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Best College Majors if You Want to Find a Job

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Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 3:34 PM

Supertobor / Flickr

Holly Howard graduated from Bowling Green University nearly three years ago. When we talked to her for a recent story, she was still looking for a permanent job. Oh, and she majored in pop culture.

That might have been where she went wrong.

A study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found that what you major in is closely related to whether you have a job. (Scroll down to read the full study and see unemployment rates by major.) That holds true for both recent college graduates and for those with graduate degrees.

Looking at national 2009-10 data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the researchers found the lowest unemployment rates among recent and experienced college graduates who majored in:

  • Education,
  • Health, or
  • Agriculture and natural resources.

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The highest unemployment rates were for architecture, arts and humanities majors.

(The study just looks at whether people were employed, not whether their job required them to have a certain degree or major.)

Other key findings:

  • People who make technology are better off than people who use technology.
  • Unemployment is lowest where the ties between majors and occupations are highest.
  • At the same time, majors that are closely aligned with occupations and industries in low demand can misfire.

So is college still worth it?: The unemployment rate for recent college graduates with bachelor's degrees (9 percent) is much lower than for those with only a high school diploma (23 percent). But:

A major conclusion of the new report is that it all depends on your major. And while a college degree gives job seekers a formidable advantage over those without, the study points out, not all degrees are created equal, and there are a number of factors that prospective students should consider before sending off their college applications.

Unemployment Rates by College Major

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Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce | Download data

Not All College Degrees are Created Equal

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Note: Did you major in pop culture too and now can't find a job? Or maybe you majored in viticulture and are now happily employed? StateImpact Ohio is interested in talking to people who chose to major in fields that don't necessarily promise secure or remunerative employment to learn about their decisions and experiences. To be part of the story, email (And thanks, but we've already heard from plenty of journalists.)

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