Matching Businesses with the Right College Majors


College Graduates by Major


Census ACS

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  • Education
    • Population
      • College Graduates by Major
        • All College Graduates
        • Science and Engineering
        • Science and Engineering Related Fields
        • Business
        • Education
        • Arts, Humanities, and Other

With the unemployment rate at historic lows, businesses are putting more thought and effort into attracting workers to fill positions. Businesses are increasingly concerned with where their target workforce lives or wants to live.

Businesses have always looked at the rates of educational attainment in deciding where to locate offices. When Amazon was deciding where to locate its second headquarters, educational attainment was considered a key factor. Arlington County, Virginia, where it’s ultimately ending up, has the country’s third highest rate of people with post graduate degrees. Seven of the top ten counties are in the DC metro area.

But not all college graduates are the same. There are science majors, English majors, and business majors – just to name a few – and there’s remarkable variation throughout the country, as well as within states and cities, of where people with different types of majors live.

Businesses need this data to guide where they should open new offices or focus recruitment efforts. Local officials need this data about their communities so that they can work to attract the right kinds of businesses. They might find hidden strengths in their workforce.

For example, in Riverside County, California, only 21.5% of residents age 25 and older have a Bachelor’s degree, but over 107,000 residents have a degree in science and engineering related fields such as pre-med, physical therapy, and mechanical engineering technology. That ranks it one of the top 40 counties in the country for people with these majors. This is a major strength that the county and region can build on.

When looking at this data, it’s important to keep in mind whether you want to look at counts or percentages (a topic we’ve discussed previously). Businesses looking for the largest pool of potential job candidates might look at counts. Local officials looking at the strengths and character of the area might look at percents.

About the Data

Data on college majors comes from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Data on specific majors isn’t available at a local level, so general categories are given. The categories are:

  • Science and Engineering (e.g. computers, mathematics, and statistics; biological agricultural, and environmental sciences; physical and related sciences; psychology; social sciences; engineering; and multidisciplinary studies such as nutritional science, cognitive science, or behavioral science)
  • Science and Engineering Related Fields (e.g. pre-med, physical therapy, and mechanical engineering technology)
  • Business (e.g. business administration, accounting, and human resources development)
  • Education (e.g. early childhood education, higher education administration, and special education)
  • Arts, Humanities, and Other (e.g. literature and languages, liberal arts and history, visual and performing arts, communications, and others including fields such public administration, pre-law, and kinesiology)

A few things might not be immediately apparent that you should keep in mind. Science and Engineering is not a subset of Science and Engineering Related Fields; the two are separate. And social sciences, like economics, psychology, and sociology, are included in the Science and Engineering category.

Being ACS data, it’s available at a wide variety of geographies, including county, zip code tabulation area, census tract, block group, and congressional district.