‘What Are You Going to Do With That Degree?’

Tassels hang from a cap during commencement exercises at Richard Bland College, a two-year branch of The College of William & Mary, on Friday, May 9, 2014 on the campus near Petersburg, Va. (AP Photo/The Progress-Index, Patrick Kane)
What career does a major actually get you?

For students majoring in the liberal arts, with all of that degree’s vagary, the question is a common one: “What are you going to do with that degree?”

Statistically speaking, it turns out the best answer would be to teach.

That’s just one tiny finding in a sea of interesting data compiled by Northeastern University assistant professor Ben Schmidt. Schmidt took census data that showed which careers people who study a given major went into. He then designed an awesome interactive that you can play with here, making that information sortable by major or field.

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As to the example above: Liberal arts majors flock to elementary and middle school teaching positions above anything else. The second most likely career for a liberal arts major is as a manager in miscellaneous industries, and law ranked third.

Some degrees have very clear paths. Those who earn nursing degrees, for instance, overwhelmingly go into nursing. Other degrees see a bit more nuance once they reach the job market. Those who study mass media, for example, see their careers splinter into a number of different directions, from management to education to marketing to customer service.

Like a lot of work based on census data, the chart is somewhat limited by how it chooses to categorize answers. A number of majors, for instance, wind up seeing a high percentage of their populations working in the oddly-labeled catch-all “Miscellaneous managers, including funeral service” segment, which only tells us so much. That aside, this still gives a great sense for how the chips tend to fall after graduation day. Again, you can check out the full interactive here.

Schmidt is part of the core faculty at Northeastern’s NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks.

h/t io9