Employment outlooks for Ohio State’s top 5 majors

Cecilia Nysing

The Career and Internship Fair Day One September 17, 2019. Credit: Courtesy of the Office of Student Life

With economic recovery from the pandemic on the horizon, this year’s college graduates will have an easier job search than last year’s bunch.

With the start of the pandemic in March 2020, last spring’s graduates entered into a shrunken job market. Various fields are now rebounding and employers are once again looking for college graduates, but they will face a large amount of competition from last year’s graduates who are still looking for a job, Brad Hershbein, senior economist and communications advisor at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, said.

“The downside is that they’re competing with a lot of grads from last year who may have found a job, but not the one they were looking for, and are also looking to switch,” Hershbein said. “So it’s kind of crowded.”

Job postings have increased for all majors since last year, Jennifer Chilman, employer engagement and internship assistant director for Buckeye Careers in the Office of Academic Affairs, said in an email. She said job postings on Handshake, a career website for college students, increased by almost 200 percent from about 3,000 in April 2020 to nearly 10,000 in April 2021.

The top five majors by enrollment in August 2020 at Ohio State were finance, biology, psychology, marketing and computer science and engineering, according to Ohio State’s analysis and reporting website.  

1. Finance

Hershbein said while the finance sector was not the hardest hit industry throughout the pandemic, companies did cut down on personnel. He said now, companies have started hiring again.

As of April, the unemployment rate for the finance and insurance sector was 2 percent, down from 3 percent just one month earlier in March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job openings increased from the pandemic low of about 200,000 in November 2020 to just over 260,000 in March.

Finance majors rank among the highest-earning graduates from Ohio State with average annual earnings of about $46,000 one year after graduation and $98,000 10 years after graduation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2. Biology

Because biology students often pursue higher degrees after their undergraduate degree, Hershbein said it can be hard to judge how the job market for biology students fares.  

Hershbein said there should be more jobs than last year due to the pandemic, which may create more opportunities later for those who want to go into health care fields. He also said the emergence of “Long COVID” — the condition in which people who have technically recovered from the disease still experience symptoms long after — could spur growth in therapy job markets.

“I think people will want to go into something where they’re not necessarily stuck in hospital hours but they have a little bit more control,” Hershbein said. “Various types of therapy jobs, from respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, all those sorts of things have been growing and likely will accelerate.”

The unemployment rate for the health care and social assistance sector was 3.4 percent in April, down from 4.1 percent in January, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job openings have increased from about 850,000 in May 2020 to over 1.2 million as of April.

3. Psychology

It is harder to gauge job markets for psychology students because degree-holders end up working in a variety of fields, Chilman said in an email. Hershbein said the versatility of a psychology degree gives graduates a larger array of fields to consider, which could benefit them when searching for a job.  

“There should be a lot of options available; it just may not be the one that you thought you would get, so to keep an open mind is probably the best case there,” Hershbein said.

Psychology students also have the option of going to graduate school. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who hold master’s or doctorate degrees will have the best job prospects, such as psychiatry, clinical psychology and industrial-organizational psychology.

The average annual earnings for an Ohio State graduate with a psychology degree are about $25,000 one year after graduation and about $50,000 10 years after graduation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

4. Marketing

Hershbein said marketing students should have similar job prospects to finance students because companies are hiring more as they resume normal operations. Marketing students should see an increase in openings, especially from companies like P&G, which sells consumer durables and other goods, Hershbein said.

The average annual earnings for an Ohio State graduate with a marketing degree are about $40,000 one year after graduation and about $80,000 10 years post-graduation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

5. Computer Science and Engineering

Hershbein said computer science and engineering students shouldn’t worry too much because career opportunities in computer science are expected to grow.

“Computer science has been going gangbusters for a while now and that’s not going to change,” he said.  

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, software developer jobs, a popular career for computer science and engineering majors, are expected to increase by 22 percent from 2019 to 2029, a rate over five times faster than the average growth rate for all jobs, which is 4 percent.  

Computer science and engineering students are also some of the highest-earning Ohio State graduates, with average annual earnings one year after graduation of about $60,000, increasing to about $80,000 five years after graduation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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