Education July 9, 2017: Harvard and MIT the best universities for the highest earning majors

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EDUCATION

New guides to picking the best major at the best university

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

The seventh annual QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017 had Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) dominate the rankings as the leading universities for a combined 27 subjects including some of the highest earning majors. Wikipedia Commons

The college admission process seems to be preoccupied with university rankings catering to high school seniors choosing the best university they can be admitted to, but choosing a major is equally important if not more for success after graduation. While rankings look at the best universities, recent lists also look at the best majors and the leading universities to matriculate. Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI) released in October 2016 their 2016–17 Recruiting Trends, which looks at the starting salaries for each major, helping students identify the best moneymakers. QS Quacquarelli Symonds released in March 2017 their World University Rankings by Subject 2017 listing the preeminent universities for particular majors. The seventh annual list had Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) dominate the rankings as the leading universities for a combined 27 majors.

The Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute annual recruiting trends lists the starting salaries of particular college degree majors from the associate level to the doctorate level emphasizing individual majors at the bachelor’s level. As Forbes explained, “Nearly 200 career service centers in the United States participated in the study and 4,350 employers provided information for the report, which includes data on full-time positions, internships, and co-op jobs.”

Forbes went further ranking these majors with the highest and lowest starting salaries. The vast majority of top earners are STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Medical degrees, particularly technology and engineering. Electrical engineering, software design, and chemical engineering are the top three degrees for highest starting salaries with graduates on average earning over $60,000 their first year on the job. Chemical Engineering was last year’s top earning degree.

Top ten highest starting salaries degrees:

1 Electrical Engineering: Average starting salary $62,428. Starting salary range $25,000 to #130,000
2 Software Design: Average starting salary $61,466. Starting salary range $25,000 to #134,000
3 Chemical Engineering: Average starting salary $61,125. Starting salary range $31,000 to #125,000
4 Computer Engineering: Average starting salary $61,092. Starting salary range $15,000 to #130,000
5 Mechanical Engineering: Average starting salary $59,610. Starting salary range $15,000 to #134,000
6 Computer Programming: Average starting salary $59,163. Starting salary range $15,000 to #130,000
7 Information Security Systems: Average starting salary $58,798. Starting salary range $19,000 to #123,000
8 Computer Science: Average starting salary $57,762. Starting salary range $15,000 to #130,000
9 Management Information Systems: Average starting salary $57,301. Starting salary range $15,000 to #122,000
10 Technical Engineering: Average starting salary $55,693. Starting salary range $15,000 to #132,000

While STEM majors dominate the highest earners, the Humanities, Social Sciences and Education have lowest earning starting salaries all earning less than $40,000 a year. Early Childhood Education has the lowest starting salary, followed by social work and then anthropology and sociology. Most of the humanities and social science majors listed as the bottom earners require graduate degrees for better positions and higher earnings.

Bottom ten lowest starting salaries degrees:
Pre-K & Kindergarten Education — $35,626
Social work — $37,115
Anthropology/Sociology — $37,672
Elementary education — $37,803
Special education — $38,002
Psychology — $38,079
English — $38,303
History — $38,361

In graduate and professional degrees, the same holds true STEM careers and graduate degrees reign supreme. Business including the coveted MBA and Law degrees are also high earners. Among the master’s degrees, the top three earners are computer science and engineering, as they are top earners at the undergraduate level. The Masters in Business Administration (MBA) comes in third, breaking up the undergraduate STEM monopoly. The top three all have starting salaries above $60,000 a year.

When it comes to doctorate and professional degrees STEM degrees and law dominate the top three, but this time a health science, pharmacy is the top earner. In second are computer science and engineering, while the law is third. The top three subject areas see starting salaries of $74,000 and above. The bottom end earners in the masters, doctoral and professional degrees are the social sciences and humanities subjects just as they were at the bachelor’s level. The only differences are the average starting salaries, at the masters level is just over 48,000, while at the doctoral level is over $58,000 a year, $20,000 more than just stopping at a degree at the bachelor’s level.

