Science Majors Aren't Paid Nearly As Much As You'd Think

Turns out graduates majoring in the most popular science major, biology, earn less than those studying sociology, psychology, and English.

President Obama may be calling for 1 million more college grads in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—but data finds that first letter doesn't have the same prospects as the characters that trail it.

Analyzing early-career salary data across these fields in Texas, CollegeMeasures found companies are handsomely rewarding those with degrees in computer science ($58,483 for bachelor's degree), engineering ($74,818), and math ($48,875) over graduates in biology ($26,430) and chemistry ($36,090), the most popular science majors, respectively. In fact, the average salary for a bachelor's degree in biology is lower than sociology ($32,994), psychology ($29,141), and English ($31,770). Analysis of Colorado and Virginia found similar results, with employers paying more for engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians over chemists and biologists. Granted, the figures for these states look at early-career earnings, so the numbers look disproportionate compared with the $118,900 average salary developers earn in Silicon Valley, where the cost of living is also higher.

There's no denying that STEM has become a major economic driver, but the category tends to overlook (or lump in) science majors when it comes to earning potential. Overall though, the Brookings Institute found metropolitan areas with a large share of STEM employees—including blue-collared workers, such as nurses, mechanics, and electricians—typically have stronger economics and less income inequality.

[Image: Flickr user Horia Varlan]

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  • Tim Anderson

    I've been an analytical chemist in industry for ~ten years, and this is hardly anything new. One of our professional groups, American Chemical Society (ACS) has produced numerous articles over the years on how there are, in fact, entirely too many people graduating with a science degree.

    It blows my mind that politicians (primary offenders) like to talk up STEM subjects, but it is as if they never even bothered to talking to an actual scientist. Ever. I suspect the 'TEM' part of that group is probably a good career path, but I would tell people to avoid the 'S' like the plague. 

  • $14922115

    biology as such is a dead science, other than as a vocabulary for related topics more advanced and useful.  a good question to ask if you include potential earnings when looking at a major for a bachelor degree:  am i going to learn how to DO something, or learn how to know a lot of information.  starting jobs pay not so much for you to simply know something, and fewer still pay much for what you know after 4 years of college.  jobs are about doing, not knowing, as in "hey, what do you DO for a living?"