Office of Planning and Budgeting

Georgetown Sheds Light on Unemployment and Earnings Trends for Recent Grads

To understand how graduates of different majors are faring in the current job market, a new Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce report examines unemployment rates and median earnings by degree for “recent college graduates” (ages 22-26 with bachelor’s degrees), “experienced college graduates” (ages 30-54), and “graduate degree holders” (ages 30-54 with at least a master’s degree).

 The report, entitled Hard Times 2013, finds that the overall unemployment rate for recent graduates is 7.9 percent, with a range of about 7 to 9 percent depending on degree, excepting some notable outliers. Experienced graduates’ unemployment percentage hovered around 4 to 6 percent, while those with graduate degrees had unemployment rates of just 2 to 4 percent. 

 The report finds that undergraduate majors do matter—but not in the way we might expect. Some unemployment rates were surprising: a recent graduate majoring in music (8.6 percent) is slightly more likely to find a job than a recent computer science grad (8.7 percent). Recently graduated journalism and general engineering majors have the same unemployment rate, at 7 percent. The highest unemployment rates were among recent grads in information systems (14.7 percent) and architecture (12.8 percent), while the lowest were nursing (4.8 percent), elementary education (5 percent), physical fitness/parks and recreation (5.2 percent), chemistry (5.8 percent), and mathematics (5.9 percent).

 Furthermore, earnings differentials between recent graduates’ majors are smaller than we might think: the median salary for most is between 30K and 40K per year. Recent grads in computer science and math make slightly more (45K), while recent engineering grads have the highest earnings (54K).

 In many cases, what matters most is not degree field, but degree level and experience.  For an experienced college graduate, median earnings typically increase by 20K to 30K, depending on degree.  And, in most fields, getting a graduate degree pushes median earnings up an additional 10K to 20K.   

 Of course, it is important to take these findings with a grain of salt: while field of study and level of experience can certainly influence the likelihood of finding a job and the amount of money a graduate will make, they are not the only factors. The institution attended, year of graduation, location, and much more can significantly impact earnings and unemployment. 

 To read the full report and see a complete breakdown of earnings and unemployment rates by major and experience level, click here.

 

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