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Putting your major to work: Career paths after college

This interactive chart accompanies an economic analysis, “Putting Your Major to Work: Career Paths after College.

Students’ career paths after college are often surprising and difficult to predict given students’ majors. Not only do students from the same major transition into a surprising variety of occupations, they also earn very different incomes: to take one example, the 3.4 percent of English majors who become managers earn a median salary of $77,000, while the 8.3 percent of their counterparts who become elementary and middle school teachers earn $51,000. Different career paths and the associated earnings differences for students with the same college major are pervasive and important for understanding both the benefits of college majors and of college itself.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, we have calculated annual median earnings for men and women of various ages who have graduated with a particular major and entered a given occupation. For each group of college graduates, we show the most common types of jobs, as well as the fractions of graduates who are unemployed, out of the labor force, and employed full- or part-time. In addition, among each group of workers with a particular major, we show the range of annual earnings and the percent who obtained education beyond a bachelor’s degree for the most common types of jobs. This interactive is intended to be a resource for those who seek a better understanding of how their college major can be used, as well as those interested in how college specialization and the labor market interact.