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Where College Graduates Go for Jobs?

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If you ask college students why they’re attending college, the overwhelming majority would say some version of “To get good jobs.” Some undergraduate collegians will eventually be on their way to business or professional school after gaining their degrees, in hopes of becoming doctors, lawyers, investment bankers or other specialized workers.

There are also those who will be headed to graduate-level education in other areas, targeting the disciplines of college professors, historians, social workers, librarians, etc. I’m sure that there are some in college simply for the pleasure of learning, but I have never met one of these “pure scholars.” They would be the rare exception to the “I’m here to get a good job” demographic.


Over the years, trends develop that reveal the movement of higher-educated job seekers from school to the workplace. The latest information on these migrations, contained in the government report Census Project Shows Job Flows By Institution, Degree, Major and Geography, may be helpful to those of you who are already in college and those who have just started college. If you’re willing to be adventurous and travel where the action is, you have the chance to be proactive in your job search.

Some college graduates choose to stay “local.” That is, they like the familiarity of their home area’s surroundings and look for employment not far from where they grew up. However, flexibility can enhance a job seeker’s chances of finding rewarding employment.

Here's How the Census Bureau Got the Data

Let’s take a look at where college graduates are going to find work these days by examining some of the information and graphics from the above report and Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes (PSEO). “The PSEO project tabulates employment flows and earnings outcomes by institution, degree level, and degree field, and provides counts of employment by employer industry sector and Census Division.”

That’s a kind of one-stop-shopping resource for these kinds of data. Here, then, are the highlights, which can seem dryly technical, but the accompanying graphics help us grasp the core of what’s being presented.

PSEO does this by linking university transcript data to the Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) records...

[I’m sorry to be citing so many important sounding, jargon-esque titles, but the information in all these is helpful, if not fascinating.]

Those records list job histories covered by unemployment insurance by employer, which is then linked to industry and location information on the employers.

Currently, the PSEO statistics include data from the University of Texas System, Colorado Department of Higher Education, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This graphic shows "where graduates with bachelor’s degrees from four flagship institutions work by Census Division," the report said.

Do Graduates Find Jobs Nearby?

There are significant differences in the geographic dispersion of employment for graduates. UT-Austin, for example, sees most of its students stay in the state, while University of Michigan graduates disperse across a wide geographic area. University of Colorado Boulder and UW-Madison are somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

First Post-Graduation Jobs Don't Always Match Field of Study

In addition to geographic dispersion, PSEO allows users to see the industry sector of employment for graduates. This graph reviews "industry employment for all bachelor’s recipients in Colorado in three specific fields of study," the report noted.

It’s clear that graduates in communications are more likely to land jobs in professional services, information, and retail industries while social science graduates are more likely to end up in education and health. Business majors are heavily concentrated in finance/insurance and professional services.

The PSEO also measures how specific majors transition into highly-related fields. This figure "shows the share of graduates from health programs who enter the health industry sector one year after graduation," the report added.

Surprisingly, individuals with master’s degrees in health are much less likely to end up working in the health industry than those with shorter-term certificate and associate degrees. Instead, master’s graduates in health also end up in Education (22.2 percent) and Public Administration (7.2 percent).

All this information (and more) is available on the PSEO website for download. By the way, the Census Bureau is currently developing a data visualization tool for employment flow tracking. That will be released shortly. I’ll keep you posted.