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Need a Job? Best and Worst Degrees for 2012 College Grads

Friday, 11 May 2012 | 12:39 PM ET

College graduation time! Congratulations on working so hard to earn that degree in architecture. Welcome to McDonald's.

According to Georgetown University, architecture majors have a much higher unemployment rate than other recent grads—a whopping 13.9 percent.

The study came out a few months ago, and it seems like a good time to go through the numbers, as parents across America prepare themselves to be bombarded by pleas from graduating progeny to move home because, “It’s so haaaaard to find a job.”

Georgetown says recent graduates with the best chances of getting jobs have degrees in healthcare and education, with an average jobless rate of 5.4 percent. That's nearly three points lower than the rate for grads with degrees in computers and math.

Really? Education has a low unemployment rate? Don't tell teachers getting pink slips. In particular, the Georgetown study says the unemployment rate for those with degrees in elementary education is 4.8 percent, and those with advanced degrees have a rate below two percent.

Maybe they’re getting jobs outside of education.

Currently the national unemployment rate at 8.1 percent. Beyond the 13.9 percent rate for graduating architects, other majors with gloomier-than-average prospects include:

  • Arts (11.1 percent)
  • Humanities and Liberal Arts (9.4 percent)
  • Social Science (8.9 percent)
  • Recreation (8.3 percent)
  • Computers and Mathematics (8.2 percent)
  • Law and Public Policy (8.1 percent)

Besides healthcare and education, majors which have lower than average unemployment rate include:

  • Science-Life/Physical (7.7 percent)
  • Engineering (7.5 percent)
  • Business (7.4 percent)
  • Communications/Journalism (7.3 percent)
  • Psychology and Social Work (7.3 percent)
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources (7 percent)

Georgetown also tracked average incomes for recent grads, as well as the incomes of graduates with some experience and advanced degrees. Only two majors reach six-degree salaries upon leaving graduate school, engineering and pharmacy. Law school grads, on the other hand, average $70,000 a year.

There oughtta be a law against salaries which don't justify graduate school costs.

In terms of salary growth, the best bang for your buck for graduate schoolis in the life sciences, where pay can grow from $32,000 for a four-year degree to $87,000 with more school. That's a 171 percent jump. The worst salary growth is in the arts, where grads start out averaging $30,000 a year, growing to $55,000 with an advanced degree. Still, that's better than the estimated $18,000 annual earnings working at Starbucks as a barista.

The study concludes that "Majors that are more closely aligned with particular occupations and industries tend to experience lower unemployment rates." Unless your specific occupation is architecture.

Finally, I am thrilled that journalism grads have a lower than average unemployment rate! Perhaps they’re filling TV news jobs vacated by those caught on camera freaking out over a cockroach. Here are some of the best TV news bloopers ever, a Funny Business diversion to help take your mind off the employment outlook.

(Warning: language, content, cavorting animals)

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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