Your Major Matters in the Job Market

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The Graph:

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) publishes an annual first destination survey for graduating college classes. In the 2017 publication, NACE provided data on the outcomes of students in the 2016 college class within six months of graduation. Here, we compiled the employment outcomes of students who earned a bachelor’s degree by academic discipline. The stacked bars show the percentage of graduates who found standard full-time employment, were hired for another type of employment (e.g., contract work, part-time roles), are still looking for employment, or had some other type of outcome not related to employment. Black lines on each bar indicate average starting salaries for each field of study.

The Message:

As certain industries thrive and others shrink, the demand for expertise and specific skillsets will change. As such, choosing a major – and thus aligning yourself with a certain branch of knowledge – is not something to be taken lightly. It can have a significant impact on your post-college options. Of course, there’s no right or wrong major. Selecting something that interests you is of utmost importance. But in doing so, be aware of how you are positioning yourself for post-college life.

The data here show significant variability in employment among the disciplines. Sorted by percentage employed (sum of green and yellow bars) from left to right, we can see that technological fields lead the way, with approximately 77% of graduates finding some type of employment within six months of graduation. On the other end of the spectrum are the physical and biological sciences, where almost half of graduates opt to continue their education rather than join the labor force.

Although there is less variability in the percentage of graduates still seeking employment, it’s worth noting that graduating from college doesn’t guarantee employment! Some disciplines like transportation, English, and natural resources have around one-fifth of graduates still searching for employment.

There are, of course, many factors you should consider when choosing what to study – employability and salary are just a couple of them. So don’t use this to choose your major. Instead, use it as a gentle reminder that life after college is waiting for you, so you may as well start preparing yourself for it!

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