by Rachel Vilsack
Each year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produces a chart showing median weekly earnings and unemployment rates by level of education. The trend is always the same: as your educational level increases your wages are likely to grow and your chances of being unemployed declines. But for college bound students or recent college graduates, does it matter what you study?
Education is the first step to boost your earning power and employability. First, let’s understand the general trend. According to BLS, adult workers (age 25 and over) with less than a high school diploma had median weekly earnings of $471 in 2012 and an unemployment rate of 12.4 percent. For workers with a bachelor’s degree, earnings were $1,066 and the unemployment rate was 4.5 percent. Indeed, education, wages and unemployment are correlated.
Of course, with so many different educational options and fields of study, does it matter what a college student majors in? A new report by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University looks at unemployment and earnings differences by college major for new and experienced college graduates. Majors with the lowest national unemployment rates among recent graduates in 2010-2011 include nursing, elementary education, physical fitness, parks and recreation, chemistry and finance. The highest unemployment rates for recent college graduates include those that majored in information systems, architecture, anthropology, film/video/photography arts, and political science.
High unemployment rates for recent college graduates can be attributed to the economy, which in 2010-2011 was still in recovery from the recession. The report demonstrates that college degrees won’t always insulate workers from joblessness, so it’s important to research careers and be prepared for changing economic conditions.