I learned a lesson several years ago when running Syracuse University’s alumni networking program. Field of study usually has little correlation to what you eventually end up doing for a living–at least on the surface.

Unless you pursue a high level professional degree, in law, medicine, engineering and the like, there is a great likelihood that what you end up doing with your major will depend more on your interests and the job market, than being explicitly matched to the degree that you earn.

LinkedIn has created a very simple way for college students, high school students, and really anyone who’s interested, to explore how people are using their degrees. Launched in July as another arm of LinkedIn for Education, the aptly named Field of Study Explorer is a data-driven feature allowing you to search by more than 1,600 fields of study to determine:

  • How many total LinkedIn members list that field of study on their profile
  • Where they work
  • What they do
  • Where they studied
Graph showing results for the English Language and Literature/Letters field of study on LinkedIn Field of Study Explorer.

Results for the English Language and Literature/Letters field of study on LinkedIn Field of Study Explorer.

Drilling Down into the Results

Graphs showing results for people with Fine Arts degrees working at Starbucks and Target

This view shows the field of study being looked at for two specific employers. Image via blog.LinkedIn.com.

The results above show what people with a Fine Arts degree do at two chosen employers: Starbucks and Target. As you can see from the results, the people working at those companies with that field of study as a background are doing all sorts of things beyond serving coffee and selling quasi-designer clothing (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

The Field of Study Explorer allows you to click on as many items in the results as you like. You can break it down by specific school(s), employers and job functions. The options are vast.

What happens with each change to the graph that you make is that different LinkedIn members’ faces pop up below; those that fit the exact criteria you’ve selected. It’s a great way to see more specifically what people who fit that criteria are doing in terms of job title, as well as how many connections you may have in common. Armed with this information, you can choose to connect with members for a chat on how they turned their Fine Arts degree into (for example) a job as a Senior Director of the Project Management Office at Cooking.com.

Screenshot of search box for fields of study in LinkedIn Field of Study Explorer.

Every field of study listed on your LinkedIn profile appears in the drop down search box.

One question I have about the data: if you have more than one degree or field of study, are you included in the dataset for each one of those fields of study? I am assuming that’s the case, since when you open the search feature for the fields of study, all of the fields of study listed on your profile appear (shown at right).

Interesting Results and My Suggestions

It is interesting to see the results under the ‘Where they went to school’ column.

Several big fields of study listed University of Phoenix as the school with the most members having gone to that school. I don’t generally think of University of Phoenix as being one of the top schools for anything, but clearly that school is having a large impact on the education industry.

Current degreed enrollment at the University of Phoenix stands at around 249,000, which is down from a high of 600,000 in 2010. This makes University of Phoenix the school with (by far) the most enrollment in the country, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they show up at the top of some of these very big lists.

Another thing I noticed about the ‘Where they went to school’ category was that many of the top schools listed were outside the U.S. It would be helpful to have the ability to filter by country.

It would also be helpful to filter by graduate or undergraduate degree. Many of the results list, for example, Indian universities. Did those members attend graduate school in the U.S.? Did they have the same field of study in both countries? Having those filter options would give you a truer look at the employment data. I’d like to see how many of the English Lit grads who work at Apple simply have a bachelor’s degree, and not a master’s.

LinkedIn’s vast database of knowledge about its members allows the company to create amazingly helpful resources for members to make informed choices. If you’re looking at your options for your first degree program, career choices after you graduate, or even a mid-life career change, the LinkedIn Field of Study Explorer should prove very helpful. Play around with it, find some options that look like a fit for you, and then reach out to those in your network who show up below the graph. Those are the people who are doing the job, and they’re the best ones to share how they got there.

One final note: If I was a high school guidance counselor, or definitely if I was a career counselor at the undergrad level, I would learn how to use this tool and teach my students how to use it. You know what they say about giving a man a fish? This tool gives you a fishing pole connected to the entire ocean of fish and lets you sort them out by species.

Let me know what you think about the LinkedIn Field of Study Explorer. How have you used it? Did you find it helpful? Share your experience in the comments or tweet me @kellylux