Some Majors Mean Job Trouble for Students

Eileen O'Gorman | The PHOENIXThe Career Development Center (CDC), located in the Sullivan Center in suite 255, helps students with job interviews, professional connections and career counseling.

The New York Federal Reserve (NYFR) updated its annual study on the labor market for recent college and high school graduates. The unemployment rates range from the lowest at 1 percent for miscellaneous education majors, to the highest at 8.8 percent for anthropology majors.

The study, which takes information from the U.S. Census and The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, focuses on the unemployment and underemployment rates from college graduates of individual majors. Loyola’s most popular major, biology, has an unemployment rate of 5.1 percent.

This year, students with college degrees outnumber those with only high school diplomas for the first time in U.S history. With 11.6 million new jobs created since the 2008 recession, 11.5 million jobs have gone to workers with education beyond a high school diploma.

However, attending college does not ensure a student’s success, as evidenced by some of the more popular majors at Loyola topping the unemployment list. Mass media has an 8.6 percent unemployment rate, environmental studies has an 8.5 percent unemployment rate, fine arts has a 7.6 percent unemployment rate and English has a 7.5 percent unemployment rate. One of the majors with a relatively low rate of unemployment, at 1.8 percent, was agriculture/food systems.

“I think the low unemployment rate is due to a rather small supply of workers who work in the agricultural field,” said Kevin Erickson, the urban agriculture coordinator for Loyola’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability (IES). “There’s obviously growth in this field and it’s pointing towards a new area. We’re seeing a lot of young people move towards the urban agricultural field.”

Loyola launched its food systems major in the fall of 2014, and no Loyola students have graduated with that major yet. But students from Loyola’s urban agriculture program have gone on to work as farm managers, sales coordinators and managers for large agricultural centers.

“A farmer has to be all these things at once,” said Erickson. “We’re finally seeing that [urban agriculture] is a seriously considered driver of jobs and very much part of the future of America.”

While college students worry about unemployment, underemployment rates have also been a concern. Underemployment happens when people are not employed in positions that make full use of their skills and abilities.

Business majors have one of the highest underemployment rates, at 61.4 percent.

“I think the underemployment rate is so high because when you graduate with a business degree, there’s a lot you can do with it,” said freshman business major Nadia Youssef. “That’s why people tend to choose business. Once they graduate, some people think that they’ll be a CEO right after graduation, when it’s really all about climbing up the ladder.”

Youssef said she worries about being underemployed, but she said she is confident she has chosen a major with a wide variety of positions. She also said it could be difficult to track underemployment, due to the emergence of new, unconventional business titles, such as social media organizer or research analyst, that might utilize different skills from business majors.

Anthropology majors have the highest unemployment rate, the annual study showed, and a high underemployment rate at 59.1 percent.

Anne Grauer, treasurer of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, and professor of anthropology at Loyola, said it is difficult to place an anthropology major into one position.

“Many of our courses are cross-listed, so students can explore different avenues,” said Grauer. “Our [anthropology] students go in all different directions after they graduate. I have students in medical school, nonprofit, [the] military, zoos and museums. We have students in business. An anthropology degree isn’t giving them a technical training.”

Grauer said the main goal of the anthropology department is to teach students to think critically because critical thinking is a skill that every line of work requires.

Often, it’s hard to classify students with non-technical degrees — in fields such as anthropology and philosophy, that teach students different ways of thinking — as underemployed. The difficulty of determining underemployment for these students is due to the wide range of positions those students can fill, including jobs not directly pertaining to their major, according to Grauer.

Loyola’s Career Development Center (CDC) works toward making students more successful.

“It’s a partnership between us and the student, so we can’t ensure anyone of anything. We can build the skills to greatly increase odds [of becoming employed],” said Kathryn Jackson, the director of the CDC. “There’s a kit online for all of our services, so if our timing is ever off with you, everything that we would be able to give you is still available to download to make it easier for students.”

The CDC arranges job shadowing opportunities, employment fairs and LUConnect, Loyola’s own version of LinkedIn that connects students with Loyola alumni.

“Don’t panic,” Jackson advised students. “There are a lot of jobs out there. Yes, it’s competitive, and it may not be a dream job right out of the gates, but there are a lot of opportunities here that we provide for students.”

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