A publication of the Indiana Business Research Center at IU's Kelley School of Business
Share | |

Do Teachers Have Education Degrees? Matching Fields of Study to Popular Occupations of Bachelor’s Degree Graduates

The current debate on the training needs of our nation’s teachers reminds us that it is often challenging to match fields of study to occupations and vice-versa. Economic developers and educators are constantly anticipating the training needs of a changing workforce. Unfortunately, many career pathway resources fail to identify the relative number of workers in a particular occupation that completed degrees in various disciplines.

This article makes use of ongoing research by the Indiana Business Research Center to develop a comprehensive “Workforce Futures” information tool that matches current and projected employment in a wide range of occupations to the fields of study that corresponding workers complete at all postsecondary levels—from certificates through doctoral degrees. Here, we will look at the bachelor's degree fields of a wide range of workers with a focus on teachers. This article will also look at the reverse—the occupations of bachelor’s degree graduates from particular fields of study, particularly those in education programs.

While education remains popular among workers with bachelor’s degrees, business-related occupations and fields of study are the most popular among this group of graduates—particularly among men—likely due to their high lifetime earnings potential.1 Table 1 displays the 10 most popular occupations among U.S. workers with a bachelor’s degree as their highest degree (i.e., their terminal degree). We see accountants, auditors and financial specialists accounting for almost 8 percent of this sector of workers.

Table 1 : Popular Occupations of U.S. Workers with Bachelor’s Degrees as their Highest Degree

Rank Occupation Percent
1 Accountants, Auditors, Financial Specialists 7.9
2 Registered Nurses, Pharmacists, Dieticians, Therapists, Physicians Assistants 5.6
3 Other Administrative Services (e.g., Record Clerks, Telephone Operators) 4.9
4 Other Management Related Occupations 4.9
5 Other Marketing and Sales Occupations 4.9
6 Insurance, Securities, Real Estate and Business Services 4.1
7 Artists, Broadcasters, Editors, Entertainers, Public Relations Specialists 4.1
8 Elementary School Teacher 4.0
9 Top-level Managers, Executives, Administrators 3.5
10 Sales Occupations - Retail 3.1

Note: This chart uses data for full-time, year-round workers divided into 125 occupations adapted from the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data (SESTAT) System and the U.S. Department of Labor's Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System.
Source: IBRC, using data from the National Survey of College Graduates, 2003

Table 2 shows that business administration and management, accounting and other business services majors account for three of the top four degree fields among all U.S. workers with terminal bachelor’s degrees. However, high numbers of particular majors do not necessarily mean that these graduates will pursue careers directly associated to their fields of study, making the link between Table 1 and Table 2, tenuous at best.

Table 2 : Popular Fields of Study of U.S. Workers with Bachelor’s Degrees as their Highest Degree

Rank Field of Study Percent
1 Business Administration and Management 9.3
2 Accounting 6.5
3 Elementary Teacher Education 5.1
4 Other Business or Administrative Services 5.0
5 Nursing 3.7
6 Sales and Marketing Fields 3.5
7 Psychology 3.5
8 Biological Sciences 3.3
9 Communications 2.9
10 Computer and Information Sciences 2.9

Note: This chart uses data for full-time, year-round workers whose college degree majors have been divided into 76 fields adapted from the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data (SESTAT) System.
Source: IBRC, using data from the National Survey of College Graduates, 2003

Current Workforce Debates and Research Needs

This article examines the link between the fields of study pursued by undergraduates and their occupations. College students typically choose a major with particular careers in mind, but may actually end up in a completely different occupation as a result of being under-qualified, over-qualified or otherwise unable to gain entry to their career of choice. According to research by John Robst, the highest levels of education-to-career mismatch occurred among those who had bachelor’s degrees in English and foreign languages, social sciences, and liberal arts. Degrees with the lowest amount of mismatch included computer science, engineering and business management.2 While many workers facing the prospect of a mismatched occupation after their bachelor’s degree may pursue a graduate degree, this article focuses on workers who do not complete any additional degrees.

While this research cannot determine the appropriate training for teachers, it can inform the discussion by assessing what college degree fields were completed by different types of teachers nationwide. In Indiana, considerable debate surrounds the major changes proposed by the state superintendent of public instruction, notably that secondary-school teachers (grades 5 to 12) should receive a bachelor’s degree in an applicable content-area major and a minor in education.3 Opponents meanwhile insist that a major in education is preferable since it already contains sufficient content-area study requirements.4 Not only can the Workforce Futures tool of this research determine the relative percentage of teachers across the country who completed education versus content-area college majors, but it can also assess the relative number of education degree graduates who are currently in teaching careers.