Master’s Degrees & MBAs

Computer science: $72,071 $15,000 — $145,000
Engineering: $69,729 $20,000 — $200,000
MBA: $62,700 $10,000 — $151,000
Physical & biological sciences: $59,204 $10,000 — $200,000
Accounting: $58,159 $10,000 — $144,000
LIR/HR: $58,125 $10,000 — $127,000
Health sciences: MS & MSW $53,283 $10,000 — $175,000
Social sciences: MA & MS $48,697 $10,000 — $150,000

PhD and Professional Degrees

Starting Salaries — PhD & Professional
Selected major Average Range
Pharmacy: $89,725 $20,000 — $146,000
Engineering & computer science: $77,811 $20,000 — $168,000
Law: $74,130 $20,000 — $200,000
Physical & biological sciences: $73,422 $20,000 — $141,000
Business: $67,578 $20,000 — $188,000
Social sciences & humanities: $58,897 $16,000 — $123,000

To complement the high-earning majors are the QS Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings by Subject 2017, which lets students know the best schools for their chosen major. QS World University Rankings’ annual list included the rankings for 46 subjects. Harvard was deemed the best university, landing on the top of the most subjects, and 15 majors. MIT came in a close second where they led the lists of 12 subjects. The results are a reversal to QS World University Rankings in 2017 and the latest for 2018, where MIT was the top ranking university for the last six years, whereas Harvard has remained in third place for the last two years. The University of Oxford is in third place topping the rankings of four subjects.

QS subject rankings not only lists the top majors, but also subject areas. MIT is the best school for high earning engineering and technology degrees followed by Stanford University in second and Cambridge in third. Harvard is the preeminent place for the Life Sciences & Medicine, Cambridge is second with Oxford third. MIT ranks as the leading school for the Natural Sciences, Cambridge is again second, while Harvard comes in at third. Harvard is again on the top as the leading university for the Social Sciences and Management. British schools again are the runner-ups with the London School of Economics (LSE) in second and Oxford third. For the Arts & Humanities, Oxford, the preeminent school for the classics is tops, followed by the University of Cambridge and Harvard in third.

The 46 subject rankings include “1127 universities from 74 countries” and are supposed to be “the most comprehensive global overview of higher education performance at discipline level.” This year QS added four additional subject rankings, “Anatomy & Physiology, Hospitality, Sports-related Subjects, and Theology, Divinity and Religious Studies.” There were only six subjects seeing new leaders this year notably as University World News indicates, “Mathematics, where MIT has taken over from the University of Cambridge, and history, where Harvard is the new leader.” Additionally, “development studies, the University of Sussex is now top, and archaeology, which is another of Oxford’s successes.”

The only school from continental Europe to top a subject list is ETH Zurich — Swiss Federal Institute of Technology for the Earth and marine sciences, who currently the only European school in the top ten at ten in the 2018 World University Rankings. In Australasia, the University of Sydney tops the Sports-related subjects. Canada does not have a university leading any of the subjects, but McGill University, the number 32 in the World University Ranking is third in Anatomy. However, the University of Toronto, QS’ top Canadian university at number 31 for the world ranking did the best in Canada ranking in “the top ten for six subjects.” Eastern European schools are also faring better in the rankings particularly those from Russia.

The rise of Asian schools in world rankings continues with their positions in the subject rankings. Only one Asian school, however, the University of Hong Kong tops a subject list with Dentistry. Singapore has the most top 20 placements of all Asian countries. With the rise of Asian schools, there is a decline of American and British schools in the rankings, although American schools still dominate the top spots.

Ben Sowter, head of research at the QS Intelligence Unit, who also compiled the ranking, commented on the shift. Sowter noted, “We observe nations in both Eastern Europe and Asia — most notably Russia and China — increasing their overall share. However, the upper echelons of the tables remain dominated by the US and UK, and this seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future.” Sowter, however, pointed out, “It seems certain that Asia’s leading institutions will continue to strongly displace the second tier of North American and European institutions.”

As with their World University Rankings QS relied on citations and surveys to compile their subject rankings, which is based on three major indicators “academic reputation, employer reputation and research impact.” For the ranking QS used their data from Scopus, “the world’s largest database of research abstracts and citations.” To determine the leading universities in certain subjects 43 million academic research papers with 144 million citations were analyzed. Additionally, to determine the reputation component QS used 305,000 “survey responses” from academics and 194,000 from employers.

