Is America Producing Too Many College Graduates, or Not Enough?

Reports of college graduates in the workforce are often conflicted. Some studies indicate that nearly 50% of college grads under 25 are underemployed or unemployed. However, the official unemployment rate for college grads overall is low. Bloomberg reports that in January of 2015, the jobless rate for college graduates fell to 2.8%, while the overall population had a jobless rate of 5.7%. An analysis by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce cites more evidence that college graduates are still in demand. Employers are still hiring and paying higher salaries for graduates, proving that on average skills students learn in college are being noticed. They predict that in the next decade, up to 65% of jobs will require some amount of postsecondary education.




All of this reports can be encouraging to grads; however, they don't explain the very real problem of graduates who are forced to take low-skilled jobs or get by working several part-time jobs. How could it be that employers are demanding more college grads, while at the same time graduates are having a hard time finding work?

Where the High-Skilled Jobs Are

A large part of the problem is an under-supply of college graduates in specific fields, while perhaps too many in others. There are several job pockets where employers are having a hard time finding qualified candidates. These include many jobs in the STEM field, such as computer engineers, data analysts, software developers and engineers. Healthcare is another quickly growing field, with high job demand for physician assistants, registered nurses, and other healthcare technicians.

An analysis by USA Today showed that 1.8 million new high-skills jobs will be created by 2017, and that 38% of these will be STEM jobs.

This analysis seems to confirm another study which found that underemployment is more likely to affect liberal arts grads, while those with technical training in fields such as engineering, math, computers or healthcare are likely to find high-skills jobs right out of college. Young college grads are also more likely to be unemployed or underemployed than those who have been in the job field for several years and have some experience under their belt.

Certain majors are also more likely to have a difficult time paying off debt (most likely because they have a difficult time finding a high-skills job), with majors in Physical and Health Education, Ethnic Studies, Composition and Speech, or Fine Arts having to spend more than 25% of their income paying off student loans.

Tips for Students

Your college experience is about more than just finding a high-paying job, but students need to be wiser about their choice today than ever before. If you want to escape mountains of debt and several difficult years after college looking for work, make sure you do your research before committing to a college, major or a loan. Don't get into more debt than you can afford based on the career your major will prepare you for. And consider exploring interests that may prove valuable in the future. If you're equally interested in computers and art, double major in computer science and fine art to keep your options open! You may be grateful to find a high-paying job in IT after college where you can work for a few years before opening your art studio.

Liberal Arts majors don't necessarily need to despair. Employers are also looking for candidates with excellent soft skills, such as critical thinking, teamwork, effective oral and written communication skills, and the ability to apply knowledge to a real-world setting. These are all skills that are typically honed in a liberal arts college.

No matter your major, one way in which you can increase your chances of landing a high-skills job is by completing an internship or relevant work experience. Employers are much more likely to consider candidates who had an internship or apprenticeship on their resume.

Are you ready to find your best fit major?