About a month after passing his state licensing exam, Arthur Greenbank was cashing a paycheck in his field.
The University of Akron graduate is not alone: Of all the majors that students can choose, it is nursing that offers the best chance for employment.
“I tell graduates not to worry, that they almost certainly will land a job within a few months of graduating,” UA nursing administrator Cheryl Buchanan said. “If they would go to Florida or Michigan, they would find a job immediately.”
Researchers at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce examined 2009 and 2010 census data to determine what college majors are most likely to lead to jobs.
“People need to pay attention to this,” center director Tony Carnevale said. “It tells you that if you really want to be an architect, that's fine, but you're going to have to think more about what your plan is.”
“Hard Times, College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings 2013: Not All College Degrees are Created Equal” notes that the unemployment rate for recent nursing graduates is 4 percent. Meanwhile, the typical unemployment rate for majors in many liberal arts fields is double that, and that of architecture and fine arts graduates is more than triple at 13.9 and 11.1 percent, respectively.
What the researchers don't know is whether the graduates were working in their major. Some college majors don't have clear career paths.
That was reflected in the unemployment rates for area ethnic and civilization studies (10.1 percent) and philosophy and religious studies (10.8 percent).
Other majors, such as architecture, have suffered in the economic downturn, although their unemployment rate is gradually improving, Carnevale said.
Only 50 to 54 percent of recent college graduates are working in their majors, Carnevale said.
That means that some “employed” college graduates really might be working in fields once reserved for high school graduates: the proverbial English major driving a cab, for instance.
That can be an expensive outcome, given the cost of college.
“There is lots of pressure now to find out what the value of the college major is,” Carnevale said.
He said that graduates with certificates in heating and air conditioning from a community college can make more than typical graduates with bachelor's degrees.
“It's all about the field of study,” he said.
Buchanan, the UA nursing administrator, said all 55 of the spring 2012 nursing graduates who responded to a UA survey are working in their field or are attending graduate school.
Although nursing might be the fastest route to a paycheck, other majors can eclipse it in salary, according to the Georgetown study.
Electrical engineering ($57,000), mechanical engineering ($58,000) and civil engineering ($50,000) pay more at the start than nursing ($48,000). Same with graduate degrees: Those in nursing earn $81,000 compared with $107,000 for majors in pharmaceutical sciences and administration, $96,000 for chemistry majors and $101,000 for economics majors.