Employment Opportunities for Graduates

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Now that Commencement is over, the logical concern is the career opportunities for graduates. The Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University continues to provide helpful data and analyses.

Its recent report, “Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings” is based on the analysis of the 2010 and 2012 census data. The study looks at the employment of recent graduates (ages 22-26), experienced graduates (ages 30-54) and those holding a graduate degree.

As always, those with a bachelor’s degree or more typically do much better than those with less education in terms of both finding a job and earning a significantly higher income. And those with a graduate degree do even better. Overall unemployment rates during this time period were 9-10%. College graduates over the age of 25 averaged unemployment rates of 4.6-4.7%. But there is more to the story.

As it has been in the past several years, the employment picture is mixed for college graduates. A simple summary is provided by the Center’s director, Anthony P. Carnevale, who co-authored this report. "It matters what you major in, and it matters if you get a graduate degree. It's the same point we make over and over again."

First, here is the good news. Recent graduates with the lowest unemployment rates (6%) majored in nursing (4.8%), elementary education (5.0%), physical fitness, parks and recreation (5.2%), chemistry (5.8%) and finance (5.9%).

The highest unemployment rates (all above 11%) were found for those majoring in information systems (14.7%), architecture (12.8%), anthropology (12.6), film, video, photography arts (11.4%) and political science (11.1%).

The report provides an explanation for these results. In general, for example, graduates who are able to “create technology” do better than those prepared to “use technology.” In other cases, the opportunities for jobs mirror the economic trends and demographics. Health care and education needs are expanding because of both growth in programs and services and aging populations of current employees. While the housing market is beginning to rebound, the lack of growth in new homes relates to the lack of need for new architects.

The variance in income is also significant. Recent graduates in the field of engineering do the best (median salary of $57,000) while those in the arts earn far less (median salary of $25,000).

The study also demonstrates a correlation between employment/income and experience/advanced education. Experienced graduates in all fields have lower unemployment rates and higher incomes. Those holding a graduate degree do the best in both employability and income.

For years, college advisors have encouraged students to follow their passion. It is important for students to pursue degrees and ultimate employment opportunities in fields of interest. But there are practical realities to consider. And reports like this help advisors to better understand the world these recent graduates will enter. Students may choose a life as a struggling artist, but may find a career in education, for example, a better choice.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

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Guest Wednesday, 23 April 2014