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Psychology graduates remain poor for life, study shows

It's not a science, it's a liberal art

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A study in America has found that taking a degree in Psychology condemns you to a lifetime of being lower paid than those who study proper sciences, and lower paid than the average among university graduates.

"Psychology educators say liberal arts skills should be valuable in the workplace. Employers say they value liberal arts skills in employees," says psychology prof D W Rajecki. "I say, 'show me the money.'"

Rajecki and his fellow trick-cyclist Victor Borden set out to look into the matter. They found that US psychology grads achieve an average starting salary of $35,300, well below normal for American college graduates.

Even later on at mid-career, the psych majors were still below average, indicating that they would remain poorer than normal (for people with degrees) all their lives.

The story was different for those who studied the three main sciences, or engineering or medicine: all these degrees led to above-college-average earnings.

"Face it, wages are tied to specific occupations, and real-world data show that psychology alumni just don't work in areas that pay top dollar," says Rajecki. Carrying on and doing postgraduate work doesn't help. "Even psychology professors obtain appointments at the lower end of that salary scale."

These might be cautionary words for the young people of old Blighty, who have a marked predilection for taking Psychology degrees. It is the third most popular degree subject at the moment, just barely beaten by Law and Design Studies.

Rajecki and Borden's study is to be published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. ®

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