Which graduates are having trouble finding jobs? College major plays a role

Education, chemistry, nursing among majors with lowest rates

The unemployment rate for recent college graduates is falling, although not equally among majors, according to a new Georgetown University report.

Researchers examined data from the American Community Survey, consisting of full-year, full-time workers aged 22 to 54. They found that although average rates of unemployment for recent grads hovered around 7.5% in 2012, some majors fared better and worse in the job market.

The graduates most likely to be employed were those who majored in chemistry, nursing, or education, Max Ehrenfreund writes at the Washington Post's "Wonkblog." Only 4.5% of chemistry majors, 4.8% of nursing majors, and 5.1% of elementary educations majors were without work.

However, architecture and social science majors reported unemployment rates above the national average, at about 10%. This may be due to the collapse of the construction industry and cuts to government and nonprofits during the Great Recession, says study co-author Anthony Carnevale.

Prospective students increasingly look at outcomes to choose colleges

All college graduates fared better than their peers who held only a high school diploma—their unemployment rate hit nearly 18% in 2012.

On average, people who hold college degrees earn about 75% more than their diploma-only peers. And despite relatively higher rates of unemployment early on, architecture and social science majors generally go on to make $73,000 annually later in life.

Shifting workforce values 

College graduates did better than even experienced workers who only completed high school. That cohort faced a 9.9% unemployment rate.

That differs from 30 years ago when the situation was reversed, says Carnevale, who attributes the change to the shift from manufacturing to service in the workforce, as well as the growing importance of technology (Ehrenfreund, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 2/23).

The takeaway: Then unemployment rate for recent college graduates is falling, though even those who face relatively higher rates of unemployment still benefit from earning a degree in the long-run, according to a new study out of Georgetown University.

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