John Preston works hard to help families reach the 1% as author of My Family Finances and a weekly contributor to US News and World Reports’ My Money Blog. Follow his latest articles on family finances by subscribing to his feed.
I’m well on my way to being part of the top 1% and I’m here to brag about it.
The ingredients for wealth are not easy to distinguish. It turns out that education is a good predictor of wealth. Gallup conducted an analysis of their survey demographics and found that 1 in 4 from the top 1% have a four-year degree and 1 in 2 have a graduate degree. Obviously, education can increase your chances of reaching the 1%, but when I see data like this I’m always thinking about philosophy majors.
Before deciding that business was the right choice for me, I spent a little time as a philosophy major. It was a fun degree because you never needed to be right about anything. You just needed a better argument. While there is use for this talent in the real world, any employer is going to want results over theories, which explains why the primary employment outlet for a philosophy graduate is very limited. For the most part, you land a job in academia or write a book.
Realizing this future employment problem as a sophomore, I switched majors and went into economics. Was this a smart move? Are my friends who stuck around in philosophy just as likely to reach the top 1% as I am with my economics undergrad and an MBA?
If you’ve ever wondered which four-year degrees increase your odds of making it to the top 1%, I’ve got the top five below and philosophy is not on it.
If you are in medicine and want to reach the highest wage bracket in America, you’ve picked a good degree. Nearly 1 in 8 graduates with a health care degree count themselves among the top wage earners. Apparently, doctors are still getting rich these days and that’s a good thing if you ask me. Would you want to go into surgery with a low-paid doctor whose poor compensation makes him unhappy in his work?
I did mention that I was here to brag didn’t I? Those with economics degrees fall in the number two spot with 1 in 12 economists earning a top 1% wage. I suppose understanding how to maximize efficiency and income comes handy for building wealth. Plus, the world needs economists to tell them 6 months after a recession that a recession did in fact officially occur.
I’m glad to see that people are still paying lots of money to stop aging and end cancer. 1 in 14 biochemical engineers are numbered in the top 1%. I don’t suppose this slot requires much explanation, since we tend to expect smart people to make a lot of money.
I don’t mean to offend the many zoologists reading this blog, but I didn’t expect to find your major ranking number four with 1 in 15 zoologists earning the big salary. I’m hoping one of you can fill me in on your secret. Could it be that it is not a popular study, but there is high demand? Generally, you make a lot of money when you are providing your expertise to a human. To my knowledge, animals still lack the ability to compensate for services.
Who says you have to marry chemistry and biology to get into the top 1%? 1 in 15 biologists have made it without all the mixing of various fluids in beakers. Wait, don’t you still need chemistry for a biology degree?
Surprisingly, philosophy did beat out pharmacists and accountants towards the bottom of the list and that’s worth taking note. While demand for some majors increase opportunity to become wealthy, no major is completely unrepresented. Ultimately everyone, even philosophy majors, have a shot at earning higher wages.
How about you? Is your major near the top?
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