Study finds for STEM careers, elite schooling doesn't matter

Prestige may not matter when it comes to higher education for science, technology, engineering and math degrees, according to a study published in The Wall Street Journal.

Researchers analyzed thousands of college graduates and their earnings 10 years out of school, adjusting for family income, race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, SAT score, postgraduate degree and age upon graduation, among other factors.

They found that while elite schools may significantly influence earning potential for business and liberal arts majors, it had little impact on STEM majors, across selective, midtier and less-selective schools, according to the report.

Why? The researchers posited STEM curriculums are more likely standardized and come with a common body of knowledge students must know. As opposed to liberal arts majors or business majors, the body of knowledge is much more subjective and the alumni pool may matter more when graduates seek jobs, according to the report.

The researchers show, at least for undergraduate education, prestige should not be the No. 1 factor. Giving the example of engineering and comparing the University of Pennsylvania and Texas A&M, starting salaries differed by less than $1,000, while education differed by $167,000, according to the report.

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