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Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal

Much attention has been devoted to the 9 percent unemployment among recent college graduates, leading some to conclude that college is no longer worth it. In Hard Times, we argue that college remains the best alternative for young workers with one caveat: Not all majors are created equal. Some majors offer substantially better employment prospects than others.

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Hard Times:
College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings:
Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal
Anthony P. Carnevale, Ban Cheah and Jeff Strohl
January 4, 2012
Overview
•  Unemployment figures in 2012 show the jobless rate
for recent graduates with Bachelor’s degrees has been
running at an unacceptable 8.9 percent.
•  Unemployment rates are even lower among high
school degree holders and dropouts.
–  Bachelor’s degrees is at an unacceptable 8.9%
–  High school diplomas is a catastrophic 22.9%
–  High school dropouts is an unthinkable 31.5 %
Choice of Major Determines Unemployment
and Earnings
•  Non-technical majors like Art (11.1 %), Architecture (13.9%), and
Social Science (8.9%) generally have high unemployment rates.
Earnings
•  Median earnings among recent college graduates vary
from $55,000 among Engineering majors to $30,000 in
the Arts, as well as Psychology and Social Work.
Technology
•  People who make technology are better off than people who use
technology.
•  Unemployment is low for graduates who can write software and
invent new applications, but still high (8.2 %) for those who use
software.
Growing Occupational Clusters
•  Unemployment is the lowest among majors linked to growing
occupations.
•  Engineering, Sciences, Education and Healthcare-related
majors have low unemployment rates of 5.4 % for recent
graduates.
Ad

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Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal

  • 1. Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal Anthony P. Carnevale, Ban Cheah and Jeff Strohl January 4, 2012
  • 2. Overview •  Unemployment figures in 2012 show the jobless rate for recent graduates with Bachelor’s degrees has been running at an unacceptable 8.9 percent. •  Unemployment rates are even lower among high school degree holders and dropouts. –  Bachelor’s degrees is at an unacceptable 8.9% –  High school diplomas is a catastrophic 22.9% –  High school dropouts is an unthinkable 31.5 %
  • 3. Choice of Major Determines Unemployment and Earnings •  Non-technical majors like Art (11.1 %), Architecture (13.9%), and Social Science (8.9%) generally have high unemployment rates.
  • 4. Earnings •  Median earnings among recent college graduates vary from $55,000 among Engineering majors to $30,000 in the Arts, as well as Psychology and Social Work.
  • 5. Technology •  People who make technology are better off than people who use technology. •  Unemployment is low for graduates who can write software and invent new applications, but still high (8.2 %) for those who use software.
  • 6. Growing Occupational Clusters •  Unemployment is the lowest among majors linked to growing occupations. •  Engineering, Sciences, Education and Healthcare-related majors have low unemployment rates of 5.4 % for recent graduates.
  • 7. Con’t.   •  Psychology and Social Work graduates also have low rates (7.3 percent) because almost half of them work in the Healthcare or Education sectors.
  • 8. Architecture •  Majors that are closely aligned with occupations and industries in low demand can misfire if that industry collapses. •  Recent Architecture graduates experience a 13.9 percent unemployment rate due to the collapse in construction and housing. •  Unemployment rates for experienced Architecture graduates remain at 9.2 percent.
  • 9. Graduate Degree •  A graduate degree makes a quantum difference in employment and earnings prospects across all majors. •  The overall unemployment rate for people with graduate degrees is just 3 percent.
  • 10. Con’t.   •  In Arts and Education, pay has traditionally has been low and workers with graduate degrees average between $60,000 and $100,000 per year, compared to a range of $48,000 and $62,000 for workers with Bachelor’s degrees.
  • 11. Conclusion •  Choice of major determines unemployment and earnings. •  What employed college graduates make also depends on what they take. •  People who make technology are better off than people who use technology. •  Unemployment is lowest where the ties between majors and occupations are highest. •  At the same time, majors that are closely aligned with occupations and industries in low demand can misfire. •  Graduate degrees can help boost earnings potential.
  • 12. For more information: See the full report at: cew.georgetown.edu/HardTimes2012/   Email Us | cewgeorgetown@georgetown.edu Follow Us on Twitter | @GeorgetownCEW Find Us on Facebook | Facebook.com/GeorgetownCEW Follow Us on LinkedIn | linkedin.com/company/georgetowncew