Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jobs, Salaries, Careers

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I'm thinking this must be the week for education related news stories. Sunday, I wrote this post on how Education issues were being spun in the TradMed. Today, there are a few articles related to how an undergrad major reflects earnings. The first I saw was this one from the AP (via MSNBC) then saw that the Washington Post also had coverage:

Over a lifetime, the earnings of workers who have majored in engineering, computer science or business are as much as 50 percent higher than the earnings of those who major in the humanities, the arts, education and psychology, according to an analysis by researchers at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

“I don’t want to slight Shakespeare,” said Anthony Carnevale, one of the report’s authors. “But this study slights Shakespeare.”

The report is based on previously unreported census data that definitively links college majors to career earnings. Earlier studies have looked at salaries immediately after graduation, but the new report covers earnings across a person’s working life and is based on a much larger survey.
Bloomberg's article on the study though offers a little bit more perspective:
As a group, engineering majors of all disciplines reported the highest median earnings at $75,000, the study showed. The lowest pay, at $42,000, came from two groups -- education and psychology and social work, which includes such categories as clinical psychology and communications disorders.


Race and gender play a role in salary, according to the report. African-Americans who graduated with finance majors earned an average of $47,000 per year, less than Hispanics and Asians at $56,000 and whites at $70,000, it showed.

While women hold the majority of degrees in many lower- paying fields, even those with specialties that command the highest pay, such as chemical engineering, earned $20,000 less per year on average than men with the same education, according to the study.


About 41 percent of undergraduates with humanities and liberal arts majors -- including history, English language and literature and foreign languages -- went on to earn a graduate degree, the study showed.
All this leads me to one major question - which came first? Are the higher engineering salaries due to the preponderance of men in the field or are the lower salaries for fields such as Social Work and Education due to the preponderance of women in the field? Contrary to the beliefs of some people, jobs in Social Work fields and Education are not easy nor are they stress free. In fact, both fields can be among the more stressful jobs going. Last year I wrote this post on how I consider Child Welfare work as the Most Thankless Job and one of the most stressful jobs around. They work long hours for low pay and are demonized from all sides. These jobs also require skills albeit skills that are often categorized as "soft skills" - defined as skills that require the ability to deal with humanity, often in the worst possible moments. Skills that a lot of engineers have no hope of ever acquiring.

Even within fields and career choices that are considered upper level, there are more and more two tier wage systems coming into play. This is not limited to unions, although we all know the stories now of businesses trying to break the unions via this ploy. No, today's (Tuesday May 24) NY Times had an article on how law firms were setting up "non-partner track" niches:
The nation’s biggest law firms are creating a second tier of workers, stripping pay and prestige from one of the most coveted jobs in the business world.

Make no mistake: These are full-fledged lawyers, not paralegals, and they do the same work traditional legal associates do. But they earn less than half the pay of their counterparts — usually around $60,000 — and they know from the outset they will never make partner.


Besides making less, these associates work fewer hours and travel less than those on the grueling partner track, making these jobs more family-friendly. And this new system probably prevents jobs from going offshore.
"Family-friendly." Any guesses on one of the groups of lawyers that will be most impacted here? As one friend put it in an email:
This is all about the Benjamins. The sexist implications are simply a happy byproduct of the economic policy. Call it a twofer.
I've watched a lot of technology jobs go "offshore" these last few years but have to admit that the idea of "offshore" legal positions is a new one for me. But then, I never would have thought that a news organization could offshore reporting of local news.

However, there is one side of the study that seems quite a bit more appropriate. According to the Daily Beast (via MSNBC), Journalism is the most useless major.

And because I can:

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