Does My College Major Matter? Georgetown Study Says Yes

10:52 AM, May 29, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- A study from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce finds not all college degrees are created equal. According to the study, your major determines your likelihood of unemployment but a college education is still worthwhile overall.

According to "Hard Times, College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings 2013: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal" (, the unemployment rate for recent college graduates in nursing was the lowest while graduates in information systems, concentrated in clerical functions, were the hardest hit. The center found that overall, unemployment rates for college graduates with work experience were 4.6-4.7%, but the overall unemployment rate for recent college graduates was higher at 7.9%.

Additionally, according to the study the unemployment rates for recent architecture graduates were high at 12.8%, and even graduate degrees and work experience didn't keep graduates from a sector-specific shock. Graduates with experience in the field had the same jobless rates as the economy overall at 9.3%.

Generally speaking, unemployment is higher for non-technical majors and people who make technology are better off than people who use technology, according to the study. Unemployment rates for recent graduates in information systems, concentrated in clerical functions, was 14.7% compared with mathematics (5.9%) and computer science (8.7%), shows the study. 

The study also finds that unemployment rates are relatively low for graduates in education, engineering, health and the sciences "because they are tied to stable or growing industry sectors and occupations," said the center in a press release.

The study confirmed that a college education still pays off, but that earnings also depend on the majors of employed college graduates. "Median earnings among recent college graduates range from $54,000 for engineering majors to $30,000 for arts; psychology and social work; and life and physical sciences. The highest paying majors continue to be in engineering," according to a press release on the study.

In terms of graduate degrees, the overall unemployment rate for people with graduate degrees is 3.3 percent. Workers with graduate degrees average between $60,000 and $100,000 per year, except for in the arts and education fields, according to the study. The center notes that "not all graduate degrees outperform all bachelor's degrees on employment. For example, experienced college graduates in healthcare have lower unemployment rates than people with graduate degrees in almost every other field except life and physical sciences."

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce describes itself as "an independent, nonprofit research and policy institute that studies the link between individual goals, education and training curricula and career pathways." For more information, visit:


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