Users can monitor unemployment, underemployment and wages among 73 college majors for newly minted graduates, defined as people 22 to 27 years old with at least a bachelor’s degree. Graduates can track their earnings against those of workers with only a high school diploma. And they can pull up information on the demand for folks with degrees as measured by help-wanted online ads.
There are clear advantages to having a college degree in the labor market. Over the course of the economic recovery, the unemployment rate among recent college graduates has continued to decline, according to the New York Fed. Unemployment for those folks hovers just below 5 percent, down from a peak of 7.1 percent in March 2011.
College students also have a better chance of making more money after graduation than they did a few years back. Economists say the median wage for new graduates in 2015 climbed 7.5 percent to $43,000, while the median wage for those with only a high school diploma remained unchanged at $25,000.
It even appears that the era of the highly educated barista is coming to an end, as the share of recent college graduates working jobs that do not require a degree is falling. Granted, a good 44 percent of new graduates are still holding down those kinds of gigs, and there are far more postings for jobs that don’t demand a degree.
While what you study in college does not have to define your career path, there are some striking employment trends by major. Economists at the New York Fed say the unemployment rate is nearly 9 percent for geography and anthropology majors, but only 2 percent for people who studied nursing.
Less than 20 percent of nursing and engineering majors are holding down jobs that do not require a degree. The same is true for over 60 percent of business management, fine arts and criminal justice majors.
When it comes to earnings, there are some pretty predictable winners. Chemical engineers make the most money right out of the gate, with a median starting salary of $70,000. Midway through their career chemical engineers can take in $94,000. At the same point in their career, computer engineering and pharmacy majors can look forward to clearing six-figure salaries.
On the flip side, it really doesn’t pay to be an educator. Whether it’s early childhood, elementary, secondary or general education, median wages for people with a bachelor’s degree in any education field remains below $45,000 mid-career.
A recent study the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that the top 25 percent of earners with education degrees can expect to make as much as the bottom 25 percent of people with engineering degrees, even mid-career. Getting an advanced degree will improve educators’ prospects, but won’t do much to narrow the wage gap with engineers.
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