Moving Beyond Current School-to-Work Resources

This research transcends currently available resources by matching U.S. workers by occupation to the fields of study they completed at the college level. Typically, publically available education-to-occupation crosswalks match occupations to fields of study through simple “one-to-many” matches that list all the relevant fields of study for a particular occupation or vice-versa. For example, the widely-used O*NET crosswalk matches occupations by Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code to relevant fields of study by Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code.5 However, such crosswalks do not assess the relative incidence of each match, making it near impossible to determine which matched occupations are the more prevalent outcomes for recipients of a particular degree or alternatively, which degree fields are really more popular among workers in a particular occupation.

By adapting the education and work histories of a representative sample of 100,402 U.S. workers surveyed by the 2003 National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG), this research makes the elusive link between fields of study and occupations that accounts for the relative proportions of each link. To do this, first the NSCG occupations and fields of study were re-classified so that occupations more closely resembled the widely-used SOC system and listed fields of study were less science-focused. 6 In the end, the detailed crosswalk produced was able to match a total of 125 occupations with 76 fields of study. For the purpose of this article, these occupations and fields of study were further summarized into nine broad occupational groups and nine broad fields of study (see Table 3).

Table 3 : Legend of Abbreviations for Occupational Groups and Broad Fields of Study

Code Occupation Field of Study
PBM Physical, Biological Sciences and Mathematics Physical, Biological Sciences and Mathematics
SSS Social Sciences and Service Social Sciences and Service
BAM Business, Administration, Management, Financial Services, Marketing, and Sales Business, Administration, Sales and Marketing
NHS Nursing and Allied Health Nursing and Allied Health
AESM / HLA Art, Design, Entertainment, Sports and Media Humanities, Liberal Arts and Fine Arts
EDU Education (Pre-K to 12), Training Education, except Administration
ENG Engineering, Technologies and Architecture Engineering, Technologies and Architecture
CSI Computer Science and Information Science Computer Science and Information Science
CJ Not Applicable Communications and Journalism
OAS Office and Administrative Support Not Applicable
O/U Other / Unknown Other / Unknown

Note: The above occupational categories have been adapted and modified from the U.S. Department of Labor's Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System. Fields of study are in categories that have been adapted and modified from the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data (SESTAT) System. The other/unknown category includes occupations or fields that were not statistically significant within other categories. "Not Applicable" for CJ occupations indicates that a separate category for communications and/or journalism occupations was not possible so these occupations are largely contained within the broad  "Art, Design, Entertainment, Sports and Media" (AESM) category. "Not Applicable" for OAS degree indicates the absence of a known bachelor’s degree that is directly related to Office and Administrative Support occupations.
Source: Indiana Business Research Center

Education-to-occupation and occupation-to-education matches were produced for a subsample of full-time, year-round workers who received a bachelor’s degree for their highest educational attainment. Estimated percentages were produced whenever a statistically significant percentage of workers in a particular occupation received a degree in a particular major field.7 Figure 1 summarizes the proportion of workers in each of the broad groups of matched occupations and fields of study.

Figure 1: Popular Occupational Groups and Fields of Study for U.S. Workers with a Bachelor's Degree as their Highest Degree

Figure 1: Popular Occupational Groups and Fields of Study for U.S. Workers with a Bachelor's Degree as their Highest Degree

*There is no category for Office and Administrative Support (OAS) for fields of study nor a category for Communications and Journalism (CJ) for occupational groups. Please see Table 3 for details on category abbreviations.
Source: IBRC, using data from the National Survey of College Graduates, 2003

Matching Popular Occupations by Field of Study

Table 4 summarizes the broad fields of study completed by workers in a range of popular occupations. As expected, business-related occupations have high percentages of workers who received their bachelor’s degrees in business-oriented BAM fields of study, most notably the fact that 73 percent of accountants, auditors and financial specialists with terminal bachelor’s degrees completed business-oriented majors. Other occupations that seemed to have specialized college graduates include nurses and other allied health professionals of which over 84 percent completed nursing and allied health (NHS) fields of study, and electrical engineers, almost 90 percent of which completed engineering degrees. It is also not surprising that almost two-thirds of social workers had degrees in social science and service (SSS).

