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Your Major Matters: How You Can Strengthen Employment Prospects

Clearly colleges and universities have a moral imperative — as well as legal one — to ensure that students have the facts when it comes to student loans. And, indeed, these institutions have received the brunt of the criticism, but some of it is being misplaced. Don’t get me wrong, the onus should certainly be placed on these colleges and universities to ensure that they are focused on providing the most bang for the buck. But in this rough and tumble word students are going to have to be more responsible as well. How so? Let’s start with the low hanging fruit — choosing one’s college major. At minimum, your major should lead to jobs that are most in demand and can pay off your student loans in a timely manner.

Let’s look at the numbers in terms of which majors are in demand (based on percentage of recent graduates who are employed in that sector) and how those compare to the most popular majors for black students.

According to the Washington Post:

“Among recent college graduates, those with the highest rates of unemployment had undergraduate degrees in architecture (13.9 percent), the arts (11.1 percent) and the humanities (9.4 percent), according to the study.

The recent college graduates with the lowest rates of unemployment had degrees in health (5.4 percent), education (5.4 percent), and agriculture and natural resources (7 percent.) Those with business and engineering degrees also fared relatively well.”

Meanwhile, the top majors for blacks were: school student counseling, human services and community organizations, counseling psychology, health and medical administrative services, public administration, social work, social sciences, general medical and health services, public policy, and community and public health. Three of the ten are in health, a thriving sector with low unemployment that is projected to continue growing over the coming years. Four others can be categorized as humanities and currently — as well as perennially — are suffering from high unemployment. The remaining three are neither in the highest or lowest unemployment groups and probably skew toward the national average, which is 8.5%.

The industries with the lowest unemployment also have something else in common: higher likelihood to appear on the highest paid industries for college graduates list.

According to the NACE survey, the following are the highest anticipated payouts:

1. Chemical engineering — Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $66,886

2. Computer science — Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $63,017

3. Mechanical engineering — Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $60,739

4. Electrical/electronics and communications engineering — Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $60,646

5. Computer engineering — Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $60,112

6. Industrial/manufacturing engineering — Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $58,549

7. Systems engineering — Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $57,497

8. Engineering technology — Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $57,176

9. Information sciences & systems — Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $56,868

10. Business systems networking/ telecommunications — Average annual salary offer to 2011 grads: $56,808

So really it comes down to this: Your major should provide a strong foundation in a field of interest that is growing and is expected to continue to do so. Deviating from that presents risks that may not be worth taking, or, worse, one later finds out they couldn’t afford to take the risks in the first place.

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