QS World Rankings by Subject 2017

Accounting & Finance — Harvard
Agriculture & Forestry — Wageningen University
Anatomy & Physiology — Oxford
Anthropology — Harvard
Archaeology — Oxford
Architecture — MIT
Art & Design- Royal College of Art
Biological Sciences — Harvard
Business & Management Studies — Harvard
Chemistry — MIT
Communication & Media Studies — University of Southern California
Computer Science & Information Systems — MIT
Dentistry — University of Hong Kong
Development Studies — University of Sussex
Earth & Marine Sciences- ETH Zurich
Economics & Econometrics — MIT
Education — UCL Institute of Education
Engineering — Chemical — MIT
Engineering — Civil & Structural — MIT
Engineering — Electrical — MIT
Engineering — Mechanical — MIT
Engineering — Mining & Mineral — Colorado School of Mines
English Language & Literature — Oxford
Environmental Sciences — University of California, Berkeley
Geography — Oxford
History — Harvard
Hospitality — University of Nevada
Law — Harvard
Linguistics — MIT
Materials Science — MIT
Mathematics — MIT
Medicine — Harvard
Modern Languages — Harvard
Nursing — University of Pennsylvania
Performing Arts — Juilliard School
Pharmacy & Pharmacology — Harvard
Philosophy — University of Pittsburgh
Physics & Astronomy — MIT
Politics & International Studies — Harvard
Psychology — Harvard
Social Policy & Administration — Harvard
Sociology — Harvard
Sports-related Subjects — Loughborough University; University of Sydney
Statistics & Operational Research — Harvard
Theology — Harvard
Veterinary Science — University of California, Davis

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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History December 30, 2016: Universities continue dropping American history requirement as enrollment problems plague departments

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POLITICS

Universities continue dropping American history requirement as enrollment problems plague departments

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Another university in the United States is joining the ranks of those dropping the requirement that their history majors complete a course in American history to graduate. George Washington University has become the latest university to drop the American history requirement. Less than a third of any of the universities and colleges listed in US News’ Best Colleges top 25 universities and colleges even require an American history course of their majors, with private colleges and universities leading the way, while more public schools maintain the requirement.

The issue, which is creating a new generation illiterate about the history of the very country they live in, was the topic of a recent report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni entitled “No U.S. History? How College History Departments Leave the United States out of the Major.” In universities’ attempt to give students more freedom in their education they are creating a new generation ill informed of the history of their nation and lacking the tools necessary for an enlightened electorate, citizens and future leaders. The greater problem, however, is the “dramatic” declining graduation rates in history degrees and enrollment in history courses according to the American Historical Association.

The 21st Century University is completing the process that philosopher Harold Bloom lamented in his 1987 book “The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students.” In his book, which amounted to a manifesto, Bloom charged universities of a politically liberal agenda that deprived students of learning the humanities and the great books of Western thought and civilization referred to as a liberal education in exchange for self-interest at the same time failing its students. Bloom’s book and article that preceded it were inspired by the culture wars of the 1980s where universities were dropping other traditional requirements for their students and altering their curriculum that has continued evolved into the one common on university campuses today. Bloom was fighting a war on the elite universities particularly the Ivy League that he believed assaulted traditional education creating a conflict between “culture and civilization.”

Now universities are completing their war on Western civilization by dropping American history requirements from their history majors. University history education has been practically taken over by obscure areas and sub-topics focusing on social history versus political history, now global history is taking preeminence over studying American history or even European history. Long gone are the days when history departments required a foreign language component of their majors while theses are also mostly going to the wayside, now most universities just loosely require time-periods and general geographic areas.

Some universities still require their students to take a survey course in either American, European, World or another geographic location; others allow micro-histories to substitute or even allow high grades in high school Advanced Placement (AP) credits in US History to suffice. Some university history departments have geographic requirements, but they do not include the United States, some even require that students take specific areas from “African, Asian, and Middle Eastern history or in Latin American history.” In total 34 colleges have “general geographical-distribution requirements “that explicitly exclude the US.

When there is an American history requirement history departments are too “lax” allowing micro-histories, mostly social history which ACTA calls “trendy, highly specialized courses” to substitute. These courses do not as “KC Johnson, senior professor of history at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center” notes cover essentials for a proper historical perspective on the US leading Johnson to question, “What happened to fields such as military, constitutional, and diplomatic history?” In total, 11 history departments at the top schools allow students to fulfill American history requirements with micro-history courses that barely touch on the most important events and issues in American history.

