Statistics: College Grads Who Actually Work in Their Field of Study

Tracking the employment of college grads is an interesting study of the value of all those expensive degrees and qualifications. A study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2000 indicated that college grads do in fact work to a large extent in their fields of study, but the way they do it is sometimes indirect.

Figuring Out the Employment Stats

Facts and figures are fragmentary, largely because many national government statistical authorities don’t conduct regular studies. Colleges do keep track of the employment of their alumni, but the accuracy of these figures has been questioned in recent times. Despite the apparently haphazard nature of statistical data management, there are a few common “rules” to the employment patterns.

College employment patterns tend to reflect the broad employment market in percentile terms. The general mix of employment/education is roughly, but not exactly, related to a relationship between percentiles of graduates and the relative strength of employment in the areas of study.

For example, an Australian university study in 2008 showed a demographic mix which indicated correlations between the college grad study demography and the wider employment market. If 20 percent of college grads in the class of XX studied business, economics and related fields, and the employment market for business and economics was 20 percent of the workforce, the relative employment, in theory, should be 1 to 1.

In practice, however, college grads may be employed in related areas, thereby reducing the ratio. Some of these same graduates may not work in business and economics, but in related areas like sales. Because sales isn't restricted to college grads, this situation distorts the demography.

Fortunately there are other ways of assessing college grads' employment rates in their fields. The simplest is the basic fact that many jobs must be done by college graduates.


Economic Issues and College Grads' Employment

The other big issue defining employment is economics, both local and global. College graduates are supposedly assured of a job, but the Great Financial Crisis disproved that theory pretty dramatically. Quite the opposite was the case, insofar as the worst-affected areas of the U.S. economy were concerned.

College graduates, particularly those in business, finance, and related areas, were in the wrong place at the wrong time, as far as the U.S. employment market was concerned. They were an expensive prospect at a time when employers were trying to cut costs as far and as fast as possible.

Although this was an atypical situation, it’s an indication of some of the pitfalls for college graduates in the real employment market. The job losses for those already working are well-known, but the effect on those attempting to enter the job market was also severe.