The answer, it turns out, may be a bit more than you think. Money.com recently reported that the history majors from the class of 2006 earned an average of $33,071 (a 4.2 increase over the year before). That was more than 5 percent above the average for students who majored in the fields of English, sociology, and psychology.
Of course, a student strictly interested in earnings will probably find the average starting salaries for students with professional degrees more appealing. Business majors earned an average of almost 25 percent more out of college than history majors, and the salaries for students with science and engineering degrees were significantly higher.
These differences seem to diminish a bit over time. According to a new federal survey of college graduates who received their baccalaureate degrees in the 1992–93 academic year, history majors were earning an average of $54,662 ten years after the degree. That was just $1,000 less than the average for all fields, and well above the average of for those who majored in one of the other humanities ($48,162) or education ($39,424).
The gap in average salaries between men and women who majored in history is rather troubling, however. Men reported an average salary of $62,662, while female history majors reported an average of just $42,364. That 48 percent gap is almost twice the difference for graduates from other humanities fields. And unlike students in most of the other fields, the gap did not really narrow when we filter the data down to graduates with full-time jobs.
I hope to explore this further in a future issue of Perspectives.