The researchers studied what they refer to as “linkage,” the connection between college majors and specific occupations. Some college majors like architecture and engineering have clear paths to jobs, while other majors like history and social science do not and end up working in a variety of professions ranging from teaching to business. Researchers found that graduates who completed college majors with clearer paths to jobs not only tended to make more money, but also were less likely to find themselves unemployed.
The report also found:
- People who completed college majors with weak ties to jobs (such as graduates with degrees in history and social sciences) had a 3.2% likelihood of being unemployed, compared with 2.4% for those who completed majors with strong ties to jobs (such as graduates working in professions like architecture and engineering).
- Older, female, Asian, foreign-born and non-native-English-speaking workers were more likely to choose college majors with closer ties to jobs than those who were younger, male, white, Black, Hispanic, native-born or native English speakers.
Authors recommend education policymakers and researchers explore why students choose college majors strongly or loosely connected to the job market. The researchers also suggest higher-education practitioners develop new strategies to help students understand the career pathways open to them when choosing a given major. Finally, they recommend college career placement and academic staff collaborate with employers to help students, particularly those from underserved backgrounds, find jobs in occupations related to their majors.