57.5% of College Graduates Don’t Work in Their Field of Study

Back of a confused student pondering about what to do next

Five years ago, it was only 27% according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. 

Given the short time for such a drastic shift to occur, that’s a startling jump. Should this be concerning?

It doesn’t seem to be for the majority of recent college graduates. When asked if they would pursue a different degree if they could repeat their undergrad, 76.6% of the surveyed said they wouldn’t.

This suggests for most college graduates the skills, knowledge, and experience they gained in college serves well enough to participate in the job market, though not necessarily a job related to their field of study.

Strangely, they’re OK with this.

So why do they detour from their degree?

The answer isn’t obvious.

But with the job market as competitive as it is, coupled with looming student loans, being picky out the gates isn’t a financially sound plan in the short-term. It’s common, then, for college graduates to settle into an industry unrelated to their field of study.

How about the other 23.4% who said they would change degrees?

Maybe they were misled, or they made poor choices, or the job market has changed. In any event, when more than half don’t end up working in a field related to their degree after graduating college, and nearly a quarter of them wish they had pursued a different undergraduate degree, this suggests their degree just isn’t cutting it.

One respondent said, “if you have a social science degree like [me], it’s near impossible to get a job right out of college. Most employers want people with master’s degrees or bachelor’s with 2-5 years of work experience. And that’s for entry-level positions in a relevant field … I just wish someone would have told me I needed a Masters degree to pursue anything in the field.”

Who or what is to blame?

Could it be the job opportunities, or lack thereof, in the field related to their study, the false promises of open opportunities from their former professors, or themselves for not forecasting the market before beginning their degree?

For some, exiting the college bubble forces many to sober up and see the reality of how expensive it is to live. What they’re able to earn with the degree they graduated with just isn’t cutting it.

That’s when the decision to go back to school to pursue a technical skill or a graduate program would help them appear more desirable for employers.

Yet, more funds placed into additional schooling could’ve been avoided from the beginning if the academic direction wasn’t chosen initially.

What to make of all this?

When 1 in 4 college graduates regret the degree they went to school for, it’s a problem.

It’s not easy to look back at four years of life and to think it was all for naught. Not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars painfully pulled out of pocket in pursuit of a degree that didn’t see a return in investment when it mattered most. 

According to a survey by Emolument, by and far, respondents regretted a degree in psychology the most with only 33% saying it was worth it. Fine arts, history, geography, politics and marketing trailed behind at 53% to 54%.

A degree is only worth its weight if it makes the recipient attractive to potential employers in the field they were intended for when it’s all said and done. If it can’t even do this, a job unrelated to the degree is plan b. 

 

If you’re a college graduate, spare a moment and take our survey below (3 minutes, I promise!). 

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