Table 4: Broad Fields of Study for Selected Occupations (excluding Teaching) among U.S. Workers with Bachelor's Degrees as Highest Degree

Occupation Percent of Occupation by Broad Fields of Study*
PBM SSS BAM NHS HLA EDU ENG CSI CJ O/U
Accountants, Auditors, Financial Specialists 3.7 8.6 73.1 0.0 5.1 2.5 1.5 0.9 2.1 2.4
Management-Related Occupations 7.1 16.6 39.9 1.3 10.8 5.7 9.0 1.7 4.8 3.2
Personnel, Training, Labor Relations Specialists 2.8 18.9 42.3 1.8 13.9 7.2 0.9 0.6 4.6 7.0
Sales Occupations - Retail 5.0 14.4 34.4 2.4 18.2 10.8 3.4 0.5 4.1 7.0
Health Technologists and Technicians 27.3 8.2 7.3 19.8 4.5 3.5 23.4 0.0 0.9 5.2
Registered Nurses, Pharmacists, Dieticians, Therapists, Physician's Assistants 3.8 3.0 2.6 84.3 1.5 1.6 0.0 0.0 0.4 2.9
Accounting Clerks and Bookkeepers 4.3 12.1 42.8 1.9 11.6 10.5 0.0 4.3 3.7 8.8
General Administrative Occupations, except Secretaries, Receptionists, Typists 6.4 17.4 33.1 1.9 16.7 10.5 2.7 2.1 5.1 4.2
Secretaries, Receptionists, Typists 3.6 20.4 26.6 0.8 15.3 15.7 0.8 0.0 5.1 11.7
Artists, Media, Entertainers, and Public Relations Occupations 1.9 10.3 6.2 1.0 46.1 4.6 1.6 1.0 23.5 3.8
General Service Occupations, Non-Health 6.1 28.6 23.5 1.6 10.6 13.9 1.5 0.4 4.9 8.8
Social Workers 1.4 65.6 8.1 0.6 7.1 6.7 0.0 1.5 2.2 6.7
Precision/Production Occupations 14.9 11.2 23.3 0.5 19.5 7.9 11.0 0.0 3.1 8.5
Protective Services Occupations 9.0 46.6 17.9 0.0 9.1 4.8 3.8 1.2 0.9 6.7
Computer Engineers - Software 9.6 3.7 6.5 0.2 4.0 1.0 31.7 40.6 0.8 1.9
Computer System Analysts 9.8 7.0 20.0 0.4 6.1 1.8 11.5 40.2 1.3 2.0
Electrical and Electronics Engineers 2.8 0.0 2.3 0.4 0.0 0.2 89.6 1.3 0.0 3.4

*Hover cursor over category abbreviations on any table in this article to see their full names
Note: This table uses data for full-time, year-round workers. Please see Table 3 for details on category abbreviations.
Source: IBRC, using data from the National Survey of College Graduates, 2003

However, many occupations have workers who completed a much wider range of college degrees. Most notably we see that over 10 percent of graduates working in precision/production occupations completed majors in each of five different fields: physical and biological sciences (14.9 percent), social sciences and service (11.2 percent), business (23.3 percent), the humanities (19.5 percent) and engineering (11 percent).

Looking specifically at teachers, we see that nearly 72 percent of elementary education teachers received their degree in an education field (see Table 5). However, the dominance of the education degree drops among middle and high school teachers (grades 5 through 12).

Table 5 : Broad Fields of Study for Teaching Occupations among U.S. Workers with Bachelor's Degrees as Highest Degree

Occupation Percent of Occupation by Broad Fields of Study
PBM SSS BAM NHS HLA EDU ENG CSI CJ O/U
Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Teachers 4.0 9.5 4.9 2.0 7.7 61.3 1.2 0.0 0.0 9.6
Elementary School Teachers 1.6 6.5 3.6 0.6 8.8 71.9 0.0 0.3 1.7 5.0
Secondary School Teachers - Math, Science or Computer Science 29.3 5.9 7.4 0.0 2.1 42.3 2.1 1.8 1.0 8.0
Secondary School Teachers - Social Sciences 0.0 11.3 2.3 0.0 20.9 54.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 10.6
Secondary School Teachers - Non-Science Subjects 2.0 4.9 5.5 1.7 26.1 47.5 0.0 0.0 3.4 8.9
Special Education Teachers - Primary and Secondary 1.2 5.2 4.3 2.6 7.9 70.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 8.6

Note: This table uses data for full-time, year-round workers. Please see Table 3 for details on category abbreviations.
Source: IBRC, using data from the National Survey of College Graduates, 2003

As highlighted in Figure 2, only 42 percent of secondary school teachers in mathematics, science and computer science have an education degree while nearly 30 percent have a degree in the physical and biological sciences or mathematics. Also diverse are the degrees of non-science secondary school teachers since over one-quarter of them have degrees in the humanities and liberal arts.

