The years since the financial collapse of 2008 have been tough on young workers, but times seem to be improving for many, according to a new report on college graduates from employment expert Anthony P. Carnevale and economist Ban Cheah, both of the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce in Washington, D.C. Entitled From Hard Times to Better Times: College Majors, Unemployment, and Earnings and using data from 2011 and 2012, the report is the third installment of the Hard Times series.. It groups people by undergraduate major. Those who majored in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields fared better than those in a number of other fields, they found, but some of the STEM fields performed considerably better than others.
At $114,000, engineering majors aged 35 to 54 who held graduate degrees had the highest average earnings of any category, followed by comparably aged and degreed physical science majors at $105,000.
In terms of unemployment, physical science majors fared best of all the STEM fields, at 5.0% unemployment in the 2011-2012 period for the recent college graduates and 2.9% for the recent graduate degree holders, down from 6.3% and 3.1%, respectively, in the 2010-2011 period. Next came the engineering majors, with 6.5% unemployment for the recent graduates in the 2011-2012 period, down from 7.4%, and 2.8%, down from 3.2%, for recent graduate degree holders. The unemployment figures for biology and life sciences were 7.4%, down from 7.7% in the 2010-2011 period, for the recent graduates and 2.6%, down from 2.7% in the 2010-2011 period, for recent graduate degree recipients.
Unfortunately, even as unemployment rates have fallen, salaries in most categories have fallen overall. Still, young graduate degree holders in computers and in health—and experienced workers in agriculture and natural resources—showed substantial gains in salary over a 3-year period.