Bloom was concerned even in 1987 about the lack of American history being taught, writing, “The upshot of all of this for the education of young Americans is that they know much less about American history and those who were held to be its heroes. This was one of the few things that they used to come to college with that had something to do with their lives. Nothing has taken its place except a smattering of facts learned about other nations or cultures and a few social science formulas.” (Bloom, p. 34)

Nearly thirty years later, Michael Poliakoff, ACTA’s president-elect commented with the same lament Bloom had, “Historical illiteracy is the inevitable consequence of lax college requirements, and that ignorance leads to civic disempowerment. A democratic republic cannot thrive without well-informed citizens and leaders. Elite colleges and universities, in particular, let the nation down when the examples they set devalue the study of United States history.” While Eric Bledsoe, ACTA’s director of curricular improvementand academic outreach noted: “It is the obligation of higher education to ensure that all students, especially history majors, understand their own history.”

ACTA’s report “No U.S. History? How College History Departments Leave the United States out of the Major” examined how or if universities and colleges require an American history course of their history majors. The report determined that only 23 universities or colleges in the top 25 of US News Best Colleges “out of 76 require a course on our nation’s history.” ACTA indicated of “Top 25 Liberal Arts Colleges: 7 require U.S. history, of the Top 25 National Universities: 4 require U.S. History, and of the Top 25 Public Institutions: 14 require U.S. history.” Private universities especially the Ivy League are the worst offenders with only Princeton and Columbia University requiring an American history course but Princeton allows courses that are “narrow in scope” and not comprehensive surveys that give the greatest exposure even if it is at an introductory level.

Without requiring American history in US history departments, students are left with nothing more than basic high school courses in American and European history that do not have the analytical depth of a college course taught by a professional academic. ACTA argues that without knowledge of American history, students lack the background they need to study other geographic areas. The greater problem is that graduates are ignorant in one of the most important roles they will play after their academic careers that of citizens and possibly leaders. ACTA pointed out that educating future “citizens,” “leaders” is an important part of many colleges’ mission statements including Harvard, and without an American history requirement the colleges are not fulfilling their obligations.

History departments are arguing that students are going to take American history whether they are required or not. The real problem is dwindling enrollment numbers of history majors, an issue the discipline has been dealing with for the past couple of years. Declining enrollment was the reason George Washington University got rid of their American history requirement.
Katrin Schultheiss, the chair of the GWU history department told the student newspaper the Hatchet, “I think the main gain for students is that they have a great deal more flexibility than they had before, and they can adapt it to whatever their plans are for the future. Whatever they want to do, there’s a way to make the history department work for them.”

For many history departments like those at GWU, funding is tied to enrollment, gaining more students is key. After the great economic recession in 2008 history departments began to see a decline in enrollment for history majors as did other humanities disciplines, students chose instead majors with a distinct career path particularly STEM, science, technology, engineering and math instead to ensure more stable employment after graduation. History departments looked to appeal to students and entice them to take a major in the discipline to keep up with the declining enrollment numbers.

The American Historical Association conducted surveys earlier this year that showed a continued drop in students graduating with a degree in history and that in general there was a decline in college students taking history courses. Julia Brookins, the special projects coordinator at the AHA, authored the results and suggestions to help curb the declines. Brookins writing “New Data Show Large Drop in History Bachelor’s Degrees” published in March 2016 in the AHA’s “Perspectives on History” looked at data from the National Center for Education Statistics and determined that there was “dramatic decline in the number of bachelor’s degrees in history awarded in 2014.”

History departments saw an unprecedented 9.1 percent decrease in history degree granted in 2014 from 34,360 to 31,233, whereas in 2013 the decline from the previous year was only 2.8 percent. The decline was disproportionate at “very high research” universities with 13.3 percent, whereas at liberal arts colleges the decline was only 2.6 percent. Although bachelor degrees granted increased by 1.6 percent, history degrees only compromise 1.7 percent of all bachelor degrees granted.

