While law school used to boast some of the most consistent and aggressive enrollment numbers of any study discipline in the U.S., the times they are a changin’. Engineering appears to be where it’s at now, and apparently with good reason.
Engineering is a highly-respected field, and one with so many different concentrations that nearly anyone is suited for it. So what’s created this mass exodus from law school and routed the numbers toward engineering? Three very important things.
Law School Tuition Hikes Outpace Others
The goal of any education is usually to start a career. But when the very education that you need is so expensive, making that commitment can be pretty scary. And when the career options afterward are anything but stable, law school doesn’t look as appealing anymore.
That’s what’s happened across the country in the past few years, according to Max Nisen’s Quartz article, “US Students are Fleeing Law Schools and Pouring into Engineering.” Nisen references the recent US News Annual US Graduate School Rankings in his report, which show an overall steep hike in law school tuition.
At the same time tuition is going up, law school enrollment is tilting downward. According to Nisen, law school is experiencing a decline that’s gained momentum since 2012, and doesn’t show signs of slowing down just yet. This pattern is also supported by the number of people who aren’t taking the LSAT, which is the standard law school acceptance test.
Engineering Grad Degrees Remain Affordable
College students are fairly famous for switching programs, and along with them, loyalties. It’s not unusual for a first- or second-year student to decide that his dream path isn’t as dreamy after all. But in recent years, students aren’t just swapping courses; they’re heading into engineering in droves.
First, and perhaps most important, is the fact that an engineering grad degree won’t cost the student near as much as a law degree. Where law school tuition has averaged a 66 percent increase since 2005, based on the US News study, engineering tuition has increased 73 percent and still costs significantly less.
Engineering enrollment is where the numbers are really impressive. Since 2005, enrollment has grown by 38 percent across the board. That makes it a faster-growing field than even medicine, which ranks second highest in the nation. What’s really interesting is that even though medicine is second highest, its growth only ranks at about 11 percent.
Engineering Earnings are Competitive
Lawyers are often considered high earners by American standards, but engineers do pretty well, too. And considering the number of different engineering career options, the pay range gets even wider.
The US Department of Labor shows that the median pay for lawyers was $113,530 in 2012. That’s not bad. But for engineers, the pay ranges from around $80,000 to well over $100,000, depending on which engineering discipline you’re in. When you weigh that against tuition, engineering looks promising.
The potential for job growth is also important. While lawyers should expect to see about a 10 percent growth in the near future, according to the Department of Labor, some engineering fields, such as biomedical engineering, have virtually exploded with about a 27 percent predicted growth.
Certain fields will always come with some respect. Engineering and law are two in an elite group, but for the first time, at least in a long time, engineering is outpacing most of the pack.
The perks of engineering are lower tuition, plenty of job opportunity, and competitive wages. With so much going for it and so little to risk, it’s no wonder that engineering is experiencing a virtual renaissance.
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