Nearly half of American workers with college degrees are overqualified for their current positions, according to a report released by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.
In fact, about 37 percent of currently employed college graduates are working in jobs that only require a high school diploma or less, Jonathan Robe , co-author of the report, said. These jobs include things like taxi driving and bartending, Robe said.
This high rate of “underemployment” will most likely increase, Robe said. By 2025, the number of college graduates in the United States will increase by 20 million, but the number of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree will only increase by 8 million, Robe said.
Previous research in labor economics on the consequences of graduating in a severe recession suggests that students graduating now — in the wake of the Great Recession, the most severe recession in the U.S. since the Great Depression of the 1930’s — will do worse over the course of their lifetimes than individuals who graduated just five or six years ago, David Shapiro , Penn State professor of economics, said.
But Robe said that these bleak numbers do not mean that a college degree is worthless.
This economic situation affects high school graduates or dropouts the most due to a “cascading displacement effect in the labor market,” Robe said.
Individuals without secondary education are passed over in favor of college graduates, who employers often perceive as more reliable and dedicated, Robe said.
“The results of this study suggests that national public policy should be more carefully tailored to reflect the challenges that individuals are facing,” Robe said.
As tuition rates continue to skyrocket, many students wonder if the cost of their education is worth it.
Shapiro said he thinks it still is. For many marginal students, the cost of a college education may not ultimately pay off. However, outcomes are largely individual, so for some under-performing students it might be well worth it.
Shapiro also said that there is value in a college degree beyond monetary returns. For example, many jobs that require a college degree have higher job satisfaction, Shapiro said.
While Penn State Career Services does not explicitly monitor underemployment, it does closely monitor student’s post-graduation employment via surveys, Jeff Garis , senior director for Career Services, said.
“My opinion is that right at graduation, it’s fair to assume that as much of 50 percent of students are in a job that does not require a degree,” Garis said.
The good news is that for most graduates, this state of underemployment is only temporary, Garis said. When surveyed six months after graduation, most students are satisfactorily employed, Garis said.
To avoid unemployment or underemployment, Penn State students can take advantage of the numerous forms of assistance offered by Penn State Career Services, Garis said.
The way to get started is to come in and take advantage of drop-in counseling, Garis said.
“Then the most important thing to do is to meet with a Career Services counselor to come up with a self-directed job search strategy,” Garis said.
While it is helpful to start the job search early, Garis said it is never too late to get started with career services. Even if it might be unreasonable to find a job by the end of the semester, a career service counselor can help a student develop a post-graduate plan.
Garis said that students should also take advantage of services like Career Days and on-campus interviewing.