Exploring programs through context
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Exploring programs through context

Throughout Ididio, it's important to us to give information in context. On the programs pages, we provide context by aggregating all program completions reported to IPEDS, and we also provide context for employment data that we find by collecting ACS microdata data corresponding to people who say they majored in a given program.

Context from completions data

We aggregated graduation data for all schools the IPEDS universe (basically all US schools that are able to accept federal financial aid), and created totals by college program. For each program we calculated key statistics, such as the percentage of degrees awarded at each level or the percentage of women within each program's graduates.

This allows us to give some context. For example, the percentage of women who complete a welding technology program is 7.1%, which seems extremely (but not surprisingly) low. We looked at the same percentage for each academic/vocational program, and we found that only three-fourths had a higher percentage of women, confirming that the 7.1% was not an outlier.

Context from ACS data

For academic programs that graduated at least 40% of students at the bachelor's or higher level, we are able to provide a great deal of career information by using ACS data. The ACS survey asks respondents to report their college major, so for people who plan to earn a bachelor's we can glimpse into possible career paths by using this data.

To provide context about job prospects for people who earned bachelor's degrees with specific majors, we first partitioned the ACS microdata so that people with the same bachelor's degree were grouped together. For each major, we then calculated the overall percentages for categories corresponding to the topics you see on these program pages, including age, gender, race/origin, and ultimate education level attained. For some of these topics, we also calculated related statistics such as salary equity between genders and median salary increases with additional education.

As an example of the benefit of context, suppose you find out that graduates with your major of choice have a 5% unemployment rate. Is that "good" or "bad?" We didn't think it made sense to compare the unemployment to the national unemployment rate, which would include people with no degree. And by the same token, to simply compare the rate to all people with a college degree didn't provide much context, either, since we'd simply be looking at two numbers with little idea of scale. So Ididio compares the unemployment rate of 5% to the rate of each other group of bachelor's holders by field of degree, providing understanding that really matters: how do graduates of my major compare with graduates in other majors? Is there a major that might be more secure for me?