WSJ: From College Major to Career

<p>An interesting table published in the Wall Street Journal: Best</a> College Majors for a Career - WSJ.com</p>

<p>"Choosing the right college major can make a big difference in students' career prospects, in terms of employment and pay. Here’s a look at how various college majors fare in the job market, based on 2010 Census data. Some popular majors, such as nursing and finance, do particularly well, with unemployment under 5% and high salaries during the course of their careers."</p>

<p>Comment: There are some surprises here, and in some cases the rate of unemployment may be low but so is the median income.</p>

<p>Math- CS, actuarial science looking good here. UE Rate and paywise.</p>

<p>Very good data.</p>

<p>I do not believe that this list reflects reality, unless they are simply reporting whether or not someone is employed at any job vrs. a job that reflects their major. Zero unemployment for astronomy majors?</p>

<p>Really interesting! Thank you for posting. Who would have thought the unemployment rate for biochemistry majors would exceed that for Art History majors?</p>

<p>They provide "popularity index" for each major, but it would have been interesting to know the total numbers for each category. Results can be skewed by small sample sizes. </p>

<p>Still, I'm forwarding the link to DD now...</p>

<p>I had some similar reactions, treetopleaf. But I suppose it is due to low supply...</p>

<p>
[quote]
I do not believe that this list reflects reality, unless they are simply reporting whether or not someone is employed at any job vrs. a job that reflects their major. Zero unemployment for astronomy majors?

[/quote]
</p>

<p>The data doesn't show whether the job is major related, but if you look at the salary ranges it gives some context as to the type of job.</p>

<p>For the astronomy jobs the median salary is 62K, so the responses do not likely consist primarily of fast food employment.</p>

<p>What job do you apply for if you have a BS in biochemistry? Asking that question might explain some of the discrepancies. Some jobs have a slight fit to an entry level job, others not so much. Astonomy would be entry level jobs at Planetariums etc., entry level research positions, aerospace industry outreach type jobs....so Astronomy has the posibilities within the service sector, within reserach and academia and within industry....and I can't imagine three are that many Astronomy majors running around out there. So yes, I can understand the higher employment rates for Astronomy. I think once you have a major that is applicable in the service industry, manufacutring and business and research...you've got a much higher change at employment than someone who is tied to only one of those areas.</p>

<p>Students often go on to grad school in many of these areas of study. Seems hard to compare apples to apples without that additional info (eg, do Art History majors who go on to grad school do better in terms of income? How much better?).</p>

<p>Thanks for the link, but does anyone see a link to the methodology? I see that the data is based on the 2010 census, but I don't see how the data is massaged into its published form.</p>

<p>Astronomy majors take a great deal of physics, but it's interesting that the astronomy unemployment rate is lower than the physics unemployment rate.</p>

<p>Biochemistry is a very popular major for pre-med students. Even for those accepted into a med school it can be MANY years before they consider themselves "employed". Many others continue on to grad school, so indeed it is necessary to know the methodology to understand the real value of the majors.</p>

<p>However the stat for clinical psychologist was sobering, almost 20% unemployment. What's up with that?</p>

<p>This is a bit off topic, but what do Ethnic Studies majors end up doing for a career? The major is very popular in the lower tier UC's.</p>

<p>Well, one thing you can take from it: do not major in Psychology. Wow. </p>

<p>And library science .</p>

<p>There was an article yesterday (I believe) in NYT (I believe) that pointed out that a lot of students start out in sciences and then find out it's HARD, and so they switch to other majors. Since there's not a tight connection between most college majors and particular jobs right out of college, I think it's important to focus in college on skill-building. Technical skills and majors that involve math/statistics (which includes business and most social sciences, for example) are going to give many graduates a leg up in the job market.</p>

