Report: The Majority of Recent College Grads End Up in Jobs That Don't Need Bachelor's Degrees

Go to college, graduate, get a related job. A new report challenges the perception that an undergraduate education is needed to enter the workforce.

The Burning Glass Institute, a data research company, and the Strada Education Foundation, a talent research firm, released a study on Thursday that found the majority of recent college graduates, who got their Bachelor’s degrees between 2012 and 2021 in the U.S, were not in a job that required their degree.

More than half of graduates (52%) were “underemployed,” per the study, working in fields that did not require Bachelor’s degrees to enter, such as food services, office support, sales, construction, and retail. Moreover, 73% stayed in those fields 10 years after graduation.

It is unclear how many hours worked per week were considered to be “underemployed” in this report.

Even though the typical college graduate performs better in the labor market than workers with high school diplomas, “a sizable share of graduates do not experience the economic outcome they expected from earning a bachelor’s degree,” the study stated.

College majors such as communications, journalism, psychology, and the visual and performing arts reported the highest levels of underemployment, while health professions, such as nursing, had the lowest underemployment rates.

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The report also showed that there are financial effects associated with underemployment. Recent grads employed at college-level jobs make a median of $60,000 annually, while underemployed grads make $40,000. Furthermore, underemployed grads were found to take home $8,000 more per year than high school grads, who make a median salary of $32,000.

The researchers used 2022 data and determined median earnings by looking at workers who were employed full-time, year-round, or working at least 35 hours per week and 50 weeks per year and not enrolled in school.

Unlike high school grads, though, underemployed grads still shoulder an average debt of $34,700 for their degrees.

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The study presented the hope that quality guidance for college students, access to clear employment outcomes, and access to paid internships in college could help bridge the gap.

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