May 4, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

In 2017, a record-smashing 8 million students will graduate from Chinese universities.  In the US, the number is half. 

What’s going on in China?  Well, two decades worth of effort into encouraging higher education in China is paying off.

In 1997, only 800,000 students graduated.  Then, University was for a privileged, urban elite. 

In 1999, the Chinese government launched a program to change that.  That year, university admissions increased by 50 percent—a growth rate that would last for 15 years.

As a result, certain sectors in higher education have seen tremendous growth. Engineering has grown nearly exponentially, thanks in part to the government’s desire to produce a tech-savvy workforce.  The second most popular major is literature.  The fastest-growing?  Law.

Despite the additional 1 million new graduates this year, as compared to 2013, the unemployment rate remains about the same as it’s been for awhile. 

It’s the “underemployment” rate that’s problematic.  Add this to the high cost of urban living in China, and you have lots of educated graduates working lower-skilled jobs, making very little money. 

The highest starting salaries?  Graduates with degrees in engineering, economics, and science.  Where do they get jobs?  IT, operations, real estate, finance, and banking.  Tech graduates do exceptionally well, especially those working in web development and software engineering. 

Learn more about studying in China

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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