Overqualified & Underemployed: College Grads Get First Real-Life Econ Lesson in Supply and Demand
According to a recent study, new college graduates on the job hunt could face a tough lesson in supply and demand, Econ 101-style.
The study [PDF] from the Center for College Affordability & Productivity (CCAP) cited evidence from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) that the supply of college-educated labor is now exceeding the growth in the job market's demand for it. The report indicated that while college graduates earn more on average than those without a bachelor’s degree, those averages conceal a growing number of young Americans for whom a college degree didn't pay off, at least economically.
CCAP reports that about 48 percent of employed college grads have jobs that don't require a four-year college education. That breaks down to 11 percent requiring more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor's, and a whopping 37 percent requiring no more than a high school diploma.
College underemployment isn't a just a phase that will improve with the economy: The number of adult Americans with college degrees will grow over 31 percent during the current decade, more than double the 14 percent of growth in jobs requiring at least a bachelor's degree.
So what does a terrified soon-to-be college grad do to find a dream job?
CCAP found that majors really do matter if you're counting cash. Students entering social work can expect a starting salary under $34,000, whereas electrical engineers can bank on $60,000; by mid-career, the gap has widened to $42,000 and $100,000, respectively.
“Don’t wait for the market to magically get better, or for your dream job to come along," said Tory Johnson, ABC News Workplace Contributor and college advisor for Fairfield University. "Enter the market with a field that is somewhat similar to your career interests, and align yourself with a company or industry that benefits your passion.”
Some students like Morgan Winsor, a recent graduate of the University of Delaware, end up in unrelated part-time jobs because the path to "alignment" is less obvious for their majors.
“Working at my school’s Career Services Center, I had all of this career knowledge at my fingertips, but there was not a lot of information for careers within my major," said Winsor, an Ancient Greek and Roman Studies graduate. "I had a difficult time figuring out what I wanted to do."
The way forward for many students may be a series of "experiential" jobs rather than fully-planned long-term careers. "Temp agencies have seen major growth over the past several months alone, which translates into future opportunity," Johnson said. "Working with agencies can lead to you direct contact with companies."
The underemployment problem coincides with an over-investment problem; colleges across the country are churning out far more grads than the labor markets need. But students also need to make smart decisions about their personal educational investment.
Emily Roseman a reporter for Campus Progress.
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