More Than Half of College Grads Underemployed

For many, degree leads to low-paying jobs, or none at all

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Apr 22, 2012 5:59 PM CDT

(Newser) – The college class of 2012 is in for a rude welcome to the world of work. A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don't fully use their skills and knowledge, according to an analysis of government data conducted for the AP. Young adults with bachelor's degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that's confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.

Taking underemployment into consideration, the job prospects for bachelor's degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade. About 1.5 million, or 53.6%, of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. Opportunities for college graduates vary widely. While there's strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder. "I don't even know what I'm looking for," says one ex-creative writing major, now working as a barista. "There is not much out there."

Michael Bledsoe, who has a bachelor's in creative writing, now works as a barista for a little more than minimum wage.
Michael Bledsoe, who has a bachelor's in creative writing, now works as a barista for a little more than minimum wage.   (Elaine Thompson)
Michael Bledsoe, who has a bachelor's in creative writing, now works as a barista for a little more than minimum wage.
Michael Bledsoe, who has a bachelor's in creative writing, now works as a barista for a little more than minimum wage.   (Elaine Thompson)
Michael Bledsoe, who has a bachelor's in creative writing, now works as a barista for a little more than minimum wage.
Michael Bledsoe, who has a bachelor's in creative writing, now works as a barista for a little more than minimum wage.   (Elaine Thompson)
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Simply put, we're failing kids coming out of college. We're going to need a lot better job growth and connections to the labor market, otherwise college debt will grow. - Andrew Sum, director of the Center
for Labor Market Studies at
Northeastern University

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