Graduates have been among the hardest hit by the financial crisis but in the future higher education will be more important than ever if the world's economic powers are to continue to grow
The increasingly positive economic outlook in the United States has inspired a marked uptick in hiring among many companies, and for recent college graduates, meaning significantly improved job prospects. However, since the US fell into economic recession beginning in 2007, American trust in the wisdom of acquiring a college education has been severely curtailed.
A national survey
of 3,000 Americans commissioned by Country Financial found that the number of adults who think college is a good investment plummeted from 81 per cent in 2008 to only 57 per cent in 2012. Yet, the economic recovery and its effect on hiring suggest higher education is actually a more sound investment that it has been in at least five years. "Even with the cost of college rising faster than inflation, a college degree is more valuable than ever," says Joe Buhrmanan, a manager at Country Financial.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently conducted a survey, the results of which suggested that employers anticipate hiring
13 per cent more graduates from the Class of 2013 than they hired from the Class of 2012. Not all industries are responding at this pace, though. The NACE survey found that employers in chemical/pharmaceutical manufacturing, computer and electronics manufacturing, retail trade, finance and insurance are among the most likely to hire in the near future. Similarly, a study from Georgetown University's Centre on Education and the Workforce has concluded that over the course of the recession, the economy created about 200,000 jobs
for workers with at least a bachelor's degree.
During the recovery, though, the economy added another two million jobs, almost all for college-educated workers. "I think the thing that people need to hear in this is that to the extent that we keep looking in the rear-view mirror at the old economy that had more good high school jobs, the economy that's coming is one where the value of education after high school really determines whether or not you join the middle class," said Anthony Carnevale, author of the study. Today, the jobless rate for recent graduates has dropped to 6.8 per cent – while the unemployment rate for recent high school graduates with no college is 24 per cent.
While a college degree, and particularly a master's degree, can affect one's lifetime earnings and job security, compensation can also vary significantly based on career path. An actuary with a master's in mathematics can hit a median mid-career pay of $157,000, while a high school teacher with the same degree may only pull in $57,800 annually. The median annual earnings for graduates with a master's degree in engineering are around $99,000, while engineers with a bachelor's can expect a median income of $75,000 annually. In healthcare, median earnings for master's degree holders hover around $80,000. Workers in these areas also enjoy greater job security than most any other field, though, with current unemployment rates of only 5.4 per cent.
In a study from Forbes
using data from Payscale.com and the Bureau of Labour Statistics, 'physician's assistant' was found to be the best career path for students looking at graduate schools. In the coming years, 29,000 new 'physician's assistant' jobs are expected to be added, a 39 per cent increase over the next decade. Another advantage is that physicians' assistants can get undergraduate degrees in nearly any field, and only need to take a few science courses to prep for a master's programme. Computer science was found to be the second most advantageous advanced degree. Median pay for these graduates is $111,000, fourth best out of the 30 degrees surveyed. Meanwhile, employment opportunities for those with computer science degrees is expected to expand 27 per cent over the next decade.
To get a sense of the scope of the economic recovery in the US, one can compare it to the deteriorating situation in Europe. In the US, the unemployment rate has been steadily falling, while the unemployment rate in the eurozone has climbed to its highest level since the single currency was introduced over a decade ago. Manufacturing and business continues to pick up in the US, while in the eurozone, conditions continue to deteriorate. In fact, many wonder if the economic conditions in Europe may even serve to slow the US economic recovery. Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, has said Europe's problems could
cut consumer and business confidence, reducing demand for US exports.
Across Europe as a whole, college graduates still have an easier time finding work than those without university credentials. Economic development in Scotland and, more recently, the rest of the United Kingdom has enabled
more international students than ever before to remain in the UK and work after graduation. Furthermore, the fresh talent initiative has inspired over 5,700 international students to stay in Scotland after graduation, many of whom have secured highly skilled positions in sectors as diverse as oil and gas production, finance, and biotechnology.
Similar programs are being introduced throughout the UK, long a leader in economic and academic developments throughout the continent. This is a potential boon for education in the eurozone and the economic benefits that so frequently follow. While American and European citizens will likely be working to undo the damage of the 2008 economic collapse for many years to come, a focus on higher education will be essential for these economic powers to continue to grow and evolve in the coming decades.
Sophia Foster has authored a number of reports on the benefits of getting your master's online