Which degree is the most lucrative?
You may remember that the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, announced in late 2014 that the way to wealth and happiness was a science degree. In the process, she proceeded to marginalise the humanities and creative arts, whilst endorsing a school league table structure that heavily incentivised the promotion of English, Maths and Science above subjects decried as ‘non-core’.
In keeping with this league table mentality, today, the Institute of Financial Studies have published data that advertises the most ‘lucrative’ degrees. Those who choose Medicine will be happy – they could pull in near to £56k after ten years (as long as they are male – female doctors seem to earn ten grand less). The gender gap gets a bit kinder as you creep down the fiscal ladder to Law, Physical Sciences and Architecture (£30k), and is much less if you’ve chosen History or Philosophy (£27k). Holding up the ladder though is Creative Arts. Again, the Arts are marginalised and limited through a desire to place as blunt an instrument as earning power as their main attraction. Even Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools has been guilty of this, insisting that teachers ‘fast tracked to leadership’ could access six figure salaries within a short period of time. No talk of teaching’s moral purpose, the importance of pastoral care of young people, the core role of the educator as a servant of the community. Nope – join up, teach a bit, get some management theory under your belt and run an Academy Chain.
When you hear teachers talking about the government devaluing the profession – this is kind of what they mean.
Counter intuitively, they do it through assuming that market forces and earning power are the sole driver of communities.
There is a real danger in this. Without devaluing in any way the real importance of our doctors and scientists – I’d imagine that many of them choose their degrees and also their careers via a much more varied and rich criteria than remuneration. I’m not naïve – it’s inevitable that earning power comes into it – but the counterpoint of a league table of creativity, community service, and celebration of diversity, cultural awareness, compassion, empathy, and understanding of others might even the odds slightly. If it was to achieve anything, it could increase the confidence and resilience of those young people who choose creative, cultural or philosophical career paths – and do so because it offers something much richer and rewarding than money.