Figure 2: Popular Fields of Study for Different Types of Teachers Who Completed Bachelor's Degrees as Their Highest Degree

Figure 2: Popular Fields of Study for Different Types of Teachers who Completed Bachelor's Degrees as their Highest Degree

Note: This chart uses data for full-time, year-round workers. Please see Table 3 for details on category abbreviations.
Source: IBRC, using data from the National Survey of College Graduates, 2003

Matching Popular Fields of Study by Occupation

Interesting results also emerge when we look at the occupations of graduates from a range of popular college degree fields (see Table 6). As expected, nursing graduates are overwhelmingly in health-related occupations (NHS). Similarly, over 60 percent of economics, computer and information science and civil and architectural engineering graduates are in business (BAM), computer and information science (CSI), and engineering (ENG) occupations, respectively.

Table 6: Occupational Groups for Selected Fields of Study (excluding Education) among U.S. Workers with Bachelor's Degrees as Highest Degree

Fields of Study Percent of Field by Occupational Group
PBM SSS BAM NHS AESM EDU ENG CSI OAS O/U
Accounting 0.0 0.7 77.9 0.7 0.3 0.9 0.0 2.9 9.4 7.4
Business Administration and Management 0.1 3.9 59.1 1.5 1.1 2.9 1.5 5.5 11.7 12.8
Nursing 0.0 0.6 4.4 88.8 0.0 0.7 0.0 0.0 0.6 5.0
Criminal Justice/Protective Services 0.0 17.2 21.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 6.0 55.8
Economics 0.0 2.7 62.6 0.0 1.6 0.4 0.0 6.5 7.2 19.1
Psychology 0.2 16.3 35.5 6.1 2.0 9.0 0.6 4.6 12.6 13.1
Sociology 0.0 17.2 31.4 5.2 4.3 9.6 0.0 3.3 12.0 17.2
Biological sciences 12.4 2.4 23.3 21.5 1.7 7.5 4.5 4.3 5.7 16.7
Mathematics and Statistics 6.0 1.0 26.9 0.7 0.7 13.5 2.9 27.1 6.9 14.5
Computer and Information Sciences 0.5 1.3 16.4 0.4 0.9 2.0 2.3 64.8 5.6 5.7
Communications 0.0 4.5 46.2 1.8 17.7 5.5 0.0 3.2 9.3 11.9
Journalism 0.0 4.4 34.1 0.8 34.1 2.7 0.0 1.1 9.3 13.7
English Language, Literature and Letters 0.0 3.3 34.1 1.7 15.6 13.3 0.0 4.8 13.5 13.5
Fine Arts, All Fields 0.0 4.1 22.6 3.0 25.7 12.5 2.7 2.2 7.8 19.4
History, Other 0.0 3.1 39.4 0.5 4.9 10.8 0.0 6.4 9.8 25.3
Film, Dance, Graphics and Other Visual/Performance Arts 0.0 0.8 24.8 1.9 40.3 2.1 1.3 2.4 4.8 21.6
Civil and Architectural Engineering 0.0 0.4 22.2 0.4 0.2 0.3 60.6 2.2 1.6 12.1
Electrical/Electronics/ Communications Engineering 0.2 0.5 20.5 0.5 0.6 0.8 46.2 20.5 1.5 8.6

Note: This table uses data for full-time, year-round workers. Please see Table 3 for details on category abbreviations.
Source: IBRC, using data from the National Survey of College Graduates, 2003

However, the career outcomes of bachelor’s degree graduates by field are generally quite diverse. This is particularly the case for non-vocational fields such as English whose graduates were likely to find employment in occupations as diverse as business (34.1 percent), arts, sports and media (15.6 percent), office and administrative support (13.5 percent) and teaching (13.3 percent). Surprisingly, less than half of electrical/electronics/communications engineering majors have engineering jobs with over 20 percent gaining employment in business, as well as computer and information science occupations.

