Calculate This: Number Crunchers Earn More

Dawn Papandrea | July 28, 2009

Wondering what to study in order to make the most money? The numbers don’t lie — math skills add up to higher salaries. So reports Yahoo! Finance:

The top 15 highest-earning college degrees all have one thing in common — math skills. That’s according to a recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which tracks college graduates’ job offers.

“Math is at the crux of who gets paid,” said Ed Koc, director of research at NACE. “If you have those skills, you are an extremely valuable asset. We don’t generate enough people like that in this country.”

That’s not to say that you have to become a “mathematician” per se to earn big bucks. It’s just that top earning fields require a certain comfort with formulas, statistics, and number-crunching. They include professions in engineering and computer science. If you think about it, it’s really a lesson in economics (another math-inspired subject): Less people are good in math, therefore they are more in demand. And the more in demand your skills are, the higher you’ll be paid.

So where does that leave the rest of the population, who major in liberal arts, communications, or social sciences? Earning a lot less to start, that’s for sure. But take heart: “Soft skills” can be lucrative, too, if you know how to market them. Being able to communicate, write, speak more than one language, or manage projects are skills that are in demand, too. They are just harder to quantify or put a value on, so you often have to prove yourself (AKA pay your dues) before you rise to the top.

Whichever educational route you take, the formula really is simple (even for former English majors like myself!): Enter your career with sharp skills and a realistic expectation of earnings, and you’re sure to calculate career happiness.

-Dawn Papandrea