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Math, science grads earn higher salaries, survey finds

WASHINGTON — It seems to matter less whether your alma mater is public or private than what you study — math and science in particular — when it comes to finding a high-paying job after college, according to a recent Department of Education report.

The survey of the Class of 2008, by DOE's National Center for Education Statistics, provides an interesting snapshot of the nation's educated elite following a crushing economic recession: Overall, college graduates reported lower unemployment rates compared with the national average, although black and Asian college grads were twice as likely to be out of work than their white classmates. College grads from private four-year schools earned about the same as those from public four-year schools, about $50,000 a year.

But while a paltry 16 percent of students earned degrees in science, technology, engineering or math, those who did were paid significantly better, averaging $65,000 a year, compared with $49,500 of graduates of other degrees.

The findings are based on a survey of 17,110 graduates conducted in 2012, about four years after the students obtained their bachelor's degrees.

The survey found a strong correlation between highly specialized degrees and earnings. More than 95 percent of grads who studied computer and information sciences, for example, were employed full time at the time of the survey and earned $72,600 on average. Engineering students reported similar job and salary prospects. That's compared with humanities graduates who were more likely to report working multiple jobs and earn a full-time salary averaging only $43,100.

The report also pointed to a correlation between being male and white or Asian, and having a higher salary.

Asian graduates reported earning more than other ethnicities, averaging $62,500 in full-time jobs, compared with $47,300 earned by Hispanics, $48,800 by blacks and $52,400 by whites. Likewise, male grads in full-time jobs reported earning more — $57,800 on average — than their female counterparts, who averaged $47,400.

The study doesn't explain the pay disparities, which could be attributed to different fields of study.

Among other findings in the report:

• The average unemployment rate among the graduates was 6.7 percent, compared with the 8.1 percent national unemployment rate at the time of the survey. Unemployment rates were very low for students who studied computer and information sciences or engineering but jump for those with degrees in social sciences or general humanities.

• Most graduates avoided marriage and having children in the four years after obtaining a degree. Only 19.6 percent reported doing both.

• The average salary of students graduating from for-profit four-year institutions was higher than their not-for-profit counterparts: $62,900 compared with $50,700 for public school grads and $53,700 for private school grads. But the unemployment rate among for-profit schools was higher, at 12 percent, compared with the 6.2 percent for public school grads.

These disparities could be attributed to the types of students who attend for-profit schools. Often highly specialized, for-profit schools frequently attract students who already have work experience but lost a job or want to earn more money.

Math, science grads earn higher salaries, survey finds 07/18/14 [Last modified: Friday, July 18, 2014 4:28pm]
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