Chronicle of Higher Education and NPR Marketplace have reported results of a survey they commissioned of employers of college graduates.
They found that where a student goes to school is not as important as you might think. Graduates of "flagship" state universities are only seen as a little more "preferable" (on a 5-level Likert scale) than private or regional public campuses.
They also reported that, with the exception of education majors, the perceived value of a bachelor's degree was somewhat lower than it was five years ago.
Online degrees were rated "undesirable" (2.84 on a 5-level Likert scale), but I suspect that is based online private schools like the University of Phoenix.
Universities are moving increasing numbers of their classes online and that trend is stronger in public than private schools Will employer's perception of their graduates decline? What of fully online public programs like Calstate Online?
For me, the most interesting result was that internships were rated as more important than where one went to college, their major or GPA. Completing an internship was reported to be the most important credential for recent college graduates.
A related survey of 2012 college graduates reinforces the value of internships. They found that 55% of the students had internship and/or co-op experience and 51% of interns were offered jobs. Payed interns fared better than volunteers. They did less busy work and 63% got at least one job offer, compared to 41% of unpaid interns.
The Chronicle/Marketplace survey was conducted by Maguire Associates, but I could not find a report of it on their Web site. I would like to see the actual survey questions and analysis, but this article is worth reading. You should also listen to or read the transcript of the Marketplace podcast (2m 46s) on the study.
College students or even high school students planning their college career should crawl around the NACE Web site. There is a lot of useful information there, including a salary calculator for many different jobs in many different locations, based on your background.
Actually, the NACE calculator is hosted on the Web site of their partner Jobsearchintelligece.com. JSI maintains a database with salary data for up to 1,000 occupations in 560 regions of the U. S. - with a minimum of 25 respondents for each occupation in each region to ensure statistical significance. You can easily query the database to find, for example, starting salaries for specific full time jobs given specific majors along with salaries for those same jobs ten years after graduation.
I decided to goof around with an example, and searched for data on modeling jobs. I said I was a recent grad with a GPA between 3.5 and 3.9 who had gone to CSUDH and majored in language and literature.
I learned that there are 60 persons employed as models in the Los Angeles area, and starting, median and top salaries are $27,120, $43,810 and $72,290. Based upon the background I provided, they estimated my starting salary at $38,900, but after looking at their overall employment picture for models, shown here, I decided to look for a different career.
Remember that college is about a lot more than hoped-for jobs and salary. The best thing that can happen at college is not finding a major that leads to job offers with good starting salaries, it is finding something you are passionate about. That is way more important -- put your energy there.