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Job outlook for 2014 grads improves especially for liberal arts majors

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According to a report released on Thursday by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), things are looking up on the job front for Class of 2014 grads—especially for liberal arts majors.

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NACE’s 2014 Student Survey of nearly 44,000 students representing 696 institutions found that the percentage of seniors who applied for a job and received at least one offer increased from 45.9 percent in 2013 to 47.9 percent in 2014.

And surprisingly, the improvement appears to be entirely among students majoring in some of the “weakest academic areas emerging from the recession”—the liberal arts and sciences and education.

The majors showing the greatest level of improvement in “offer rates” are visual and performing arts (15.4 percentage points better than the Class of 2013), education (11.5), communications (9.5) environmental science (7.5), and math (6.8).

NACE speculates that the improvement is likely due to improvement in the national education market, where graduates from most of these disciplines are traditionally employed.

But none of this good news comes as a surprise to the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), which recently released a report titled, How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment.

Based on an analysis of U.S. Census and other economic data, these organizations found that graduates with degrees in humanities, arts, or social sciences are both employed and employable.

"As the findings in this report demonstrate, majoring in a liberal arts field can and does lead to successful and remunerative careers in a wide array of professions,” explained Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Specifically the study showed:

  • At peak earnings ages (56-60), liberal arts majors earn more than those who majored as undergrads in professional or pre-professional fields
  • 4 out of 5 employers want all students to study the liberal arts and sciences
  • Unemployment rates among liberal arts majors are low and decline over time
  • 93% of employers agree that ability to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than undergraduate major
  • Many liberal arts and sciences majors also gain graduate and professional degrees and experience significant earnings boosts when they do

While this data may not slow the current rush among high school students to engineering schools, it does provide encouraging news for prospective liberal arts majors and those of us who were English majors "in the day."

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