Other findings:

• The most popular major group is business, accounting for 25 percent of all students. The least popular are industrial arts and agriculture, with 1.6 percent each.

• White men have higher median earnings across all fields except three. Asians pull down the top median salaries in law and public policy ($55,000), psychology and social work ($48,000), and biology and life science ($53,000).

• The field with the highest concentrations of whites is agriculture and natural resources (90 percent), while the highest concentration of Asians is in computers and mathematics (16 percent). Law and public policy has the highest concentration of African-Americans (14 percent) and Hispanics (10 percent).

• Fields with virtually no unemployment: geological and geophysical engineering, military technologies, pharmacology, and school student counseling.

• Fields with the highest unemployment, ranging from 16 percent to 11 percent: social psychology, nuclear engineering, and educational administration and supervision.

The data are important considering the high cost of a college degree and the significant loan burdens taken on by some students to obtain one, Carnevale said.

“We don’t have a system in the United States where we align what you take with career prospects,” Carnevale said. “Nobody ever tells you when you go to college what happened to the other people who took it before you.”

The researchers’ longitudinal look at lifetime earnings seems to echo a more short-term analysis of the job market by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The Bethlehem, Pa.-based group reports that engineering majors account for seven of the top 10 highest-paying majors for the class of 2011. The other three are computer science, information science, and business systems networking/telecommunications.

Chemical engineering heads the list with an average salary offer of nearly $67,000, according the group’s spring survey.

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