized training. The arts in particular are not being recognized or made as available as they deserve. There is much to learn in the arts that is applicable and advantageous to many of life’s challenges. Discipline, creativity, enthusiasm. Try it, you’ll love it.

  167. What's the average salary of a 66 year old with two master's degrees and 40 years of working experience including founder, manager, and independent contractor? In this youth driven culture, $25K?

  168. "A liberal arts education fosters valuable “soft skills” like problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability. " While the author's immediate circle may consist of liberal arts graduates with the above skills, I doubt if that is in any way true of the greater population, who of course tend to avoid courses requiring them like the plague, be they STEM or not. And of course there's selection bias. Liberal arts graduates who stay employed in ways visible to surveys (as in not going into retail or service industries) tend to earn a lot. It is of course disingenuous to suggest that many do it on the backs of capable STEM graduates who happen to work for them, doing things that no liberal arts education will prepare you for. Any IT person who works for lawyers or doctors will tell you tales of entitled behavior heavily spiced with massive ignorance.

  169. @Not Convinced is absolutely correct and properly highlights the analytical mistakes made by the author. Perhaps if the author had a more sound technical background they would be able to understand how inaccurate it is to look at averages, how telling it might be to compare the 20th and 80th percentiles for example and remove MBAs who came from liberal arts backgrounds. The MBAs or Doctors not only bring up the liberal arts average but they themselves are recipients of highly technical instruction rooted in quantitative analysis and statistics. They author lacks all of the above.

  170. You completely skipped over half the letters in STEM. You are basing your entire argument on some stats for "computer science and engineering majors". What about the natural scientists and mathematicians? That said, this whole lumping together of disparate fields probably doesn't make any sense to begin with. What does a computer programmer, a civil engineer, a biochemist, and a mathematician have in common in terms of career paths and probable salary history? Not much, I would say.

  171. Moreover, how many does it take to change a lightbulb?

  172. "Men majoring in computer science or engineering roughly doubled their starting salaries by age 40, to an average of $124,458... The story was similar for women. Those with applied STEM majors earned nearly 50 percent more than social science and history majors at ages 23 to 25, but only 10 percent more by ages 38 to 40." I'm confused by the sudden breakdown by sex at this point in the article. Also, why give the actual figures for male STEM, history, and social science majors, but not for females? Was the author worried the discrepancy between the two would distract from the main point of the article? Or did the calculations that used the working populations as a whole (without regard to sex) not support the author's conclusion as fully?

  173. Technical skills become computerized and obsolete quicker and quicker as time goes on.

  174. Can someone point me toward convincing evidence that soft skills can be taught? Something like a contrasted groups study with English majors in one group and HS grads with equivalent SAT's or IQ scores in the other group. Does that exist?

  175. As a department head of social and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon many years ago, a continuing problem was with the engineering students bullying my department's students about the superiority of their starting salaries. We launched a simple study of the salary trajectories of graduates with engineering and liberal arts majors. The data showed clearly that the engineering students started with a significant salary advantage but that the advantage diminished over the first five years of employment. After five years, the edge in salary went to the liberal arts majors and grew steadily. Removing the subjects who majored in engineering but did an MBA, MD, or DDS later showed an even greater edge for the liberal arts. It turns out that reading and writing is a skill set that pays in the middle to long run. We gave students a summary of the study so they could bully back. It changed the conversation.

  176. @PDL: I'm glad to hear this, but I wonder if you considered salaries for women separately from those of the men.

  177. I have a BA and MA in English. I enjoyed my career but I always worked to live; I never lived to work. Life is short. Just like money, a well-lived life compounds remarkably over time. I am 66 and have been quite fulfillingly retired for 4 years. I achieved financial independence not so much by pulling down huge salaries as by having knowledge and discipline by deferred saving early on and consistently. But my academic background is priceless insofar as it prepped my life to more fully appreciate the things that money can't buy.

  178. And tomorrow we will have the article praising a STEM education over one that's liberal arts and, of course, as if it is always either/or. I never stick around long to listen to a dealer whose primary sales pitch is denigrating the other brands rather than trying to sell me the vehicle that best suits my interests and needs.

  179. " A liberal arts education fosters valuable “soft skills” like problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability. " You couldn't prove it by me. My undergraduate degree was in liberal arts (history), but I shifted to science in graduate school. I think I learned more "soft skills" as a graduate student.

