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The Underemployed

Many college graduates are accepting jobs they are overqualified for, a phenomenon known as underemployment.

A prevalent problem with the current generation is being over-educated but underemployed. More high school graduates are going to college than ever before, resulting in a large number of college graduates competing for a limited number of jobs. The outcome is many individuals with associate or bachelor’s degrees having to accept jobs that require no degree at all, such as wait or housekeeping staff, coffee shop employees or receptionist positions.

An article in explains that “[t]his inability to find a good job, commonly referred to as underemployment, is considered by some experts as a temporary and transitional phase for graduates in the first few years after leaving college. . . . Recent studies of what jobs US college graduates get, however, suggest that this underemployment phase might be more permanent than many believe.” In fact, as much as 30 percent of underemployed people stay in this situation “even ten years after graduation.”

According to College Scorecard, “more than half of graduates at hundreds of colleges are earning less than the average income of someone holding a high school degree 10 years after enrollment.” Despite the risk of either underemployment or unemployment after graduation, the rate of students attending traditional colleges is steadily climbing. The article points out that many employers prefer someone with a college degree, even when filling jobs that don’t require a degree.

“In other words, a college degree will give you a chance to find a high-paying professional job, and if you fail to achieve this goal, your college degree will still give an advantage in competition for non-college jobs,” according to the report.

Washington Post article states that the future for college graduates is beginning to look up. “Members of the Class of 2015 have the best chance since the recession of not only finding a job, but also landing one that capitalizes on their time in school. . . . [S]o-called underemployment for freshly minted grads has dropped after rising almost unabated to a record high last year.”  The attitude remains that college is a necessary experience and will give people a leg up in the work force.

There is more good news for current and future college students. It appears that online learning and massive open online courses (MOOCS) will help cut costs. Many institutions offer completely online degrees at a fraction of the cost of a traditional degree. A article shows that schools like Georgia Institute of Technology can offer an “online master’s degree in computer science for $6,600 – about $35,000 less than its on-ground program.”

ProctorU monitors exams for Georgia Institute of Technology and over 900 other institutions. Learn more at

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