When students in the class of 2013 receive their diplomas in May, the odds may not be in their favor.
Almost half of employed college graduates in the country currently work jobs that require less than a four-year degree, according to a Jan. 24 report by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.
recent college graduates who are underemployed
average annual salary of UNC respondents to survey in 2011
full-time employment rate for UNC respondents
full-time employment rate for elementary education majors
With the bleak outlook for recent graduates, university officials suggest that students should start thinking about their career goals early.
“If you love history, by all means study history,” said Ray Angle, director of UNC Career Services. “But that does not give you a pass for not thinking about how it translates to a career.”
But Angle said a student’s course of study in college does not necessarily define his or her career.
Internships, leadership experience and extracurricular activities are also important, he said.
In 2011, UNC graduates with elementary education, journalism and mass communication and public policy degrees had the highest percentage of full-time employment within one year of graduation, according to a University report.
The report states that the average annual salary for all majors was $42,784, while business administration and economics majors earned the most at more than $50,000.
“A greater number of college graduates are competing for college-level jobs,” said Jonathan Robe, a research fellow at the center and co-author of the study.
When they are unsuccessful, they apply for jobs usually filled by high school graduates and dropouts, making it difficult for this demographic to compete, he said.
But even if a job does not explicitly require a degree, employers often look for college graduates, said Mimi Collins, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
“Employers are using the bachelor’s degree as some indication that you have some abilities,” she said.
They expect college graduates to be better versed in communication and problem solving skills, she said.
More students could consider university alternatives, including community colleges, trade schools and apprenticeships, to gain practical experience, Robe said.
“There has been a stigma associated with community college, and I think we need to rethink that,” he said. “A four-year degree is not necessarily something everybody wants or needs.”
The report expects underemployment to continue to climb in the next decade due to the national dialogue surrounding the importance of earning a college degree.
Robe said students nationwide need to align majors and goals, and educate themselves on the risks and benefits of their course of study.
Universities can also help students by being honest with them about their employment prospects, he said.
“Choose your education and major carefully,” Robe said. “Know what the risks are.”
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