Unless you are happily oblivious to professional dynamics, you must have noticed that there is some generational tension between millennials and baby boomers.
As a millennial myself, I have heard Boomers refer to my generation as overly-ambitious and delusional and even entitled. (I just want to point out that my peers and I prefer to call ourselves “collaborative multi-taskers.”)
On the other hand, you can catch millennials scoff at boomers for being too rigid and reluctant to embrace change (and the latest tech trends!).
Regardless of the label both demographics earn (rightfully or otherwise), one thing is clear: this friction is to a large extent influenced by the way those generations were brought up. Education, for one, played a great part in this.
As part of our Economic Graph research, we mined the information in over 300 million LinkedIn member profiles, and identified where millennials and boomers have the most divergent educational paths. Below are the top 10 bachelor’s degree fields that are most specific to either generation:
A few things became apparent to us when we reviewed the results:
1. Undergraduate degrees have become really specialized.
It’s interesting to see schools offering undergraduate coursework in fields that used to be the realm of a graduate or postgraduate education. An extreme example: our data indicates that bachelor’s degrees in bioinformatics and interaction design are effectively exclusive to millennials. Only until recently have these fields been offered to undergrads.
2. Where are the teachers?
The decreased popularity of the education profession is a well-documented and sad affair. Primary and secondary education budgets in the US are being slashed, and the number of students pursuing a career in education is shrinking. This is made apparent in our analysis, where a bachelor’s degree holder in the field of education is much more likely to be a boomer than a millennial.
3. Technology and business are taking over.
If our data is any indication, highly leveraged (and well-paying) industries like banking, finance, and technology can be interpreted as “desirable” destinations for millennials; six of the top ten degrees belong to these fields.
Aside from the tensions mentioned in the introduction, the trends highlighted here signal a disconnect between youth, their prospective hiring managers, and their representatives in government (who are – lets face it – much more likely to be boomers).
If you’re a boomer and you’re looking to hire a recent graduate, it might be a good idea to check out the latest curricula offered at your target universities for your field of interest. The classes you took in college probably aren’t being offered anymore! Adapt to the latest trends and don’t judge millennials based on how different you are from them.
If you’re a millennial that has (or is in the process of getting) a degree in a newer, more specialized field, think about how your educational background reflects on your personal/professional brand and be willing to explain that to your hiring manager.
Methodological details: Members included in this analysis chose to share on their LinkedIn profiles their year of birth and that they obtained a bachelors degree. All other members were not included in this analysis. ‘millennials’ were defined as members who indicated that they were born between 1980 and 1996. ‘Boomers’ were defined as members who indicated that they were born between 1946 and 1964.
The relative frequencies of millennial and boomer bachelor’s degree fields were compared, and the degree fields whose millennial and boomer frequencies were most different from each other are shown above.
The results of this analysis are influenced by how LinkedIn members choose to use the site, which can vary based on professional, social, and regional culture, as well as overall site availability and accessibility. These variances were not accounted for in the analysis. Data is current as of March 7, 2014.