TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

Harder work, higher earnings?

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An NCTQ follower on Twitter, @mescamilla1980, recently challenged our take on what's behind the disproportionately high grades earned by teacher candidates, suggesting that only those majors which will lead to highly paid jobs can require a lot of challenging work. At least that's what we think he was intimating – 140 characters leave little room for nuance. While a cynical hypothesis, it's a fair one. Is there a relationship between working hard in college and earning higher future pay?

To get some idea of the answer, we reached back into our dataset of 40 institutions for which we have identified which majors were consistently the hardest or easiest.

Looking at the five majors with the lowest proportions of students earning honors – that is, the hardest majors on their campuses— we learn that @mescamilla1980's theory is, thank goodness, off base.

As shown below, some of the majors that top the list are in fact likely to lead to higher salaries. For example, marketing majors can expect mid-career earnings around $80,000, information systems majors – about $87,000, and computer science majors – just over $100,000. However, no one would expect to make big bucks by turning to some of these other majors: Art? History? (For salary data on more majors, see here).


We did not find teacher prep to be among the top five toughest majors at any of the 40 institutions. Only one institution, University of Maryland College Park, came close, with teacher prep coming in at 8th most difficult major on that campus. We hope to soon see more appearances of teacher prep on the "toughest majors" list. As the presence of some other majors on the list proves, lower pay doesn't have to mean easier coursework. Still, seeing education majors move up the salary rankings might make tougher coursework more palatable.