Degrees of Value: Differences in the Wages of Graduates from Minnesota's Colleges and Universities

Mark S. Schneider

Students invest their time and money in postsecondary education for many reasons, but one of the most important is the belief that a college degree will lead to a good job and a higher salary. There are systematic differences in the wage outcomes of graduates depending on their major, the postsecondary credential they earn, and where they study. This report centers on several important findings related to wage outcomes of
postsecondary graduates in Minnesota.

Key Findings

  • Although the median wages of completers generally increase as credential levels increase, associate degrees in some career-oriented majors, such as Industrial Production Technologies and Registered Nursing, return wages that rival or surpass the wages of graduates with bachelor’s degrees.
  • Graduates with bachelor’s degrees from many of the largest majors in the state, such as Psychology and Teacher Education, earn low wages.
  • The shortage of graduates in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) does not translate uniformly into higher wages for graduates in these fields. For example, in Minnesota, graduates with bachelor’s degrees in Biology do not do particularly well in the labor market. Rather, their wages tend to be similar to the median wages of graduates from all bachelor’s degree majors.
  • In contrast, completers in Minnesota from majors in Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics tend to earn high median wages.
  • Graduates in many health-related majors also earn high wages, as do technicians at every level of postsecondary education.
  • In short, students who know how to fix things or help people stay healthy earn higher median wages in the labor market.