A major is everything. It gives both peers and employers an idea of your knowledge and skills. And it may also determine your chance at landing a job.
According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), graduates majoring in accounting, business administration, computer science, engineering and mathematics are the most likely to receive and accept job offers.
“When employers go out and look for candidates, they’re looking for specific majors as the first criteria,” said Edwin Koch, who has compiled the data since 2007. “They’re basically interested in specific skills associated with a kind of job.”
“That’s obvious for something like engineering and computer science. They’re seeking students with these technical applications for these positions,” he added.
Of 31,000 responses, NACE found that students lined up with jobs after graduation ranged from 45.6 percent of accounting majors to 39.4 percent of mathematics majors.
This contrasted with several social science and humanities majors that made up the lower end. Of the bottom five majors, 33.1 percent of history and political science majors reported scoring jobs.
Physical sciences, also considered a technical major, reported 27.5 percent, a figure Koch attributed specific technical skills that usually require further education, such as a master’s degree, to fully develop them.
Koch said students with liberal arts majors – for example foreign languages or English – have a broader education base than more technical majors. These less defined skills means graduates in these majors have more difficulty marketing their resumes and finding jobs.
“They can do well once they get into the job but at the initial starting point,” Koch said.”They’re going to have less of a resume to present to their recruiters than those students with pre-professional backgrounds.”
But for Tarick Abu-Aly [cq], a civil engineering major who graduated in the summer of 2009, the statistics didn’t match with reality.
“When I was a freshman and sophomore, everyone told me how great it was to be engineer,” said Abu-Aly, who attributed his difficulty to the rough economy. “I heard this from many alumni that by the time graduation rolls around you are usually set up with a job.”
Abu-Aly believed he was qualified, having interned and worked at a computer lab throughout his four years at Davis. Starting his job search in January of 2009, Abu-Aly attended job fairs and frequented job search websites but turned up empty.
He finally secured an internship with a construction management firm in February of this year but the experience surprised him.
“I had gone to school thinking I would get hired out of school,” Abu-Aly said. “And I struggled for a year and a half to find a job, I was completely blown away.”
Because his work is temporary, Abu-Aly said he plans to further his career by pursuing a master’s degree in civil engineering and enter the job market then.
And as for graduates-to-be, Marcie Kirk-Holland [cq], a project manager for the Internship and Career Center, warns against students only counting on their degree for future employment.
Although she acknowledged that these trends are not new, she said successful students regardless of major should develop a strong work ethic and effective communication skills.
“There is no entitlement that comes with your degree,” Kirk-Holland said. “You still must be able to articulate and deliver the skills the workplace demands. The degree alone isn’t going to do that.”
LESLIE TSAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.