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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Half of college grads start in low-level jobs, and most won't catch up

Half of college graduates are working in jobs that don't require a degree or college skills, report Vanessa Fuhrmans and Lindsay Ellis in the Wall Street Journal. In the first year, they earn $40,000, on average, compared to $60,000 for those in professional jobs.


Most never catch up. The vast majority who start in non-college-level jobs "remain underemployed a decade later," according to Talent Disrupted, a study by Burning Glass Institute and the Strada Education Foundation. Five years after graduation, 88 percent of underemployed graduates are in jobs that require only a high school diploma or less, such as office support, retail sales, food service and construction.


"Getting stuck early on in such jobs can ripple across a lifetime of earnings, since the premium from a college degree multiplies over the span of a person’s career," write Fuhrmans and Ellis.


The major matters the most in determining who starts on the college-level career track and who doesn't. Graduates with degrees in quantitative reasoning fields such as computer science, engineering, math or math-intensive business fields (finance, accounting) do the best. Nursing and education graduates also do well.


However, biology majors and less math-intensive business majors (marketing, human resources) may have trouble getting a professional job. Underemployment is highest for graduates with degrees in public safety and security and recreation and wellness.


“You’re told your entire life, ‘Go to college, get a bachelor’s degree and your life is gonna be gravy after that,’” said Alexander Wolfe, 29 years old, a 2018 graduate from Northern Kentucky University. An integrative studies major (education, history and psychology), Wolfe has worked in sales, retail and food service, and now is in a security job. His degree "hasn’t really helped me that much.”

Overall, four-year college graduates earn 56 percent more than a high school-only worker, but that varies from a wage premium of 125 percent for computer science and engineering graduates to 25 percent for arts, recreation and psychology graduates.


Internships are very valuable, the study finds. "Nearly all undergrads at Northeastern University in Boston complete at least one six-month internship," write Fuhrmans and Ellis. "Six months after graduation, 91 percent of working graduates report having jobs related to their major."


Some colleges are creating paid internships for students from low-income families who can't afford to take unpaid internships.


Getting that first professional job is harder for first-generation college graduates, notes Hechinger's Jon Marcus. "Anxious to begin earning an income, first-generation students accept offers more quickly, make less money and take jobs for which they’re overqualified, various research shows." Ten years after graduation, they earn substantially less than their more-advantaged classmates.


The Burning Glass/Strada report recommends enabling every college student to access at least one paid internship, providing education-to-employment coaching and adding occupational outcomes to the College Scoreboard.


Women are earning more college degrees, but their choice of majors hasn't changed much in the last 25 years, notes Mark Perry



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12 comentários


JK Brown
JK Brown
03 de mar.

When I was thinking of college back in 1979, Newsweek or Time had an article stridently advising against going into what we now call STEM. Seems there where Astrophysics PhDs washing dishes in NYC because reductions in the Space Program.


In the past a BS/BA expanded your job prospects, but even then a Masters or PhD narrows them again as the focus indicates a higher risk of job dissatisfaction if not in your concentration. Of course, these days, the focus on "feelz" in the undergraduate makes the college graduate less appealing than the bright HS graduate.

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JK Brown
JK Brown
01 de mar.

The College Fetishists keep selling the mythology that it is the college degree that make student successful. It can help if you student learned how to problem solve, but mostly it is because for the last 60 years, those most likely to be successful regardless were more likely to have gone to college. Whereas, twenty years earlier they would have just worked their way up with just their high school diploma.

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linda.g.oc
04 de mar.
Respondendo a

I have been saying for decades that the edworld can’t differentiate between causation and correlation. The issue goes back to the whole self-esteem movement, started by the realization that high-achieving kids had high self-esteem. The edworld came to the conclusion that high esteem caused high achievement and proceeded to advocate constantly praising kids; without considering whether or not their actions or achievements deserved it - and participation trophies.


Soon after, it was discovered that kids who took Latin, foreign languages, debate, AP classes etc. did better on a variety of significant issues, so large numbers of kids were pushed into those courses. No thought was given to their ability/preparation to do the work or their motivation, or the idea that…

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m_t_anderson
01 de mar.

The salary differentials among various majors have been known and publicized for decades. Majoring in something a specious as "integrative studies" seems a bit uninformed and imprudent. But perhaps those kinds of majors are the only ones some students can manage. (I'm lookin' at you, Ed majors.)

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Jim Daniels
Jim Daniels
05 de mar.
Respondendo a

"And of course, no high school counselor is going to be able to help."

Another completely baseless, evidence-free generality from the village idiot.

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rob
01 de mar.

"Women are earning more college degrees, but their choice of majors hasn't changed much in the last 25 years"


Why should it? Shouldn't women be free to choose whatever majors they want? Why should they be pushed into, say, engineering or computer science, if they don't want to go?


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superdestroyer
01 de mar.
Respondendo a

Because getting degrees in fields that do not lead to jobs causes problems. And in the 21st century, women cannot marry their way out of poor job prospects.

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