Income Difference Occupational Vs Liberal Degrees Article Review

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The long-term income difference between those who obtain occupational degrees versus those who obtain more general or liberal arts degrees.

It is a general understanding that education provides individuals with a number of labor market benefits besides increased income. More educated persons tend to be autonomous, more mobile and flexible, enjoy higher job security, and experience higher levels of employment (Lee, 2014). However, income usually receives the highest attention, even though it may not capture all these advantages of employment. As much as all graduates experience these effects of education, this experience is never uniform. Huge differences do exist when it comes to the income and status of occupation of graduates. There have been many investigations trying to find out what brings these variations and one factor that has featured significantly is fields of study. There are different groupings of fields but generally an individual obtains either an occupational specific degree or a more general or liberal arts degree. The fact that individuals in these different fields have a variation in income is not in contention, what is a subject of discussion is who earns higher and who records higher growth rate in the industry. The general expectation is that the occupational specific degrees, such as engineering, economics and health-related fields, would attract higher earnings as opposed to the liberal arts degrees.

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The fields of study not only affect income but also have an influence on unemployment risks and occupational status (Lee, 2014).

In order to conclusively find out which fields yield higher income, especially in the long run, a number of studies have been carried out. One such study was done by Roksa and Levey (2010) and it showed that there is a clear distinction of entry points into the labor market as well as in the occupational trajectories taken in the long run. Graduates with occupational specific degrees tend to have higher incomes when they enter the labor market, on the other hand graduates whose degrees are less specific occupationally have lower incomes at the point of entry into the labor market. There is also an indication that the graduates with high occupational specificity enter the labor market at a higher occupational status as compared to their colleagues with low occupational specificity. However, this advantage enjoyed by the occupational specific graduates does not last over time since occupational specific graduates register the lowest occupational status growth in the long run. The liberal arts graduates are disadvantaged at the entry point but enjoy high occupational status growth in the industry. The long-term effect of this is that the liberal arts graduates will end up closing the income as well as occupational status.....

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Lee, J. (2014). The attainability of university degrees and their labour market benefits for young
Australians. Higher Education, 68(3), 449-469. doi:

Roksa, J., & Levey, T. (2010). What can you do with that degree? college major and
occupational status of college graduates over time. Social Forces, 89(2), 389-415. Retrieved from


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