Some college majors prove more valuable than others


Braden Ward

Old Dominion University’s Engineering Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Rafael Landaeta presents an overview of their engineering program along with seven upperclassmen on Nov. 16, 2019.

Braden Ward, Commentary Editor

Every year, millions of students dump ridiculous sums of money into a post-secondary education from a university. What some students do not realize is that this education may provide them little benefit after graduation. 

Whether or not a college effectively prepares its students for the real world largely depends on the individual student’s major. 

According to Forbes, recent graduates of a fine arts major have a median salary of only $30,000 and an unemployment rate of 12.6 percent. Even experienced graduates do not have it much better, with a median salary of $45,000 and an unemployment rate of 7.3 percent. In comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported America’s unemployment to be 3.5 percent as of September. 

While some may enjoy their jobs despite a modest salary, most of the time it is not worth it to go into endless debt and not even surpass the average American household income of $61,372.

Instead, graduates can learn a trade for a lower cost and produce a similar salary to many jobs requiring a degree. Research done by shows that the average plumber makes between $48,835 and $64,235 a year in Virginia. Along with a decent salary, plumber’s training can easily cost well under $5,000. 

Of course, not all majors lead to a lower than expected salary.

It may take more effort to complete a four-year engineering major, but it pays off afterward in the form of an attainable, well-paying job. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 139,000 engineering jobs will be created between 2016 and 2026. The current median wage for all engineers is $91,010. Petroleum engineers make the most with an average salary of $128,230. 

Trades should be advertised to high school students more than they currently are, and universities should be more transparent about the availability and salaries of jobs associated with their offered majors.