More than one-third of college graduates looking for work are considering returning to school to improve their employment chances.
The real world is a real grind.
That’s what recent graduates are learning in their first month or so of job hunting, according to LendEDU’s recent Class of 2018 Career Report, which surveyed 1,000 four-year college grads and found that 34.4% are still looking for work, and 24.3% are either taking the rest of the summer or the next year off to figure out their futures.
But more than a third (36%) of those still-unemployed grads are already “actively considering” going back to school to make themselves more hirable, according to the survey, and 27.62% said the idea had “popped into my head.” That could be because 7.27% are convinced that they haven’t found work yet because, “I pursued the wrong degree in college,” and 21.8% said they’re not getting hired because they “lack connections.”
Cooper Ferguson, 21, just graduated from Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn. with a bachelor’s degree in communications and a minor in film. He joked on Twitter that, “When I graduated I thought ‘Finally, freedom from school: I can go where I want, do as I please, be who I want to be!’ …and then decided I want to go back to school for two more years,” with the hashtag #graduateschool.
He explained to Moneyish that he became dispirited after applying to 40 jobs over two weeks, which didn’t result in any promising leads. “I was incredibly desperate,” he said. “I realized that many of the jobs I was looking into said they would prefer a graduate degree. I always thought that an undergrad degree would be enough to at least start on the ground floor of somewhere, but it looked like I was wrong.”
So when his alma mater recently offered him a graduate assistant position as a videographer for 20 hours a week (paying $9 an hour), which would also allow him to earn his master’s there for free, he jumped at the chance. “I decided that pretty much the only option I had was to go back to school and gain some experience while I was there,” he said.
This backs a 2017 Gallup report that found only 34% of college students felt prepared to enter the job market, and only half (53%) believed their major would lead to a good job. In fact, 36% regretted their major and wished they’d chosen a different field of study.
Plus, more Americans (33.4% of those ages 25 and up) have college degrees than ever before, according to U.S. Census data, so competition among bachelor’s degree holders is fierce — and it’s driving many young adults to strengthen their credentials by getting a second bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree. First-time graduate enrollment in education increased both at the master’s level (2.3%) and the doctoral level (3.0%) between Fall 2015 and Fall 2016, according to the Council of Graduate Schools most recent data. Besides, 35- to 44-year-olds with master’s degrees earned salaries 23% higher in 2015 than the average for those with bachelor’s degrees ($87,320 versus $71,100).
But career counselor Dr. Kat Cohen, the founder and CEO of the IvyWise independent university admissions counseling service, said you should stop and ask yourself several questions before enrolling in another curriculum, such as:
- What am I hoping to get out of grad school, and how will the experience fit into my long-term career plan?
- What kind of careers do alumni have?
- How will I finance my degree and what scholarships (if any) do I qualify for?
“I would strongly discourage students who are unsure about their long terms goals from applying to graduate school just to have an advanced degree,” she said. Otherwise, you could spend years and tens of thousands of dollars on another degree, yet find yourself still struggling to find a job. “An advanced degree is a considerable investment, and it is only worthwhile if a student is fully committed to the goals they hope to accomplish with a graduate degree,” she said.
She suggested doing as much research as possible first, such as comparing programs at different schools, what kind of courses and learning experiences they offer, the faculty and mentors that will be made available to you, and the kinds of careers recent alumni have. “Many universities hold information sessions for prospective students or offer virtual tours,” she added. “Browse social media channels specifically for the graduate program you are interested in, and consider reaching out to recent alumni for learn more about their experiences first-hand.”
Dr. Cohen noted that the benefits of going back to school (if this won’t drive you into debt and it makes sense with your career plan) include the networking opportunities and professional connections that can be essential to continuing your career. In fact, LendEDU’s survey found that of the 41.3% of new graduates who have found jobs, most (28.33%) secured their positions via mutual connections through a family member or friend, and 21.07% had previously interned at the company.
And some recent grads confessed in the new survey that adulting can be intimidating. Most graduates in the survey (39%) said the “scariest” part about off-campus life is having to pay taxes and set a budget; those are even more worrying “real world” responsibilities than finding a job (31.2%). Grads are also fretting about not being around their friends all of the time (11.3%) and having to get up early five days a week (8.5%).
“Never thought I’d say I want to go back to school,” tweeted a recent grad under the username Maddie B, “but I hate working two jobs, having to pay for stuff and it’s only been a few months. “
Gainfully-employed 2018 college graduate Jenna Salerno also told the LendEDU research team that she misses her academic leisure time. “What I was dreading most about the working world was losing time. Even though I was going to class, it wasn’t for eight hours a day, so I still had time after to relax, work out, and do anything else,” she wrote. “Though I have been working at my job for almost six months, I still miss the free time I used to have.”
Amongst the other hired grads who are already working things out in LendEDU’s report, one third (33.41%) are making a base salary of $35,000 or lower, and more than a quarter (26.63%) are pulling in between $36,000 and $50,000. And in some cases, the salaries that the Class of 2018 is earning are actually higher than what those who are still looking expect to make. While only 15.7% of unemployed respondents expected to make between $51,000 and $75,000, for example, 17.68% of the polled grads who found jobs were actually within this range. And just 5.52% of the still unhired grads expected to net $100,000 or higher, but it turns out that 8.47% of employed respondents actually landed a six-figure salary.
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