  180. @John Williams I met a person who majored in English, and at the time I met him he was teaching biochemistry at a medical school. Go figure.

  181. The critical paragraph in this empirically poorly supported piece is that: By age 40, the average salary of all male college graduates was $111,870, and social science and history majors earned $131,154 — an average that is lifted, in part, by high-paying jobs in management, business and law. Which leads me to conclude that the title of this piece should instead of "In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors Endure" instead should have been "In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors who go to Law or Business school can make even more!" Although I don't think that was the point the author was trying to make.

  182. I have seen this to be somewhat true for the computer science majors with whom I graduated in the early 1980s. Many were subject to mass layoffs in the tech industry. The best among them did keep up with technology, so those constant changes and upgrades were not an issue for employability, but the cyclical, boom and bust nature of tech did cause stumbles for some. Those who had advanced degrees and business management education did better overall. Several made fortunes from start-ups! What I have seen among tech graduates from the late 1990s, however, is a lot of very intelligent and well educated people (from some top schools) trapped in the “code monkey” rut. They don’t move up in their companies. Many work on a contract basis. I think it’s a dead-end career track.

  183. I was a political science major with graduate degrees, and became involved in a technical field, and ended up teaching it full time at the college level. I remember my political science professor say that majors in that field tended to be flexible, and I guess I was flexible. To me the liberal arts is what college is all about. Life becomes much more interesting, and you tend to explore new fields the rest of your life, but you think gee wiz why didn't I major in that.

  184. But how much do you make. The article is not about interesting jobs but what pays the best.

  185. @Rich Murphy Since I only worked 32 weeks out of the year, my hourly pay was over one hundred dollars. Also I have met many engineers who lost their jobs in their fifties, even today when people keep saying we are having a STEM shortage. I never was laid off,and worked till I was almost seventy. Also I am happy, and do not know what heartburn is.

  186. “ Second, although liberal arts majors start slow, they gradually catch up to their peers in STEM fields. This is by design. A liberal arts education fosters valuable “soft skills” like problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability” In what way does the author think that STEM doesn’t involve problem solving, critical thinking, or adaptability? Because any scientist, technologist, engineer or mathematician who cant solve problems, think critically, or adapt is going to fail miserably.

  187. My son is an engineering grad of a small, Christian liberal arts college. He plays piano, writes excellent poetry, sings in a choir and...is a paid PHD student in an elite university in the East. My daughter is pre-med with elite-quality scores and achievements. My other son is a wonderful musician and performer also in an elite grad program. My wife is a physician. I am a poet and I have out-earned the STEM folk in this survey data at the height of my career. Study what you love, folks! Leave this field-bashing madness to B-rank actresses and anxiety-disordered tiger parents! Choose college majors by something deep in you. Then pursue excellence for its sake. Excellence always leads to a rich life; sometimes that richness even gets reflected in earnings. Chill, baby, chill on the STEM, STEAM and discipline bashing. It gets no one anywhere.

  188. @Poet: Next time I head west I'm going to try to experience Oklahoma.

  189. @traveling wilbury Text me! I give a great tour of our amazing little city.

  190. I have worked in a number of technical job in IT for the past 20 years. I have an English degree. Those are not incompatible facts. A liberal arts education is surprisingly flexible. A computer language is still a language, with the equivalent of grammar and syntax. Technical skills are transient, and can be acquired fairly quickly. But the foundations of my education include history and art and philosophy as well as mathematics and physics.

  191. "A liberal arts education fosters valuable “soft skills” like problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability. " Perhaps, just for giggles, we could apply some of that critical thinking to this statement. Let's try exploring its implied consequence: "Science training does not engender problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability." This is so wrong it's risible. Switch from science to engineering or math. Ditto. But then it must not be the case that those are the skills that explain the increase in earnings for liberal arts graduates. Could it be that it's the law degrees and MBAs that are doing that? Based on the pure humanities graduates I know, I suspect the answer is yes.

  192. The foundation of all engineering education is: math, physics and chemistry. What better foundation for problem solving? These subjects also do not go "obsolete".

  193. The flaw in this article is that it doesn’t mention grad school. A few lawyers and MBAs will seriously skew stats that seem to show high earners with liberal arts degrees.

