How Many Recent College Grads Are in Jobs That Correspond to Their Major?

Only an estimated 27% of recent college graduates are in jobs that correspond to their major, according to 2013 research compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In addition, 38% of college graduates in the US work in jobs that do not even require a college education. The probability of US college graduates finding jobs related to their majors increases by close to 10% if they live in major metropolitan areas. Having a college degree has been found to significantly improve the likelihood of having a job--the unemployment rate for recent college graduates in 2013 was 3.3%, compared to 12% for those with just high school diplomas.

More about recent college graduates:

  • Engineering majors and computer science majors make the highest average starting annual salaries, at nearly $70,000 US Dollars (USD), while education majors bring in closer to $30,000 USD on average.
  • Healthcare related majors typically have the lowest unemployment rate for recent graduates, at an estimated 2% in 2012.
  • Less than half of freshman who enrolled in college in 2006 had graduated by 2012.

Frequently Asked Questions

What percentage of recent college graduates find jobs related to their major?

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as of recent data, only about 27% of college graduates are working in a job that is closely related to their major. This statistic highlights the disparity between educational focus and job market demands, suggesting that many graduates may need to be flexible or pursue additional training to align with available career opportunities.

How does the relevance of a college major to a graduate's job impact their earnings?

Studies, including those from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, indicate that graduates working in fields closely related to their major tend to earn more than those in unrelated fields. For example, STEM majors working in STEM occupations can expect higher earnings compared to those in non-STEM roles. The alignment of skills and education with job requirements often translates into a premium on wages.

Are there particular majors that have a higher likelihood of leading to related jobs?

Yes, certain majors, especially those that are professionally oriented, have a higher likelihood of leading to related jobs. For instance, majors in fields like nursing, education, and engineering often have clearer career pathways and higher rates of field-specific employment. Conversely, liberal arts majors may have a broader range of potential careers, which can lead to a lower direct correlation between their major and their job.

What factors contribute to college graduates working in fields unrelated to their major?

Several factors contribute to this phenomenon, including the changing nature of work, the availability of jobs in certain sectors, personal interests evolving post-graduation, and the general applicability of skills learned in college. Additionally, economic conditions at the time of graduation can significantly influence job prospects and may lead graduates to take positions outside their field of study.

How can recent college graduates increase their chances of finding a job related to their major?

Recent college graduates can increase their chances by gaining relevant experience through internships, co-op programs, or research projects while still in school. Networking within their desired field, maintaining a strong online professional presence, and continuing education through certifications or additional courses can also be beneficial. Tailoring their job search strategy to target industry-specific roles and leveraging university career services can further enhance their prospects.

Discussion Comments


I agree that college grads can find what they want to pursue if they live closer to the city. If you live in a rural area, the problem is that there aren't a lot of big businesses nearby. Either that, or they could be too far away, especially if you don't have transportation. However, in a metropolitan area (such as Chicago or New York), they are the embodiment of our working industry, and even if you don't have a car, transportation is always available with subways and taxis.


In relation to the third bullet point, that's quite unfortunate. However, there are many reasons why freshman don't finish college. Sometimes, it's because they don't have the expenses. Other times, it's because they don't know what they want to do with their life. On other occasions, freshmen might not take their first year of college seriously, getting kicked out as a result.


The funny this is that this article pertains to me as well. During my college years, I had a major in communications with a concentration in media studies. It's been over a year since I graduated, and though I currently have a job, it's not one that pertains to my major. For most students, this may be because it's difficult to find a position if your field has many high qualifications. For example, a lot of jobs for my media concentration are in California. However, I don't live there, and that's quite a problem.

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