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Study: Choice of college degree affects future earnings

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WILMINGTON -- What a college student chooses to study could mean millions of dollars over the course of their career.

Reports recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau look at which bachelor degrees pay the most.

At UNC Wilmington, Kassie Infante works at the career center and majors in business administration with a concentration in marketing. She said her future dictates where she puts her time and effort.

"I had to decide between communications and business and I felt as though business would make me more marketable and successful," said Infante.

Based on the reports, she made the right decision. One report says, 64 percent of business majors have full-time, year-round jobs and they're most likely making better money than those who majored in education or the arts.

Over a 40-year career, the report said an engineering degree will pay the most with an estimated $3.5 million. Whereas an education major would make around $1.8 million. The director of UNC Wilmington's Career Center says it all comes down to supply and demand.

"We have fewer people that have strong science and math skills but we need a lot of people that have those therefore we have to pay more for that." said Thom Rakes, the director of UNCW's Career Center.

One of the reports points out that different majors, offer different incomes even within the same type of job. It uses sales as an example.

Someone with an engineering degree can make around $3.3 million in 40 years whereas an arts major would only bring in around $1.9 million.

"Very often the engineers and the folks with the science backgrounds are doing technical sales which means they're sales people but they're selling a technical product that requires technical knowledge," said Rakes.

Rakes said these days they encourage students to think long-term. They want them to know where they want to end up, then pick a major that will help them get there, all while keeping happiness in mind.

"I think a business degree will help me be successful financially and it will make me happy in the long run," said Infante.

The reports also look at how one's education level and chosen occupation can affect their career earnings.

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