College & Workforce Readiness

Survey of New College Grads Gives Insight into Job Reality

By Caralee J. Adams — May 15, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

News of young people’s continuing struggle to get a foothold in the job market might have incoming college students thinking about how to improve their odds after graduation.

If higher education is going to remain relevant, some would argue that the hard reality of today’s economy should also prompt educators to find ways to better prepare young adults for the workplace.

Words of wisdom from a survey of recent college graduates: Be intentional. Do some career research. Get job experience in college.

A nationally representative sample of 444 college graduates from the classes of 2006 through 2011 conducted by Rutgers University researchers finds that nearly two-thirds of graduates said that they would have done something differently in college if they had to do it over. About 37 percent said they would have been more careful when selecting their major.

What major they would have chosen in hindsight? Many said a professional major, such as education, communications, nursing, or social work.

Chasing the American Dream: Recent College Graduates and the Great Recession by Charley Stone, Carl Van Horn, and Cliff Zukin, gives a glimpse into the job-search process and early-workforce experience.

Half the new grads surveyed said they felt less prepared to enter the workforce than the generation before them, and almost two-thirds thought they will need to get more education. One factor that helped:an internship. Those who got real-world work experience in college felt more prepared to enter the job market. Those who had internships also made more money in their first jobs, the report found. Looking back, many the respondents wished they had started their job search much earlier and taken more career- related classes.

Although unemployment is nearly twice as high for Americans younger than 25 than the overall jobless rate, three-quarters of those in the Rutgers survey reported having at least one full-time job since graduation. They may be employed, but many graduates were disappointed with the quality of their first job. Only 40 percent reported that it required a four-year degree, and 30 percent considered their first job as being on their career path.

About one in four graduates took a job making a lot less than they had expected. This money crunch has made it difficult for many to repay their student loans, the report found. Because of the amount of debt they graduated with, about one-quarter of those surveyed moved back home with their parents. About 40 percent said they were delaying a major purchase, such as a home or car. Another 25 percent took a job they were not enthusiastic about so they could pay down their loans. The debt burden also meant some (28 percent) put of furthering their education.

A series in the New York Times this week looks closely at the impact of student-loan debt on Americans. While drawing many sympathetic comments, it has also spurred criticism for overstating the percentage of students taking on debt (94 percent, according to the Times analysis). Molly Broad, president of the American Council on Education, maintains it’s closer to 60 percent. (See Inside Higher Ed article.) The repeated theme that students are uninformed about the loans they take out also underscores the need for increased financial literacy in high school and on campuses.

New grads in the Rutgers survey are hopeful about their future, but 40 percent still believe that having a job where they earn enough to have a comfortable life is quite a ways off.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Opinion What Will It Take to Get High School Students Back on Track?
Three proven strategies can support high school graduation and postsecondary success—during and after the pandemic.
Robert Balfanz
5 min read
Conceptual illustration of students making choices based on guidance.
Viktoria Kurpas/iStock
College & Workforce Readiness Opinion An Economist Explains How to Make College Pay
Rick Hess speaks with Beth Akers about practical advice regarding how to choose a college, what to study, and how to pay for it.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says College Enrollment Dip Hits Students of Color the Hardest
The pandemic led to a precipitous decline in enrollment for two-year schools, while four-year colleges and universities held steady.
3 min read
Conceptual image of blocks moving forward, and one moving backward.
Marchmeena29/iStock/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Letter to the Editor How We Can Improve College-Completion Rates
Early- and middle-college high schools have the potential to improve college completion rates, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read