WASHINGTON—It seems to matter less whether you attended public or private college than what you studied when it comes to finding a high-paying job after college, according to a report released July 8 by the U.S. Education Department.
The survey by the National Center for Education Statistics of the class of 2008 in the United States provides a snapshot of the nation’s educated elite following a crushing economic recession.
Overall, college grads reported lower unemployment rates compared with the national average, although black and Asian college graduates were twice as likely to be out of work than their white classmates. College grads from private four-year schools earned about the same as those from public four-year schools: about $50,000 a year.
But while a paltry 16 per cent of students took home degrees in science, technology, engineering or math, those who did were paid significantly better—averaging $65,000 a year compared with $49,500 of graduates of other degrees.
The findings are based on a survey of 17,110 students conducted in 2012, about four years after the students obtained their degrees.
The survey found a strong correlation between earning money and highly specialized degrees. More than 95 per cent of grads who studied computer and information sciences, for example, were employed full-time and earned $72,600 on average.
Engineering students reported similar job and salary prospects, but humanities graduates were more likely to report working multiple jobs and earn a full-time salary averaging only $43,100.
The report also pointed to a correlation between being white or Asian and male and having a higher salary.
Asian graduates reported earning more than other ethnicities, averaging $62,500 in full-time jobs compared with $47,300 earned by Hispanics, $48,800 by blacks and $52,400 by whites.
Male grads reported earning more: an average of $57,800 compared to their female classmates in full-time jobs, who averaged $47,400.
The study doesn’t explain the disparities in pay, which could be attributed to different fields of study.
Other findings in the report include:
- The average unemployment rate among the graduates was 6.7 per cent, compared with the 8.1 per cent national rate at the time of the survey. Unemployment rates were very low for students who studied computer and information sciences or engineering, but jump for those with social sciences or general humanities degrees.
- Most graduates avoided marriage and kids in the four years after obtaining a degree. Only 19.6 per cent reported having both.
- The average salary of students graduating from for-profit four-year institutions was slightly higher than their non-profit counterparts: $62,900 compared with $50,700 for public school grads and $53,700 for private school grads. But the unemployment rate among for-profit schools was higher at 12 per cent, compared with the 6.2 per cent graduating from public schools.
These disparities could be attributed to the types of students who attend for-profit schools. Often highly specialized, for-profit schools attract students who already have work experience but lost a job or want to earn more money.