Good Graph Friday: The Majors With The Best Job Prospects

Hey college students, do you want a job? Then you may not want to study architecture or the arts.

A new analysis of government data finds that recent college graduates with degrees in fields such as health and education have much lower unemployment rates than those who earned degrees in architecture and the arts.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce crunched government data from 2009 and 2010 to find out which majors are the most likely to land you a job right out of college.

In general, the researchers found that people are much more likely to get a job out of college when they choose a major that puts you on a specific career path, such as business. By contrast, people who get more general degrees in things like humanities and liberal arts may find it tougher to land a job, especially given the current job market.

“Your degree matters less and your major matters more,” said Anthony Carnevale, the Georgetown center’s director.

That’s a change from past thinking, when conventional wisdom held that just getting a college degree would be enough to set you on a lucrative career path.

Still, even some very specialized degrees don’t guarantee a good job. Saying you’re an architect may impress people (or at least George Costanza always thought so), but Carnevale said it’s long been a very competitive field.

“It’s like being a chef,” he said. “You may end up being a cook instead of a chef.”

The recent slump in construction has made the job market for architects even worse, and that could last for years. The unemployment rate for recent architecture grads was 13.9 percent, according to the report.

The findings also show that there continues to be strong demand for people with degrees in engineering, math and some computer science fields.

Still, the overall unemployment rate for people with computer and mathematics degrees was a little high, at 8.2 percent. Carnevale said that’s because there are a growing number of less technical computer information specialists degrees, and hiring in those fields slows down in recessionary periods.

The unemployment rate for education grads also was particularly low, at 5.4 percent. Although there have been cuts in education in recent years, Carnevale said it’s continued to be a good bet for jobs because there are lots of older teachers who are retiring.

The good news for all college grads, regardless of major: As time goes on, unemployment rates generally go down.

“The truth is, if you get a four-year degree … you’ll do OK,” Carnevale said. “It’ll be worth some money.”

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