College & Workforce Readiness

Unemployment and Earnings for College Grads Vary by Field

By Caralee J. Adams — May 29, 2013 1 min read

College graduates in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math have the best chance of getting a job and making a high salary compared with those with nontechnical degrees, a report released today from Georgetown University says.

As the country recovered in 2010 and 2011 from the recession, about 9 percent to 10 percent of people older than 25 without a college education were unemployed compared with about 4.6 percent of those with a degree. Overall, the unemployment rate for recent college graduates was 7.9 percent and 3.3 percent for graduate degree holders.

Yet there was great variation in the jobless rate when looking more closely at the recent graduates and their chosen majors, according to the report Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings from the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce.

Unemployment for new college graduates ranged from 4.8 percent to 14.7 percent depending no their field of study.

Majors with the lowest unemployment rates:

Nursing (4.8 percent)
Elementary Education (5 percent)
Physical Fitness/Parks and Recreation (5.2 percent)
Chemistry (5.8 percent)
Finance (5.9 percent)

Majors with the highest unemployment rates:

Information Systems (14.7 percent)
Architecture (12.8 percent)
Anthropology (12.6 percent)
Film, Video, and Photography Arts (11.4 percent)
Political Science (11.1 percent)

The jobless rates were also low for those in engineering (7 percent) and health and the sciences (4.8 percent). About half of degree holders in psychology and social work found work in health care or education, helping keep their unemployment rates to 8.8 percent.

Getting a job was particularly challenging for students in the arts (unemployment rate of 9.8 percent) and law and public policy (9.2 percent).

People in technology-related fields fared well in the job market. The jobless rates among computer-science majors was 8.7 percent and for math majors just 5.9 percent.

Median earnings among recent college graduates range from $54,000 for engineering majors to $30,000 for those studying arts, psychology, and social work, or life and physical sciences. Americans with graduate degrees typically earn between $60,000 and $100,000.

Georgetown researchers used data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Community Survey in 2010 and 2011 in their analysis.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.