According to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for recent college graduates is at 7.2%, compared to 5.5% in 2007, and for black graduates that number is even higher at 8.1%. For those who have found employment, EPI reports that the wages for graduates today are lower than they were 15 years ago, with current graduates earning an hourly wage of $17.94 compared to $18.41 per hour in 2000. As students grapple with balancing an average of $35,000 worth of student loan debt, it’s clear that many graduates are willing to take any job even one with a salary below their degree’s estimated level of earnings.
While these statistics represent the realities of the current job market, Carnevale makes it clear that there are still some degrees that will provide college graduates with financial security. Data from his report show that STEM-related fields of study reliably lead to high employment earnings. However, as with nearly all fields of study, race plays an unfortunate role in the salaries of college graduates. When it comes to African Americans, the highest earning major is electrical engineering with an average yearly wage of $68,000, which is significantly less than the average pay of whites at $90,000.
As the debate continues over whether or not a college degree is worth the investment, Goodwin, who now teaches criminal justice at a local college in Charlotte, North Carolina, says that she’s honest with her students about the value of a law degree today.
“I have students who have asked me and I honestly tell them no it’s not right now,â€ says Goodwin, who admits to being nearly $150,000 deep in student loan debt. “Law school isn’t going anywhere so wait until the economy changes.â€
To take a closer look at the best and worst degrees for today’s job market, check out the chart below.