Georgetown University: College Majors, Unemployment, and Earnings

Georgetown University: College Majors, Unemployment, and Earnings
  • Opening Intro -

    If you’re in college and have yet to declare your major or if you have already declared a major and you wonder what types of jobs are in the offing once you graduate, the latest Georgetown University report should be of interest to you.


Specifically, Georgetown researchers surveyed the job market to find out which college majors will most likely lead to a job after graduation.

Unemployment Rates and College Majors

The Georgetown report looked at unemployment rates for college graduates in 2011-2012, finding that college graduates have lower unemployment rates than high school diploma workers in all but two majors: architecture and social science. The unemployment rate for high school grads was 9.9 percent — Georgetown researchers then placed each major on a grid to see how they compared with each other and with high school diploma workers.

Georgetown looked at four college demographics when tabulating its results. First, were experienced workers with graduate degrees, aged 35 to 54. Second, were recent graduate degree holders aged 24 to 34. Third, were experienced college graduates with bachelor’s degrees, aged 35 to 54. Fourth, were college graduates with bachelor’s degrees, aged 22 to 26.

For comparative purposes, the researchers looked at two groups of workers with high school diplomas only. The first group was called “recent workers” and were aged from 22 to 26. The second group was known as “experienced workers” and were aged 35 to 54.

New and Experienced Workers

As for experienced workers with bachelor’s degrees, their unemployment rate was typically between 5 and 6 percent. However, the lowest unemployment rates were in agriculture and natural resources (3 percent), engineering (3.5 percent), health (2.5 percent) and education (3.7 percent).

For new workers holding bachelor’s degrees, agriculture and natural resources, physical sciences and education offered the most promise. All three majors had unemployment rates of 4.5 percent or lower.

As for experienced graduate degree holders, their unemployment levels stayed well below 5 percent in all categories except for those who majored in the arts and architecture. Specifically, students of agriculture and natural resources possessing a grad degree, had the lowest unemployment rate coming in at 1.8 percent followed by biology and life sciences at 1.9 percent. Other categories where grad students experienced low unemployment included: computers, statistics, and mathematics; education; engineering; health and physical sciences.

For new workers holding a graduate degree, there were six majors with unemployment rates lower than 5 percent. They were: biology and life science (2.6 percent); computers, statistics and mathematics (3.5 percent); education (2.4 percent); engineering (2.8 percent), health (2.7 percent) and physical sciences (2.9 percent).

Besides architecture and social science, other majors with fairly high unemployment included the arts, psychology and social work, law and public policy, and humanities and liberal arts. Unemployment for recent graduates was above 8 percent. Two other majors — computers, statistics, and mathematics as well as communications and journalism — also had unemployment exceeding 8 percent.

Average Salaries for Recent Grads

Of particular interest to students is what they can expect to earn each year once they are employed. Where a recent high school diploma holder may average $24,000 per year, most college graduates can expect to earn between $31,000 and $35,000 per year early on. However, there are some majors where students can expect to earn more money from the onset.

For instance, for architecture grads that do find work, a salary average of $40,000 is attainable. Other grads that should do well include: business majors ($41,000); computers, statistics and mathematicians ($48,000); health ($43,000), social sciences ($37,000) and engineering ($57,000).

Like any research, the Georgetown University report will likely be examined, dissected, torn asunder, exalted and otherwise repeated ad nauseum. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as students and their families seek where best to invest their tuition dollars. Furthermore, the report does support that acquiring a college degree is still important, both for securing work and earning competitive salaries.

See AlsoIs Your College Underrated?


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Categories: Career Planning