College grads are less ‘engaged’ at work

Engagement by Education Level

College-educated Americans aren’t as engaged and challenged at work as less-educated workers, a new Gallup survey finds. That’s true for all ages and professions. Those with “some college” or a degree were less likely to say that “at work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.”

Gallup’s employee engagement index categorizes workers as engaged, not engaged, or actively disengaged. Engaged employees are involved in and enthusiastic about their work. Those who are not engaged are satisfied with their workplaces, but are not emotionally connected to them — and these employees are less likely to put in discretionary effort. Those workers categorized as actively disengaged are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace, and they jeopardize the performance of their teams.

A majority of college graduates are unengaged — going through the motions — but only 16.7 percent are actively disengaged malcontents, according to Gallup. Not surprisingly, graduates with a managerial or executive job are the most engaged workers.

Many college graduates never took the time to “think carefully about they actually like to do” and what they’re best at, speculates Brandon Busteed, who runs Gallup Education. Then there are “too few jobs for college grads in general, or too many degrees misaligned with the jobs available in the workplace.” In short, the demand for film, theater, anthropology and sociology majors is limited.

At the very least, we have a lot of college graduates getting jobs that don’t put their best talents and skills to work because of a big disconnect between degrees conferred and the jobs available today. At worst, we have a college system that is not helping students accomplish the most fundamental need — getting them closer to what they do best.

Half of recent graduates are in jobs that don’t require a degree, according to a 2012 Gallup/Lumina Foundation poll.

Underemployed grads regret their choices

Most college graduates are underemployed and wish they’d made other choices, conclude two different surveys of young Americans. Not surprisingly, young people who majored in health and STEM fields are doing the best, while liberal arts majors are the most likely to be working in retail and restaurant jobs that don’t require a college degree.

Students who are the first in their families to go to college need help to untangle an increasingly complex financial aid system.

Too many college graduates?

A growing number of college graduates are underemployed, concludes a new study. Nearly half of employed college graduates are in jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More degrees — and more educated waiters

More young Americans hold a college degree of some kind, reports the Census. Some 39.3 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds are degreed. President Obama’s goal for 2020 is 60 percent.

However more college graduates are underemployed, competing with less-educated young people for low-paying service jobs.  The number of waiters and waitresses ages 18 to 30 with college degrees increased 81 percent from 2000 to 2010, reports the Census, while college-educated bartenders, dishwashers and file clerks in that age group doubled.


Half of new grads are jobless or underemployed

Half of recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, according to an AP analysis of government data.

While there’s strong demand for graduates with bachelor’s degrees in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities graduates are working in jobs that don’t require higher education. Median wages are down since 2000.

“I don’t even know what I’m looking for,” says Michael Bledsoe, who described months of fruitless job searches as he served customers at a Seattle coffeehouse. The 23-year-old graduated in 2010 with a creative writing degree.

Initially hopeful that his college education would create opportunities, Bledsoe languished for three months before finally taking a job as a barista, a position he has held for the last two years. In the beginning he sent three or four resumes day. But, Bledsoe said, employers questioned his lack of experience or the practical worth of his major. Now he sends a resume once every two weeks or so.

Bledsoe, currently making just above minimum wage, says he got financial help from his parents to help pay off student loans. He is now mulling whether to go to graduate school, seeing few other options to advance his career. “There is not much out there, it seems,” he said.

I majored in creative writing in the early 1970’s, but worked on the college newspaper to qualify myself for a job in journalism. All creative writing majors — and all English majors — knew that opportunities wouldn’t just open up for us. And what sort of graduate degree is he considering?  

“You can make more money on average if you go to college, but it’s not true for everybody,” says Harvard economist Richard Freeman, noting the growing risk of a debt bubble with total U.S. student loan debt surpassing $1 trillion. “If you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing, it probably bodes well to take some job, if you can get one, and get a sense first of what you want from college.”

The fastest growing occupations are in retail sales, fast food and truck driving, reports AP. A huge demand for home health care aides is projected. Only three jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher — teacher, college professor and accountant — make the government’s top 30 list of fast-growing occupations. 

What’s a credit worth?

What’s a credit worth? Traditionally, professors decide how much credit to award. The U.S. Education Department’s definition of the credit hour is “misguided,” argues the American Council on Education. The new rule could affect student loan eligibility for online programs, colleges with flexible scheduling, work-study programs and other alternatives.