If you were to pick a college major now based on your future salary, what would you choose?

For many youngsters starting college right now, this is more than just a theoretical question.

The Number One Paying Degree

According to an annual salary survey by PayScale, the best choice financially would be to major in Petroleum Engineering.

Why Petroleum Engineering? Well…

Since most of the world’s easily reachable oil-fields have been depleted, the ways and methods required to get to the remaining pockets is increasingly complicated.

From deep-sea drilling to desert and arctic conditions, the Petroleum Engineer has to know everything there is to know about geological conditions and engineering methods in the most extreme places.

And since the global oil-industry shows no signs of changing to alternative solutions before we eventually hit peak oil, the “black gold is in ever high demand!

Already in 2010 the the US military’s Joint Forces Command predicted that “by 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day.”

But it doesn’t seem to stop Petroleum specialists from bringing home the biggest bacon.

The second and third best-paying degrees are Chemical and Electrical Engineering, by the way.

Education The Worst Possible Choice?

If you look all the way down on the PayScale report you’ll find the worst paying degree is Child and Family Studies.

This degree is about gaining scientific understanding of everything related to children, families and the early education process.

The second worst-paying job?

Elementary education.

The third?

Social Work.

I’ve said it before but here you go again: If you want to get rich, don’t go into education.

If salaries are an indicator of what society at large appreciates, the production of oil and chemicals seem to be valued exorbitantly higher than the basic education of children, improving family and general social conditions of people.

To say that modern societies are “materialistic” would not just be an understatement, it also misses the point.

A more precise way to pin-point the issue is by looking at the Product and the Process.

How Industrial Education Worked Hard To Make Itself Obsolete

The appreciation of products is obvious. Companies produce them. Consumers buy them. And round and round it goes. Until customers run out of money our companies fail to produce more, for whatever reason.

Admittedly, every product can be seen as the end-point of a sequence of actions which is commonly called the production process.

In this respect, the process is only the means to an end, the end being the product.

Looking at the process of building a car, this is only naturally. The quality of the process is measured in terms of the outcome, only.

But as has been pointed out numerous times: Schools aren’t factories and children are not cars.

In other words: The industrial process is very different from the educational process.

Contrary to popular opinion, the results of education are not grades, scores and degrees. Instead, the results are inherent in and cannot be separated from the process, generating knowledge, understanding and personal growth.

But if we look again at the outcomes of the PayScale survey, it seems modern education has cut off the branch it used to sit on.

By becoming knowledge factories bent on mass-producing educated citizens, our schools have industrialized and reduced the learning process until finally, there was no use for education anymore, except to produce more and more industrial engineers.

The good news is that there actually are many great alternatives (see here and here) to the Industrial approach to education.

But it’s up to educators and learners to actually use them.

Further Reading: