Most college graduates are underemployed, as shown by the chart on the left. The chart on the right shows that the vast majority of college graduates are working in fields unrelated to their undergraduate major.
… We utilize newly available census data that identify both an individual’s level of education and, for college graduates, undergraduate college major. We construct two measures of what we call job matching for those with a bachelor’s degree. Our first measure, which we refer to as college degree matching, determines whether an undergraduate degree holder is working in an occupation that requires at least a bachelor’s degree. Our second measure, which we call college major matching, gauges the quality of a job match by identifying whether a person is working in a job that corresponds to that person’s undergraduate major. For example, consider a college graduate who majored in Communications. If this person worked as a public relations manager, an occupation that both requires a college degree and relates directly to a Communications major, we would classify this person as matching along both measures. By contrast, if this person worked as a retail salesperson, he or she would be classified as not matching along either measure.
Being overqualified is sometimes the only way to secure employment and pave the way for future career growth.
This data does not necessarily support the argument that a college degree is a waste of time and money for most. In a perverse way, it actually supports the importance of going to college. In this jobless economic recovery we have too many college graduates chasing too few college-level jobs, so employers can screen out job applicants who lack a college background. Those retail salespeople, office receptionists, or any number of similar workers with college degrees were probably helped in gaining employment by the fact they had demonstrated the persistence and intelligence needed to complete four years of higher education. It also helps their chances of future career and income growth.
A law school graduate blogging about “the loss of my last shred of dignity” while working at a store counter selling cologne is featured in a Business Insider story.
The blog’s anonymous author graduated from a law school that was in the top 50 ranked by U.S. News and World Report. He was on law review and even got a summer position at a firm after his second year. He didn’t get a job offer though.