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Math, science grads find formula to make top dollar in workplace

By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Published: July 9, 2014
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What you study seems to matter more than whether your alma mater is public or private when it comes to finding a high-paying job after college, according to a report released Tuesday by the Education Department.

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

But while a paltry 16 percent of students took home degrees in science, technology, engineering or math, or STEM disciplines, 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 2008 grads conducted in 2012.

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

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Report gives more data

Among other findings in the report released Tuesday by the Education Department:

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 jumped for those with degrees in social sciences or general humanities.

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

The average salary of students graduating from for-profit four-year institutions was slightly higher than their nonprofit 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 graduating from public schools.

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

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