In today’s economic climate, many recent college graduates suffer from mal-employment. Mal-employment is a term describing the predicament of graduates who cannot find careers in their fields, and must resort to low-skilled, low-pay jobs just to get by.
Today, about 60 percent of college degree holders hold jobs that require college degrees, compared to 75 percent in 2000. About 1.9 million graduates under age 30 were mal-employed between September and January, according data compiled by Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.
Tiffany Groene, 27, is a Chicago resident with a master’s degree in public administration. Despite her strong educational background, she has spent two years searching for a job in her field. She currently works as a server, and she is returning to college for a master’s degree in education.
“It’s hard to convince people that what I am doing is relevant,” said Groene.
Like Groene, many mal-employed graduates unable to find careers return to school in order to shift their focus and retool their skill set. And while college graduates are still more likely to find employment than those without higher education, the inability to find careers in their field raises troubling questions about whether or not a college education is worth years of dedication and debt.
Some recent graduates, hoping that they don’t seem overqualified, even downplay or exclude their education in resumes in order to get any job. Connecticut resident Kirk Devezin II, 24 has been unable to get job interviews related to his recent communication degree. His interviews have been for barista and cook positions, and even one for a carwasher.
“It just seems like it was just a big waste of time,” Devezin said. “And I’m $20,000 in debt.”
But there is hope. Unlike Devezin, most experts agree that securing a college degree is the best path away from unemployment. The employment levels for college degree-holders are significantly higher than those without college degrees. Even mal-employed graduates make slightly more than the average high school educated worker, at $476 compared to week to $433.
Still, it pales in comparison to the $733 a week for the average job that requires a college education.
“The value of the degree is still there, it is just not returning as much in investment as it would a few years ago,” said Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.