Table 7: Occupational Groups for Popular Fields of Study in Education among U.S. Workers with Bachelor's Degrees as Highest Degree

Fields of Study Percent of Field by Occupational Group
PBM SSS BAM NHS AESM EDU ENG CSI OAS O/U
Special Education 0.0 3.8 3.4 0.0 4.8 69.9 0.0 0.0 6.8 11.4
Elementary Teacher Education 0.0 3.3 11.3 1.9 1.1 66.4 0.0 1.4 7.3 7.3
Science and Mathematics Teacher Education 0.0 3.2 18.7 2.6 0.8 53.6 0.0 0.0 5.3 15.9
Education (General) 0.0 5.1 19.7 1.9 3.1 42.4 0.0 1.0 11.0 15.8
Physical Education and Coaching 0.0 3.2 26.9 2.3 1.3 39.2 0.0 0.0 5.9 21.2
Secondary Teacher Education 0.0 4.0 27.2 2.8 1.5 36.2 0.6 1.4 9.3 17.0

Note: This table uses data for full-time, year-round workers. Please see Table 3 for details on category abbreviations.
Source: IBRC, using data from the National Survey of College Graduates, 2003

When looking at education majors in Table 7, we see that two-thirds of elementary education degree graduates are in an education or training occupations with business occupations a distant second at 11 percent. Notably though, only 36 percent of those who majored in secondary education remained in the education field with a full quarter of these graduates moving on to business-related occupations (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 : Popular Occupational Groups for Education Fields of Study among Workers Who Completed Bachelor's Degrees as Their Highest Degree

Figure 3 : Popular Occupational Groups for Education Fields of Study among Workers who Completed Bachelor's Degrees as their Highest Degree

Note: This chart uses data for full-time, year-round workers. Please see Table 3 for details on category abbreviations Source: IBRC, using data from the National Survey of College Graduates, 2003

Understanding Diverse Education-to-Occupation Linkages

While the results presented here show that “yes”—teachers largely do have education degrees—the results also show the tremendous diversity of fields of study completed by teachers and other workers in completing their bachelor’s degrees. Both economic developers and educators can benefit from the Workforce Futures tool under development by the Indiana Business Research Center, in conjunction with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. As Indiana and other states promote initiatives in emerging industries such as the life sciences, it is important that economic developers understand the education needs for desired professions. Alternatively, college educators and students can benefit from this tool as educators can enhance their curricula to prepare students for a variety of potential post-graduation career options.

The ultimate goal of this tool is to provide approximately 9,500 matches and corresponding percentage estimates between each of 126 occupations and 75 degree fields, not only for bachelor’s degree graduates but at all post-secondary levels. Particularly useful would be to match associate’s degree and postsecondary certificate fields to corresponding occupations since over 26 percent of the U.S. residents have some postsecondary education below the bachelor’s degree level.8 but few detailed education-to-occupation crosswalk resources exist for these graduates.

Notes

  1. For more information on broad fields of study popular among women and men and their associated lifetime earnings, please see: Michael F. Thompson, "Earnings of a Lifetime: Comparing Women and Men with College and Graduate Degrees," InContext, March-April 2009, www.incontext.indiana.edu/2009/mar-apr/article1.asp.
  2. John Robst, "Education and Job Match: The Relatedness of College Major and Work," Economics of Education Review 26 (2006): 397-407.
  3. More information is available on the podcast website of the Indiana Department of Education. Specifically: “Proposed Rule Revisions for Educator Preparation and Accountability (REPA).”
  4. A concise summary of this debate is available in the following article: J. K. Wall, “Overhaul of Indiana public school teacher training threatens college budgets.” Indianapolis Business Journal, October 3, 2009, www.ibj.com/article?articleId=7378.
  5. O*NET (Occupational Information Network) is supported by the U.S. Department of Labor and makes its education-to-occupation crosswalk available online at: http://online.onetcenter.org/crosswalk/.
  6. The National Survey of College Graduates categorizes occupational and education groups according to the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data (SESTAT) System. Crucial information used to re-classify the SESTAT system into SOC and CIP system was kindly provided by Kelly H. Kang at the National Science Foundation.
  7. The final sample contained 43,722 workers who worked for at least 35 hours per week and 50 weeks per year and weights were applied to ensure that this sample was representative of the larger U.S. population. Averages for each occupation or field that were not statistically significant at the p<0.1 level were re-categorized as “Unknown.”
  8. U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2008 Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

Michael F. Thompson
Economic Research Analyst, Indiana Business Research Center, Indiana University Kelley School of Business

Tanya J. Hall
Economic Research Analyst, Indiana Business Research Center, Indiana University Kelley School of Business

Other/Unknown
Communications and Journalism
Computer Science and Information
Engineering, Technologies
and Architecture
Education, except Administration
Humanities, Liberal Arts
and Fine Arts
Nursing and Applied Health
Business, Administration,
Sales and Marketing
Social Sciences and Service
Physical, Biological Sciences
and Mathematics
Office & Administrative Support
Art, Design, Entertainment,
Sports and Media
Business, Administration, Management,
Financial Services, Marketing and Sales
Education (Pre-K to 12), Training