STEM Associate's Degree Pays Better Than Liberal Arts Bachelor's

According to new Census data, engineering is the most popular field of study in America.

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People with an associate's degree in a STEM field earn more than those with a bachelor's degree in education or liberal arts, according to new data released Thursday by the United States Census Bureau.

An adult with an associate's degree in engineering earned an average of $4,800 monthly in 2009; someone with a bachelor's degree in education earned an average of $3,800.

For the first time ever, more than 30 percent of Americans 25 and older have earned at least a bachelor's degree.

Engineering is the most popular field of study, with about 4.5 million adults earning a bachelor's degree in engineering. Of the estimated 56 million Americans with at least a bachelor's degree, about 19.6 million, or 35 percent, have a degree in a STEM field.

Unsurprisingly, men vastly outnumber women in STEM fields. Nearly 90 percent of all engineering degrees are owned by men. In the physical sciences, math, and computer science, the difference is less pronounced, but men still outnumber women about 3 to 1.

There are signs that women are slowly closing the gap: Among people age 25 to 39, women hold about 1 in 5 engineering degrees; between the ages of 40 and 65, they hold only 1 in 10.

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