Georgetown Study Says Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal

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by Jamaal Abdul-Alim

 

Unemployed Graduate

A new study released by Georgetown University reveals choice of college major determines likelihood of unemployment.

Recent college graduates may face tough times landing jobs at first, but things tend to get easier as graduates acquire more experience and education, according to a new report being released today by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

The report, titled Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings, stresses that although college is valuable, students should also know how much it pays based on their chosen field of study, explains Dr. Anthony Carnevale, director of the center and co-author of the report.

“The message in general — and it’s a message that we send out all the time — is you need to pay attention to what you major in because in the end, unemployment rates differ by major,” Carnevale said.

The report notes that higher than average unemployment rates tend to be concentrated in specific majors.

For instance, unemployment is highly concentrated in information systems (14.7 percent) as opposed to computer science (8.7 percent).

Despite the fact that both majors are related to computers, Carnevale says the difference is that information systems involve people who do clerical work, such as data entry. According to the report, the implication is that “hiring tends to be slower for users of information compared to those who write programs and create software applications.”

High unemployment rates existed for those who majored in the social sciences, namely economics, political science and government, and sociology, which had unemployment rates of 10.4, 11.1 and 9.9 percent, respectively.

Arts majors and those who studied the humanities and liberal arts also struggle with similarly high unemployment rates.

Majors with the lowest unemployment rates included nursing, elementary education, physical fitness and parks recreation, chemistry and finance. Each of those fields had unemployment rates of less than 6 percent, the report found.

The report distinguishes unemployment rates and salaries among recent college graduates and those with more experience and education. Many of the fields showed that a graduate degree made a big difference.

For instance, in architecture, recent grads faced an unemployment rate of 12.8 percent, but those with experience faced an unemployment rate of 9.3 percent and those with a graduate degree faced unemployment rates of 6.9 percent.

“In architecture, you have a collapse of the market in a field of study, but if you look at experience, long term, it gets better,” Carnevale said of the slowdown in construction that has dogged the field in recent years.

The Georgetown report — the latest in a series of similar reports — comes as Congress considers legislation to require colleges to report the earnings of graduates down to the program level.

Specifically, in late May, the U.S. House of Representatives approved “The Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act.” Among other things, the act would require the U.S. Department of Education to form an advisory committee to “explore the feasibility of reporting post-graduation earnings data and whether that information will improve the usefulness of federal transparency initiatives for students and their families.”

The House and Senate are also considering “Know Before You Go” legislation that would require the U.S. Secretary of Education to report out earnings for graduates at the program level for two, six and 15 years after graduation.

Carnevale said it’s “inevitable” that such legislation will be passed soon.

“The minute education became an investment and more and more of us spend more to get it, there needs to be transparency about its value in terms of whether you’ll get a job and what it will pay,” he said.

“The crucial thing is to get down to the program level because that’s where the differential occurs,” Carnevale added. “The difference by degree levels are smaller and variations among majors are much greater.”

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