Should I Look at Employment Trends to Pick My Major?
So you’ve found something you’re wickedly passionate about and have decided you’d like to pursue it as a major in college. Firstly, that’s amazing! But secondly, it’s time to consider the job market that will be available to you post-college. While employment trends are not at all something that needs to factor in to or impact your decision, they can certainly help guide it. Before we talk about the details, let’s look at the charts for college majors and hiring rates.
College majors and hiring rates
According to a Georgetown University study, the college majors with the highest employment rates are:
- Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Physical Sciences
- Industrial Arts, Consumer Services, and Recreation
According to the same study, the majors with the highest unemployment rates are:
- Social Science
- Psychology and Social Work
- Law and Public Policy
- Humanities and Liberal Arts
- Computers, Statistics, and Math
A closer look: Variability across college majors
There are several important things worth noting, as these lists are not as simple as they seem. First, these list generally cover college majors and hiring rates. Employment is obviously a very individual situation. Second, these rates can vary widely dependent on the kind of applicant you are. Across all categories, recent graduates all have a higher unemployment rate than experienced graduates. Take the field of law, for example: while the recent graduate unemployment rate is 8.6%, the experienced graduate unemployment rate is 4.3%. This 4.3% is actually a lower unemployment rate than that of all the industries mentioned on the first list (of high employment).
It’s important to note that this variability is everywhere on the unemployment list, not just law. Architecture and Social Sciences no doubt have the highest unemployment rate for recent grads: 10%. But when looking at experienced grads, the unemployment rates are 7.3% and 5.4%, respectively. Architecture in particular has always had a high unemployment rate, but even so has been falling in recent years.
While in some cases the differences in employment rates between majors are extreme, sometimes they’re more similar than not. Business, for example, has a recent graduate unemployment rate of 7%—this is the highest on the “good” list. Computers, Statistics, and Math, on the other hand, have a recent graduate unemployment rate of 8.3%. These numbers are certainly significant. A 1.3% difference may sound small, but at the end of the day it is directly representative of humans who are jobless, which is no good sight. But at the same time, a 1.3% difference shouldn’t be enough to dissuade you from following your passions. Also, despite the majors on the first list having the highest hiring rates, that does not necessarily mean that they also have the biggest paychecks. Education, for example, notoriously pays poorly in America, whereas lawyers are known to collect large salaries.
What should you do now?
If, more than any passion or interest, you care primarily about getting a solid job straight out of college, then by all means, make researching college majors and hiring rates your new favorite hobby. But if you’re more concerned with doing something you personally care about, it will always pay off to choose to do the things you love. It might take much longer to reach a level of comfort, but it also might lead to much higher levels of happiness and career satisfaction.
So, should you look at employment trends to pick your major? The answer is yes—look at them. That way you’ll have a sense of where you’ll stand after graduation. But beyond looking and learning, don’t take these trends to be written in stone. College majors and hiring rates are ever-changing.