College enrollments have increased substantially in recent decades. Young people understand that getting a college degree is a factor leading to a higher salary — although it’s not a guarantee. When economists consider where graduates work, does their specific fields of study matter? NC State University’s Mike Walden answers.
“I think this is being talked about more and more as the cost of college goes up. And obviously more young people have been going to college, so this affects more young people, so fortunately we have a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that looked at some of these issues. And they looked at two issues in particular: Number one, whether you need a college degree to get a job — any job; and secondly, whether your field or major matters.
“And what the Federal Reserve study found is that for those folks in 2010, this is based on 2010 data, working: If you had an undergraduate degree, 62 percent of those with the undergraduate degree would have needed that degree to be in the job. However, that means 38 percent of them were in jobs where they didn’t really need a college degree. So that’s point number one.
“Point number two, perhaps even more interesting, the study found that 27 percent of those individuals with undergraduate degrees worked in a field — once they got in the labor force, worked in a field — that was outside their college major. Now this obviously means however that 73 percent did work in a field that was related to their college major.
“So these are interesting statistics for all of us to consider, but particularly as we look ahead to the class of 2019.”