In our effort to create the best career test in the world, the team at CareerExplorer is building a detailed profile of nearly every academic degree. These profiles contain a wealth of information about each individual degree, but broader patterns have started to emerge as our collection has grown. These trends tell us about how people choose their degrees, as well as the outcomes of their decisions. We’ve included some of these insights below.
A very clear trend emerges when comparing interest in a degree to the job prospects of a degree. The most in-demand degrees for employees show litle interest among students, while the most interesting degrees tend to have the least employment potential.
Interest in a degree (scale of 1-5) is plotted on the left side and job prospects (scale of 1-5) are on the bottom
Patterns can be found on either end of the spectrum. The most in-demand degrees tend to have limited options for creative expression. Accounting, Finance, and Economics all face high demand but low interest. The same can be found in Engineering - Civil, Chemical, and Electrical Engineers also share the same pattern.
The degrees with high interest and low demand tend to have limited practical applications, at least compared to the other end of the spectrum. Women's Studies, Anthropology & Archaeology, Art History, and Philosophy & Religious Studies have immense societal good, but they typically do not result in goods and services that can be sold.
There are some degrees that have both high demand and strong interest among students. Psychology appears to check both boxes, as do careers in Mathematics (Applied Mathematics & Computer Science) and some Engineering degrees. These degrees all share a high level of creativity and problem solving, which aligns with our previous research that creative careers tend to show more interest among students.
While this may appear obvious, our data also shows a strong correlation among high demand degrees and average salaries. This shows that employers are largely aware of the value of in-demand degrees.
Average salary is plotted on the left side and job prospects (scale of 1-5) are on the bottom
An individual's satisfaction with their degree does not predict their satisfaction with subsequent careers. We compared the degree satisfaction scores our users reported with the satisfaction scores they reported on careers, filtering for careers that required the original degree. Our analysis found that the correlation between degree satisfaction and career satisfaction was very low.
The chart above shows the difference between degree ratings and career ratings. A quick visual inspection will confirm that the majority of degree and subsequent career ratings vary significantly.
While there are differences between degree and career ratings across the board, in some cases the differences are substantial. The women’s studies degree has the highest rating, but graduates in related careers ranked their employment on the lower end of the spectrum. Neuroscience did not enjoy particularly high degree ratings, but graduates ranked the careers they obtained with their degrees as the lowest of all.
Education degrees tend to show big differences between degree and career ratings, and were responsible for four of the top 10 improvements from degree satisfaction to career satisfaction. No specific factor accounts for the low rating across education degrees, suggesting that education is simply a tough field to obtain a degree in but a rewarding one to work in.
The majority of students pick their degrees for reasons other than ease of employment or initial salary. We plotted the 15 most popular degrees and discovered that they covered the full spectrum of job availability and salary. In fact, the most popular degree - Biology - ranks on the lower end of the spectrum for job availability (ranked 77 of 106) and moderately on salary (ranked 34 of 106).
While students don’t appear to make choices based on job potential or salary, it appears that other factors may be at play. Biology, Business, and Finance are among the top five most popular degrees, and each can be applied to a broad range of careers or are prerequisites for some postgraduate degrees. This suggests that the majority of students are picking degrees that will provide flexibility upon graduation.