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More than half of recent college grads work in jobs that don’t require bachelor’s degree: report

‘Underemployment is a key reason why the promise of college often falls short’

A little more than half of recent college graduates, 52 percent, work in jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, according to a new report.

“Talent Disrupted,” published in February by the Strada Education Foundation, argues that “a college degree is not always a guarantee of labor market success.”

Researchers defined grads as “underemployed” when they work in “jobs that don’t typically require a bachelor’s degree.”

Calling underemployment “a large and persistent problem,” the report notes that “even a decade after graduation, 45 percent of graduates are underemployed.”

What’s more, 73 percent of grads “who start out underemployed remain so 10 years after completing college,” according to the findings. The underemployed earn less than peers who get jobs that use their degrees, and only 25 percent more than someone with only a high school diploma, the research found.

Strada CEO Stephen Moret argued all this points to the need for students to have “access to high-quality education-to-employment coaching and at least one paid internship,” as one key indicator for longterm success is for grads to start in a college-level job right out of the gate.

Moret, in a news release, also stated the single most powerful predictor of underemployment is college majors, with finance, accounting, STEM, nursing and health having more success than other fields, he stated.

To develop the findings, researchers reviewed online career histories and census microdata for millions of grads.

“The data paint a troubling picture. Either colleges aren’t teaching the skills students require to succeed, or America is producing too many college graduates for too few college-level jobs. It’s probably a bit of both,” wrote Preston Cooper for Forbes.

“… These outcomes raise questions about how much underemployed college graduates really got out of college at all, at least from a financial perspective. While a bachelor’s degree tends to pay off on average, a large minority of college students fail to earn back the cost of their education. This group has more trouble repaying their student loans, among other things. Underemployment is a key reason why the promise of college often falls short.”

The new research follows a trend seen for at least the last decade. As The College Fix reported in 2015:

Nearly half of recent college grads say their jobs are beneath their skill level, with 49 percent of 2013 and 2014 college graduates reporting underemployed, a recent Accenture employment survey released this month found.

The survey results underscore a 2014 New York Federal Reserve report that unemployment rates for recent college graduates have been quite high since the onset of the Great Recession …

Some colleges are working to address the problem, as recently there has been a rise in vocational and jobs-skills programs. For example, an Idaho community college recently proposed a bachelor’s degree focused on “applied” skills.

MORE: College ‘not worth the cost,’ according to most Americans

IMAGE: Strada Education Foundation

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.