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What Can You Do with That Degree?: College Major and Occupational Status of College Graduates over Time

From: Social Forces
Volume 89, Number 2, December 2010
pp. 389-415 | 10.1353/sof.2010.0085



While income inequality among college graduates is well documented, inequality in occupational status remains largely unexplored. We examine whether and how occupational specificity of college majors is related to college graduates' transition into the labor market and their subsequent occupational trajectories. Analyses of NLSY79 indicate that occupationally specific degrees are beneficial at the point of entry into the labor market but have the lowest growth in occupational status over time. Students earning credentials focusing on general skills, in contrast, begin in jobs with low occupational status but subsequently report the greatest growth. These findings illuminate specific ways in which educational and occupational systems interact and provide a novel approach for understanding inequality in labor market outcomes among college graduates.