In general, there is a decline in the number of students enrolling in undergraduate history courses. Brookins writing in “Survey Finds Fewer Students Enrolling in College History Courses” published in September 2016 described the results of a survey AHA conducted of 123 history departments in the US and Canada looking at undergraduate enrollment during the 2014–15 academic year. The results determined that there have enrollment declines at 96 departments with only 27 seeing increases, 55 departments had declines of 10 percent and over. The decline was greatest at public universities and colleges with a median drop of 9.2 percent versus private schools, which only saw a drop of 7.6 percent. History departments seem only to be able to attract students to introductory survey courses with them only seeing 4.8 percent of an enrollment decrease in comparison to the more specified upper-level courses that have seen a 7.6 percent decline.

The AHA gave history departments some suggestions to increase enrollment with Brookins’ article “The Decline in History Majors: What Is to Be Done?” published in May 2016. The AHA looked to determine whether departments’ moving away from the traditional focus on the United States and Europe hindered enrollment; their conclusion proved the “contrary.” According to the AHA, “departments with diverse specializations ‘were more likely to have increased their share of bachelor’s degrees’ than those without them. Also, the analysis ‘found that . . . a wide majority of departments continue to list themselves as having a specialization in the US and Europe.’”

Part of the AHA’s recommendations for history departments looking to recruit students was to move away from relying on introductory surveys, and instead, add more diverse course offerings. The AHA believes that getting rid of “designated distribution requirements” actually helps attract students to the department. Prospective employment also has been an issue with history graduates, with teaching or going on to law school the primary professional goals for history majors not looking to continue graduate study in the discipline.

Departments also need to appeal to more female students as history majors tend to be still more male than female by a 3:2 ratio, Focusing on social history helps, but departments still have problems recruiting minorities, with 74.4 percent of history graduates being white. Departments veering away from American history and European history and towards Africa/Asia/ Middle East and Global areas is an attempt to appeal to minority students whose numbers are also declining among history graduates except black men where there was an increase of history graduates in 2014 up 4.9 percent.

To balance out the changes in requirements history departments are looking to instill core competencies of historical analysis, writing, and research, skills students can use for future employment in a variety of fields. GWU’s Thomas Long, “an assistant history professor and the coordinator for undergraduate advising,” says that is the philosophy behind the departments to revise their requirements. Long explained, “You should graduate with a history major able to do three things: You should know how we got where we are, you should be able to write, and you should be able to think critically. If you graduate with those skills, you can really do anything.”

Most departments see giving their students access to a different way to specialize as keys to maintaining and even possibly increasing enrollment numbers and student success after graduation. Unfortunately, as Bloom worried about nearly 30 years ago, it is coming at the expense of a traditional education in Western civilization, with American history the latest victim to the changing trends in higher education.

Sources

American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), “No U.S. History? How College History Departments Leave the United States out of the Major,” July 2016

Allan Bloom. “The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students.” New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.

Julia Brookins, “New Data Show Large Drop in History Bachelor’s Degrees,” Perspectives on History, American Historical Association, March 2016, https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/march-2016/new-data-show-large-drop-in-history-bachelors-degrees

Julia Brookins, “The Decline in History Majors: What Is to Be Done?,” Perspectives on History,
American Historical Association, May 2016 https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/may-2016/the-decline-in-history-majors

Julia Brookins, “Survey Finds Fewer Students Enrolling in College History Courses,” Perspectives on History, American Historical Association, September 2016 https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/september-2016/survey-finds-fewer-students-enrolling-in-college-history-courses

Kate Hardiman, “U.S. history no longer a requirement for history majors at George Washington University,” The College Fix, December 22, 2016, http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/30469/

Scott Jaschik, “History Enrollments Drop,” Inside Higher Ed, September 6, 2016 https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/09/06/survey-finds-decline-history-enrollments

Lily Werlinich, “History department changes major requirements to draw in students,” “The George Washington Hatchet,” November 13, 2016 http://www.gwhatchet.com/2016/11/13/history-department-changes-major-requirements-to-draw-in-students/

Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS, is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor with a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Universities January 7, 2014: Historian Jonathan Sarna elected president of the Association for Jewish Studies

EXAMINER ARTICLES

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EDUCATION

Historian Jonathan Sarna elected president of the Association for Jewish Studies

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Examiner.com, January 7, 2014, 11:43 PM MST

Brandeis University Professor Jonathan Sarna was elected President of the Association of Jewish Studies at their annual meeting, Dec. 2013
Brandeis University Professor Jonathan Sarna was elected President of the Association of Jewish Studies at their annual meeting, Dec. 2013
Mike Lovett