How were occupations matched to interest areas?
Via the US Census, the federal Bureau of Labor & Statistics collects extensive information about occupations and the people who work in them through a variety of methods. They then compile that information and perform statistical analysis to produce the Standard Occupation Classification system (SOC). This is the system counts occupations and projects future need for this occupation, as well as builds extensive profiles about these occupations.
This system is used for all sorts of organizations to build their products and services, lobby their legislatures of all levels, and to access capital investment, in addition to helping schools align offerings with employment opportunities like this study.
In our case, grant data analysis utilized the major and minor groupings of the SOC to match interest areas that the college uses to categorize its programs. View this PDF for details on all the associations, but as an example Arts & Humanities includes:
1) all minor groups in the major group Arts, Design, Entertainment and Media Occupations
2) the minor group Religious Workers from the Community and Social Service Occupations
3) all minor groups in Education, Training, and Library Occupations
After making creating the overall groupings, the minimum education was analyzed. When the minimum education (called "Minimum Typical Education", by the BLS) is a degree or industry-recognized credential, the competitive education is the same level. That's because you need that level to get hired as a new entrant into that career, for the most part.
However, many occupations have a spectrum of acceptable levels, even though the government has determined only one. For example, many occupations officially do not require any formal postsecondary education, but getting some training in that area can be a competitive advantage to the job seeker. Particularly when that seeker is new to that career, a certificate is a competitive advantage. Additionally, postsecondary educators require a Master's degree in their discipline, but the government has counted a preponderance of doctorate's and so reports doctorate as the minimum education.
As with many data sets, these groupings do not represent the *only* way for a person to gain training for a particular occupation, but they are representative of a path that many institutions and employers would recognize.