Study: Over 50% of US Graduates Are Working in Jobs Unrelated to Their University Degrees

United States North America Higher Education News Statistics by Erudera News Feb 27, 2024

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Over half of four-year college graduates in the United States (52 percent) are underemployed one year after graduation, meaning they work jobs where their degrees aren’t needed, according to new research from Strada Institute for the Future of Work and the Burning Glass Institute.

The report titled “Talent Disrupted” shows that ten years after college, 45 percent of graduates continue working in jobs that don’t require college degrees, Erudera.com reports.

“In spite of a historically tight labor market, the underemployment of college graduates remains stubbornly high. Overall, 52 percent of graduates are underemployed a year after graduation. Even a decade after graduation, 45 percent of graduates are underemployed,” the report points out.

Findings show that 73 percent of college graduates who start their career in underemployment remain in the same situation even a decade after graduation. This indicates they are 3.5 times more likely to remain underemployed compared to graduates who start their careers in a college-level job.

On the other hand, the majority of graduates (79 percent) who start out in a college-level job remain in the same occupations even five years after completing their education. The study found that of those in college-level jobs five years after graduation, a total of 86 percent continued to be in such positions ten years later.

Black graduates are more likely to slide into underemployment, with 60 percent of them being underemployed one year after college. This share is 53 percent among white graduates, 57 percent among Hispanic and Latino graduates, and 47 percent among Asian graduates.

Moreover, in terms of gender, men are more likely than women to wind up with jobs where their university degrees aren't required.

“Black and Hispanic students are substantially more likely than students of other races and ethnicities to wind up underemployed, and men are more likely to be underemployed than women,” the report reads.

According to findings, individuals graduating from institutions that served fewer students who earn less annually, were more likely to secure college-level jobs. Private nonprofit universities had fewer graduates working in jobs unrelated to their degrees one year after graduation compared to public universities, 49 and 54 percent, respectively.

For-profit institutions had the highest share of underemployed graduates, with 63 percent holding jobs unrelated to their degree a year after graduation and 58 percent ten years later.

The importance of avoiding underemployment is also shown in Burning Glass’s analysis of 2022 US Census Bureau data. According to it, people with a Bachelor’s degree in college-level jobs earn about 90 percent more than those with just a high school diploma in their 20s.

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