Picking the right major—and getting the right internship—are crucial to success for college graduates, according to a Boston-area study conducted with Burning Glass Technologies data.
The report, entitled Mobilizing for Opportunity: Connecting Low-Income College Students to Internships and Good First Jobs, examined the post-college first jobs of Boston Public Schools alumni and others at seven Massachusetts public four-year universities. The report was released in an online forum hosted by the Boston Foundation and authored by researchers from the Boston Private Industry Council, Burning Glass Technologies and NextGen Talent.
A substantial share of Boston-area graduates are failing to land a good first job, the report found. Previous Burning Glass research found roughly four in 10 four-year college graduates fail to land jobs requiring a BA in their first year out of college. About one-third (32%) of graduates of the seven state universities studied were unemployed or in jobs requiring less than a BA degree in the year after college graduation. While there wasn’t much difference between the seven institutions, there were significant differences between majors. Almost all nursing graduates (94%) found jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree, compared to only 44% of criminal justice majors.
First-year annual earnings also varied widely across majors, according to the report. Graduates in nursing, computer and information sciences, and engineering had a first-year median wage of more than $60,000. By contrast, social sciences, education, psychology, humanities, and visual and performing arts majors had median wages of $35,000 or less.
Lower-income graduates did less well than middle-class students in salary terms. Salary data for low-income grads who completed college in 2018 had average first-year earnings that were 20% lower than the average starting salary of all New England graduates working full-time.
Students who completed at least one internship were more likely to achieve a college-level job than those who did not. The boost into first-year bachelor’s level jobs for former interns ranged from 22 percentage points for visual and performing arts majors to six points for business majors.
Overall, however, only 40% of students studied were able to participate in an internship, and the percentage varied greatly depending on the major and the institution. For example, more than half of students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus were able to have internships, compared to fewer than one in four at UMass-Boston.