In this third installment of Hard Times, we update our previous analyses of college majors, unemployment, and earnings over the Great Recession. While there is wide variation by college majors, hard times have become better times for most college graduates, but the recovery is far from complete.

Key Findings

The benefit of a college degree varies by major, work experience, and graduate degree attainment.

Recent college graduates are typically more likely to find jobs than high school graduates in the middle of their careers. A college degree generally pays off.

Recent college graduates are more likely to be unemployed than experienced college graduates. Recent college graduates might have a hard time finding a job at first but are more likely to find a job than those without a degree.

Many recent college graduates earn less than the average earnings for an experienced high school graduate. While working might pay off at the beginning, over the long term those who do not some form of postsecondary education or training will experience lower wages over a lifetime.

Watch the Video

Watch as Anthony Carnevale demonstrates the power of a college major by revealing the earnings and unemployment rate by college major in this short video.

The video also shows:

  • Even during the recession, a college degree is still worth it.
  • Decreasing unemployment rates among recent college graduates.


Full Report

In this report we find that recent college graduates in almost every major are more likely to be employed than mid-career high school graduates.

The report also finds:

  • College remains very much worth the cost in the post-recession economy .
  • Unemployment rates for recent college graduates are the lowest for agricultural and natural resource majors.
  • Recent college graduates majoring in arts, psychology, and social work are among the lowest paying majors.