After graduation: Where this year’s grads will find jobs

With graduation season underway, NRF’s annual survey found that more than a third of consumers are getting ready to pick up cards, set aside some cash or splurge on new electronics for the high school and college grads in their lives. The data shows that graduation gifts have not changed much in the last 10 years: Most of today’s grads can expect a card and some cash or a gift card to help them prep for the next phase in their lives. However, what has changed is the type of jobs and careers those exiting school and entering the workforce are considering. Using national data from Emsi, NRF’s research team dug a little deeper to gain some insights into who these students are and what career opportunities they’re considering.

More students are focusing on STEM

The top three degree programs for graduating seniors are business, health and liberal arts degrees, with over 1.7 million graduates between them; these programs also account for over 40 percent of all graduates in 2017. They will continue to be pillars of the U.S. higher education system, but looking to the 10-year growth trend in degree programs provides a different perspective.



Looking at the top 10 fastest-growing degree programs over the last 10 years, we can see significant representation of STEM fields. In fact, seven of the 10 fastest-growing occupations are in STEM (precision production, science technologies, mathematics, health professions, engineering, computer science and biological fields). The rapid growth in STEM fields may reflect a shift in focus from broad-based degrees to more technical and skill-based trainings. A number of initiatives designed to encourage STEM education have popped up that focus on rapidly training the workforce in STEM-related skill sets, including JPMorgan Chase’s recent commitment to skills as the future of work and The Home Depot’s OrangeMethod coding bootcamp.  This heavier focus on tech skill sets is good news for retailers, most of which are equal parts customer and technology focused.

STEM careers in retail are growing

The chart below shows a small portion of the entry-level job titles that were open to graduates in Q1 2019 based on some of the most popular degrees above.



To learn more about the evolving retail workforce, visit NRF’s careers and leadership insights or check out the graduation data center for more insights on how consumers plan to celebrate graduates this year.

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