  194. You seem to focus on the computer end of STEM. Good civil, structural, mechanical engineering , etc jobs have been going strong since the Romans. I don't think those skills will be obsolete anytime soon.

  195. @TED338 Sadly, Metallurgical engineering, specifically extracting refining and shaping of metals and alloys, is almost extinct in the US. Yes, it has morphed into Materials engineering, but with very little depth in alloy development and metals refining. Enjoyable? certainly, but with fewer professional prospects.

  196. STEM and liberal arts are not mutually exclusive - majored in chemistry at Columbia (liberal arts anyone?) , got a PhD and have worked in drug development (clinical) and now lead up a digital medicine team. STEM teaches you problem solving and analytical thinking, and fully differentiates you from non-STEM majors.

  197. @Carly: Agreed. A Columbia physics major here, who took the whole core curriculum and then some, and heard the whole humanities spiel on critical thinking and analytical problem solving. Somehow it was hard to imagine these humanities majors attempting to answer questions that have objectively and provably correct answers, right and wrong, no interpretations or different schools of thinking. And oddly, like you, I also ended up in biotech.

  198. Based on my experience of having completed my undergraduate studies in an engineering field (where the social sciences were superficially ‘touched upon’ as part of the core curriculum) and actually pursuing my graduate degree in political science, I’ve learned that many social science graduate programs require a thorough understanding and application of both qualitative and quantitative research methods, leading to empirical results and answers. It’s not simply a matter of arguing for one theory or another, with multiple ‘correct’ answers.

  199. Thank God for the wisdom of people who always have helpful, timely, accurate advice to offer! Well.... zero out of three ain't bad.

  200. I wonder how many people major in STEM disciplines because it's a calling, not just a way to earn a living. I studied physics in college and graduate school. None of us in this major did it to get a good job. We simply loved the subject; we found it endlessly fascinating and breathtakingly beautiful. My son is an aerospace engineer (though he majored in physics and computer science). He's completely in love with his work. Most good engineers and scientists I've had the privilege to work with feel the same. Many simply refuse to take on management responsibilities if it takes them away from the science or engineering. It would be interesting and informative to see how much of this mid-career salary parity is achieved by humanities majors who still practice the disciplines they studied, and presumably enjoyed, in college.

  201. @hammond While I love English lit (my BA), I found that many of the skills and practices of literary analysis and argumentation dovetailed nicely with legal analysis, brief and memo writing, and oral communication. My university did not even offer a “pre-law” major. I think my undergrad major prepared me well for grad school and my career.

  202. Many, many years ago, education was considered an end in itself; knowledge was valued for what it produced in an individual's world view: an understanding first and foremost of who we are. After that, we could concentrate on a career, a way to make money (or not), to have a family (or not), to have an open mind (or not). If, in any way, you value economic success over actually liking yourself, you are falling into the trap of always yearning for what you can't have. Self respect does not depend on who has the biggest.... paycheck. It comes from being able to look at yourself,candidly, and respect who you are. Money isn't everything. self respect is.

  203. I care less about STEM salaries as opposed to liberal arts degrees salaries, than I do that we still - STILL - have to break out these statistics by gender. Because, on the average, males still make more than females with the same degree and the same number of years of experience. For shame.

  204. I am a political science major who obtained a law degree and at 33 male will into the six figures. However, regrettably, this article is misleading. The author does note that liberal arts majors have a higher average income because they often obtain graduate degrees. However, this is not stressed enough. It also calls into question the whole study. Why not just conduct the analysis with STEM majors and liberal arts grads who did not go to graduate school. That is his studies should be carried out, with fairness and balance. Finally, economics, while technically a social science, is not sociology or women’s studies. It can set you up for a high paying job. This “study” is so flawed.

  205. I lost respect of the author's opinion with the following three sentences - "Second, although liberal arts majors start slow, they gradually catch up to their peers in STEM fields. This is by design. A liberal arts education fosters valuable “soft skills” like problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability." As an engineer who has been practicing for over 40 years (and been paid well), my education was centered developing critical thinking skills to solve problems in my field of study. I do not believe the author understands what engineering is about nor do I believe that Science, Technology, and Math degrees ignore the teaching of problem solving or critical thinking. Education is important and self-education is paramount and those who realize the value of this skill in life will be able to adapt and be paid well for their adaptability.