As we’ve written, college graduates were more likely to keep their jobs during the recession than workers with less education. Now the latest report from the Indiana Business Research Center offers a glimpse at which degrees offered the most protection from unemployment.
Graduates with degrees in architecture, industrial arts and engineering had a much higher probability of unemployment than workers in health, education and life sciences, fields where the chances of being laid off were lower, according to the report.
The study draws on data from the Indiana Workforce Intelligence System and looks at students who graduated from public colleges and universities from 1998 to 2008 with a verifiable history of employment in the state. Researchers at Indiana University’s Kelly School of Business then compared the employment prospects of sixteen different majors.
Here’s what they found:
- Architecture graduates fared badly during the recession. Not only did they have a higher probability of losing their job in 2009-10, they also took longer to find employment after being laid off — an average of 26 weeks. In contrast, health workers who lost their jobs only needed about four weeks to find a new one.
- Industrial arts and engineering graduates were more likely to be unemployed, but their job loss was more likely to be short-term than graduates with other degrees.
- Graduates with advanced degrees were actually more likely to be unemployed in the short-term than graduates with lower degree attainment. But overall unemployment was highest among those with associate degrees or less.
- Program of study was a better predictor of unemployment probability than the industry in which a graduate worked. That’s because a lot of fields tend to cut across several degree programs. For example, both architects and engineers are employed in the construction industry, which suffered significant job losses during the recession.
- Graduates in communication, arts and architecture were more likely to experience longer periods of unemployment. Graduates in health-related fields had a much better chance of finding a new job in four weeks or less.
Is There Such A Thing As A ‘Recession-Proof’ Degree?
Two of the three majors hardest hit by the Great Recession and its aftermath—architecture, industrial arts/consumer services and engineering—had high chances of becoming unemployed regardless of industry. Architecture and engineering graduates working in the sectors of health care and social assistance, educational services, financial activities, public administration, and leisure and hospitality all had high unemployment rates, compared to graduates with other academic concentrations working in those industries.
So what’s the takeaway? A growing body of research on employment opportunities and degree attainment might help the next generation of college students make decisions about taking on debt to pay for their education. Or it might making picking a major even more difficult.