<p>Most careers these days develop in segments, following a kind of a "build your own career path" model. You don't climb "up a career ladder" so much as you head "up a climbing wall" in which you may sometimes need go sideways or even downward to move up the wall later on; and sometimes you may jump off the wall and start over. You build your credentials, reputation, and advanced skills as you go along. And you learn what kinds of work you like or don't like. You look for opportunities as you go along. The main thing is to look for jobs that are "progressive" -- allow you to improve your skills through experience. You may decide you want an advanced degree at some point.</p>

<p>I've got one economics major and one artist (product designer). The economics major is now mainly a journalist, just an econ BA not a journalism degree, but uses advanced analytic and writing skills acquired in college in his work. Econ was a very good major for him -- but not to become an economist. The artist is now mainly a product developer (not strictly a designer) but uses design sense, good math skills, and business skills (and she added an MBA to her credentials). </p>

<p>I don't think most students should be looking at undergraduate college strictly as training for a particular job. It's skill-building for a career. But other things matter as well, such as character, ambition, connections, and LUCK. And it sure helps if the overall job market is growing.</p>

<p>mackinaw,
Excellent post. Great examples.</p>

<p>You can major in just about anything and still find work. There are millions of psychology majors out there who are gainfully employed in all kinds of fields unrelated to psychology. Ditto English and comp lit majors, history majors and journalism majors who haven't seen inside a newsroom since college. </p>

<p>The key isn't necessary to pick the right major. It's to pick a major you're passionate enough about so that you finish college -- while also acquiring analytical, practical and real-life skills you can put to use once you graduate. For some, those skills mean work in an unrelated field. For others, they mean grad school in an unrelated field. (Plenty of humanities majors go into business/law/medicine.) </p>

<p>A kid in my family did the "safe" thing: he graduated with a double engineering major, and got a good job only to discover a year later that he hated being an engineer. (He's now teaching English in Japan.) </p>

<p>There are no guarantees in life. That includes job placement and liking/succeeding in said job.</p>

<p>Did anyone find the methodology for this study? I've seen another similar study published a few years ago in the WSJ where data was limited to those who stopped with a bachelor's degree, and excluded those with graduate and professional degrees. I'm curious if this study does that or not.</p>

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<p>Why is that a surprise? Universities' career surveys indicate that biology graduates generally have poor career prospects, probably because there are so many biology majors -- biology is about as popular as all engineering majors put together, but most of the biology specific jobs are low paid lab technician jobs. Chemistry graduates also face poor career prospects.</p>

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<p>Physics and astronomy majors often do not end up working directly in the field, but may be recruited into alternate work like engineering, computer software, and finance. Fortunately for them, these alternates tend to pay relatively well.</p>

<ol>
<li><p>I agree with mackinaw and katliamom completely.</p></li>
<li><p>One of my college roommates majored in Art History. He is a many-x-multi-millionaire real estate developer. (He got an internship with a real estate development firm when we were juniors, using a college program.) I also know exactly one Astronomy major, who went on to get an astronomy PhD. Then he founded an optical equipment manufacturing company in his garage, and a decade or so later it made him (briefly) a multi-billionaire, in the mid-40s on the Forbes 400 list. A couple of market crashes and a divorce later, he is struggling along with a mere few hundred million. (I'm sure these are typical of Art History and Astronomy majors . . . .)</p></li>
<li><p>But . . . their experience wouldn't be reflected in this chart, because for most purposes the study underlying it excludes anyone with an advanced degree. That means my daughter the English major wouldn't be included either, because she picked up a master's in teaching while she was teaching school. She's not teaching now (and she's earning a perfectly good salary), but she wouldn't count in the English major results. It is tricky, though. My daughter's MAT from night school probably doesn't matter, but my roommate's MBA from Harvard certainly does.</p></li>
<li><p>The study is based on 2009 survey data collected by the Census Bureau. Those dollar figures are averaging people of all ages and career levels. So not necessarily a great guide to what someone who may be starting her first real job in 2012 or 2013 can expect.</p></li>
</ol>

<p>You always (seen on many other threads) report on such interesting friends, JHS!
How do you stay in contact with all these folks???</p>