Graduating college? Good luck!

New report offers a depressing statistical snapshot of the job outlook for recent grads

Published May 19, 2011 5:20PM (EDT)

Throughout the country, college students are busy celebrating their graduation. However, it's an open question whether their hard work -- and considerable expenditure -- will help them find employment. A study published yesterday by Rutgers's John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development paints an unencouraging picture of their chances in the current job market.

The report, titled "Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy," is based on a survey of 571 students from the classes of 2006-10. Here are some of its most compelling statistics:

  • Of students graduating betwen 2006 and 2010, only 53% are employed full-time (21% are attending graduate or professional school).
  • The median salary for students from the classes of 2009 and 2010 is $27,000 a year -- $3,000 less than that earned by their "pre-recession" counterparts from the classes of 2006 and 2007, who earned a median salary of $30,000 in their first jobs.
  • Students who did internships during the course of their degrees earn a median salary $6,680 higher than those who did not.
  • The difference between starting salaries for men and women is over $5,000, with men earning $33,150 and women $28,000.
  • 39% of students from the classes of 2009 and 2010 earned "a lot less" than they expected in their first jobs (the figure for the classes of 2006 and 2007 is 28%).
  • Those with a regular salary earn over $10,000 more per year than those paid by the hour, whose median yearly pay is $25,000.
  • 3/5  of graduates used "personal connections" when looking for a job (compared to less than 1 in 3 who used "college placement offices").
  • 51% of graduates had found a job within two months of leaving college (nearly 30% had arranged employment before they graduated). 75% had found employment at the two-year mark.
  • Only 52% of graduates surveyed accepted jobs for which a four-year degree was required.
  • 58% of graduates aged 22-25 "are receiving some form of financial support from their parents" (29% say their parents help pay for housing). Nearly a quarter say they still live with their parents.
  • 58% say they were not well-prepared for the job search by their universities.
  • Among recession-era graduates (classes of 2009-10), 43% say they are "not working in the area they trained for."
  • 48% of students who are "satisfied with their decision to attend college and graduate with a four-year degree" nonetheless say they would be "more careful" choosing a major if they were given another chance; 47% say, looking back, they should have "done more internships or worked part time."


By Emma Mustich

Emma Mustich is a Salon contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @emustich.

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Academia Education Unemployment U.s. Economy