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S&E Degree Recipients Earn More Than Others

February 1996

Individuals with college degrees in science and engineering (S&E) are earning more than their counterparts in other fields, according to a recent study by the Science Resources Studies (SRS) Division.

The median annual salary for individuals who received S&E bachelor's degrees between 1963 and 1992 is 17.6% higher than the median salary of other bachelor's degree recipients, according to Science Resource Analyst Mark Regets. Individuals with S&E master's and professional degrees earn 6.1% more than do their non-S&E counterparts.

Regets wrote the study using data compiled by the 1993 National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG). NSCG surveyed 215,000 individuals under 75 who held a bachelor's degree or higher in any field at the time of the 1990 census. In total, the United States has 29 million college graduates, 10.3 million of whom have one or more S&E degree, the survey showed.

Although only 28.6% of individuals with bachelor's degrees in science or engineering work in a S&E occupation, most graduates reported finding some use for their training. Only 29.6% of the bachelor's degree recipients reported working in non-S&E occupations completely unrelated to their degree. This suggests, says Regets, that the undergraduate education is producing skills valued in the labor market.

Regets found that S&E graduates maintain their salary advantages throughout their careers. After 26 to 30 years in the work force, S&E bachelor's degree recipients earn an average of 30.8% more than their non-S&E cohorts. After the same time period, master's and professional S&E degree holders earn an average of 8.8% more than their counterparts.

Within S&E fields, the highest paid individuals have degrees in engineering, physical and math/computer sciences. The lowest paid individuals have degrees in social and life sciences.

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