Not all bachelor’s degrees are equal, we explore where the various degrees typically lead.
At Ididio, we like to create visualizations with our data to explore metrics we’ve thought or read about recently. How can we look deeper at the “value” of a college degree? We decided to start with the median salaries of jobs that certain degrees usually lead to. If you plan to get only a bachelor’s degree, what major would get you the best salary? We put our data into a few charts to find out.
First, we ranked college majors based on the percentage of people with that major who go into jobs that are above the median salary for all people with bachelor’s degrees – approximately $56k. That’s pretty wordy – to keep it simpler, the more likely the people with that major are to get a job above the median salary, the greener the charts will be.
In this chart, we’re looking at nursing as a major. Regardless of what specific jobs people with a nursing degree go into, we can tell that 89% of those people have a job with a median salary above the national median for everyone with a bachelor’s degree. We can then put in that number as the vertical axis in a scatterplot, step 1 in comparing degree programs to each other.
However, we also know that not all careers can be achieved with only a bachelor’s degree. Often, especially in science fields, careers require a graduate degree, generally a master’s or doctorate. For our specific question, we care about whether a worker has only a bachelor’s, so we also want to know what percentage of people with a degree in each program go on to get a graduate degree of some sort.
That way, if a degree program has a lot of workers with low salaries and also a lot of workers who then got a graduate degree, we can conclude that the degree is not one in which pursuing only a bachelor’s is a good idea. We show this with a simple percentage of people with that degree who then got a graduate degree. The percentage to which this applies for nursing is shown on the left.
To get a good look at this in comparison to salaries, we created scatterplots with the horizontal axis showing the percentage of workers in a field who got a degree beyond a bachelor’s, and the vertical axis showing the percentage of people in that field who earn above the median for all workers, as we discussed earlier. With both of those, we can make a point on a scatterplot for every broad degree program and rank them against each other, as we do below.
Each chart shows a broad field of study, each dot is a major under that field, and the size of the dot indicates the number of people with a degree in that major. With all of this together we can see how different majors compare to each other. In the light green Healthcare chart, the largest dot is the nursing major, which we know has a very high percentage of workers with above-median salary (the dot is near the top of the chart) and also has most workers staying at the bachelor’s level (the dot is closer to the left). This is a perfect example of a degree that pays well for only getting a bachelor’s.
That being said, not everyone with a particular degree is going into the same career. We took this exploration a step further and created a visualization to see where people are going with their degrees, and how that affects their salaries. The following sankey diagram illustrates the careers where people with a degree in nursing are working. The wider the link, the higher the percentage of people in that career. Any career shown in green pays above the median salary for people with a bachelor’s, and those in gray pay below that median.
Unsurprisingly, most of the chart is green as 75% of workers with a degree in nursing work as registered nurses a relatively high paying career. For a major like nursing, the salary outlook is very good, but that is not always the case.
The following interactive charts let you explore – take a look at the many other jobs that people with a bachelor’s degree have taken. The drop-down menu lets you select one of the broad fields of study for a closer look, and clicking on one of the dots will show you the detailed breakdown of that specific degree. If any strike your interest, the bars on the right of the sankey chart will take you to the details on our career pages. Have fun exploring!