Investment in education appears to be related to people’s success in making many decisions concerning their working life. Higher education, in particular, promotes more efficient decision-making processes related to the labor market through the acquisition of information that has a positive impact on occupational choices. As a consequence, the labor market situation of higher education graduates (HEGs) is better, in general, than that of non-graduates. However, the distribution of job opportunities among HEGs is not homogeneous across fields of study. It is clear that the degree field is a relevant part of the credentials graduates bring into the labor market and, consequently, it operates as a screening device when allocating jobs to HEGs. Employers prefer to hire graduates from specific fields with specific requirements of competency to cover vacancies. The main consequence is that the labor market for HEGs is to some extent segmented by the field of graduation. This field-related segmentation is confirmed by indicators such as labor force participation rates, unemployment rates, and the proportions of temporary labor contracts, which do vary widely among graduates from different field study. In addition, there are substantial differences both in earnings and in the incidence of skill/job mismatches corresponding to graduates from different fields.
In this paper, the focus of the analysis is thereby on the influence of the distribution of education-related benefits among HEGs through its impact on the job performance (e.g. job satisfaction, well-competency job match, etc). Attention will be taken to the process of the study field choice, as it is a personal decision of students which combines individual tastes, inclinations, preferences and prospects related to the working life and other life goals with a number of financial and academic constraints. So, what are the elements determining the choice of a given field of study? Whether and how does field of study influence the job performance among HEGs after controlling for individual heterogeneity?
For the analysis, we use a major representative survey, FOSTERC (Fostering Competencies Development in Belarusian Higher Education), comparing the opinion of graduates from Belarusian public universities. FOSTERC project was a structural project in the frames of the Erasmus+ Program of Capacity Building in Higher Education running from October 2016 to April 2020. The main aim of FOSTERC was to strengthen the use of innovative approaches to teaching and learning in the Belarusian Higher Education Institutions for the improvement of graduates’ learning outcomes in terms of competencies. A representative sample of 5,443 graduates holding a first higher education degree were surveyed three years after graduation, that is, those graduated during the academic year 2014/2015.
Our preliminary results show that the choice of study field influences graduates’ job performance, which also depend strongly on graduates’ perceptions about the education/job match and on the extent to which some of their expectations are fulfilled. Consequently, the field of graduation, which is the result of a personal choice, appears to be a relevant characteristics influencing the distribution of work-related benefits among graduates even after controlling for unobservable heterogeneity and observable individual/job specific characteristics.