(NEXSTAR) — Last year, as Americans grappled with inflation, the median household income sat at $74,755, falling roughly 1% from the year before when you account for inflation.
And while many have been encouraged to attend college and get a degree, newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau suggest those with bachelor’s degrees may actually not be as well off as advertised.
Among Americans with a bachelor’s degree, the median income in 2022 was $74,154, roughly $600 below the national average of all earners, regardless of their education.
But, as with all medians, there are some degree-holders who earned more than others.
Nationally, those with a bachelor’s degree in engineering reported the highest median income at $106,736 in 2022, according to the Census Bureau data. Those with degrees in computers, mathematics, and statistics weren’t far behind at $100,283.
These were the only fields to surpass a median income of $100,000. Coming in third were degree holders in physical and related sciences at $83,706.
Overall, Americans with degrees in science and engineering, as well as business, earned more than those with degrees in education or the arts and humanities. The median income for a degree holder in the visual and performing arts, for example, was $54,765 in 2022, almost half that of an engineering degree holder.
Those with a bachelor’s degree in education reported the second-lowest median income at $57,093, followed by psychology at $62,136.
There were also disparities between male and female earners with bachelor’s degrees, the Census data shows.
The average male with a bachelor’s degree earned $89,298 in 2022, vastly higher than the average female with the same education level, who earned roughly $63,235.
Among male earners, the top-earning field was engineering, where the median income was slightly higher than the national average at $110,918. Those with a degree in computers, mathematics, and statistics ranked as the second-highest earning males on average, at $105,269, again edging out the national average.
The third-highest earning males in 2022 were those with bachelor’s degrees in physical and related sciences with a median income of $94,580.
For U.S. males with bachelor’s degrees, the three lowest-earning fields were, on average, visual and performing arts ($62,092), education ($66,887), and liberal arts and history ($73,090). While the lowest among male earners, the median income in all three fields was higher than the national average for each.
Among females, in no field was the median income above $100,000, the Census data shows. The highest earners had engineering degrees, reporting a median income in 2022 of $91,171. Those with a degree in computers, mathematics, and statistics reported an average income of $81,871, followed by those with degrees in science and engineering-related fields at $72,210.
For females, the three lowest-earning degree holders were those in the visual and performing arts field ($51,181), education ($54,573), and those with degrees categorized as “other” ($54,225).
There were also notable, but likely explainable, differences between major age groups. Those between the ages of 20 and 39 earned, on average, $64,524 in 2022, while those between 40 and 64 earned roughly $83,434. This can be attributed to varying pay scales based on job experience.
Across both age groups, engineering remained the highest-earning field — $92,920 for younger Americans, $126,161 for older Americans — Census data shows. That was followed by computers, mathematics, and statistics at $86,304 and $109,747.
While those with bachelor’s degrees between the ages of 40 and 64 adhered to the national average, with fields in physical and related sciences standing as the third-highest earning at $102,055, younger Americans found greater success in a different field: business. Those with business degrees reported a median income of $72,096, while younger Americans in the physical and related sciences field reported earnings of $64,970.
The lowest-earning fields were similar among the two age groups. For younger Americans, it was visual and performing arts ($50,165), education ($51,607), and psychology ($54,345). For older Americans, it was education ($61,963), visual and performing arts ($62,004), and degrees categorized as “other” ($70,778).
Despite their apparent lower earnings potential, bachelor's degrees in liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities have been the most popular in the U.S. over the last decade, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. That field, in which over 400,400 degrees were completed in the 2020-21 school year, vastly outperformed the second most popular, health professions and related programs, where just over 181,000 degrees were granted in the same year.
Engineering degrees and degrees in computer and information sciences and support services ranked among the three least common fields — roughly 48,700 and 34,100 degrees were completed in each, respectively, during 2020-21.