The Early Impact of Postsecondary Career and Technical Education: Do Workers Earn More in Occupations Related to Their College Major?

By: Madeleine Gelblum | November 2014

This study explores the relationship between college major, occupation, and early-career annual earnings for the years 2008 to 2010 using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth of 1997 (NLSY97). It provides estimates of the effect of college major on earnings for those with bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, and some college but no degree. The study also develops a crosswalk between college major and occupation to measure whether education and employment are matched. Results suggest that the early returns to postsecondary credentials vary widely by college major and level of attainment, with large economic benefits accruing to credentials in business, health science, and STEM subjects and much smaller benefits accruing to credentials in education and the humanities. The study also finds that matched employment in the fields of health science, STEM, and education provides a substantial premium to bachelor’s degree holders, while matched employment in health science provides a substantial premium to those with an associate degree.

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