Making the Most of College

download-21Colleges and universities promise their students that when they earn their degrees, they will find rewarding, high-paying jobs.

While this claim may have been true in the past, the weak economy has left many college graduates unable to find suitable employment.

In fact, according to a 2015 report published in Student Affairs Today, the unemployment rate for college graduates is the highest it’s ever been, with upwards of nearly 2 million college graduates being unable to find employment as of November 2014, and millions more are underemployed.

A recent government report on “Unemployment Among Young Workers” shows the highest rate of unemployment ever recorded for this age group while the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the jobless rate for younger workers with a college degree has more than doubled since the financial crisis began.

These statistics may seem especially bleak, but recent graduates can confirm that they are accurate. Some students are fortunate enough to have found employment, but many of them are working in low-wage jobs unrelated to their degrees.

Emily Craycraft, for example, who recently graduated from the Ohio State University with her English degree, has been unsuccessful in finding work in her field.

She has had to remain employed in her on-campus job, earning slightly above minimum wage. Graduates around the country can likely sympathize with Emily’s plight, as they work in retail and restaurant jobs to support themselves and pay off their student loans.

With the job market offering so few opportunities to new graduates, students may be discouraged about putting time and money into a college degree.

Though job opportunities for new graduates may be limited, students can set themselves up for successful careers by choosing the right college degrees and preparing themselves for employment during college. In the past, having any college degree was enough for success; now, students must choose a valuable degree.

Choosing the Right College Degree
Most colleges and universities offer a wide variety of degree programs in both the arts and sciences. The University of Texas at Austin, for example, offers over 100 majors, ranging from Islamic studies to biomedical engineering.

While students may benefit from having so many degree options from which to choose, they may be setting themselves up for disappointment if they select a major that does not lead to employment.

Degrees in arts and humanities may, for instance, allow students to develop their interests and talents, but in a weak economy, they do not provide a foundation for lucrative employment.

To be successful in such fields, students often must obtain doctoral degrees, and many of them can only find employment as instructors at universities. Finding a job with solely a bachelor’s degree in an arts or humanities field is nearly impossible.

Instead of pursuing degrees in the arts and humanities, students would be wise to choose degrees that lead directly to certification and specific jobs.

Nursing degrees, for example, allow students to become certified to work as registered nurses. Degrees in education also lead directly to licensure and teaching jobs. In a weak economy, students may even be wise to consider obtaining associate’s degrees from community colleges.

Not only do associate’s degrees require less time and money; they also teach students a specific skill set that often leads to certification for specific jobs. Columbus State Community College, for example, offers degrees in surgical technology, respiratory care, and dental hygiene. Upon completion of the programs, students may take licensure examinations and find jobs in their respective fields.

Preparing for Success during College
Not all students may be interested in education or healthcare degrees. Those interested in pursuing careers in other fields such as political science, communications, or business, will need to obtain experience before graduating.

To be successful, students interested in these fields should take advantage of all internship and volunteer opportunities. After completing their education, graduates will be competing with hundreds of other job-seekers for a limited number of positions.

Having an internship or volunteer experience will help graduates to stand out from the competition, increasing the likelihood that they will find a job in their field. In addition to taking advantage of internship and volunteer opportunities, students must also make an effort to connect with professors and other university faculty members.

These professionals can provide letters of recommendation to students who are seeking jobs, and they may also be able to help students find jobs in their fields.

Connecting with professors and other professionals is especially vital in a weak economy. Students must also take advantage of internship opportunities and think carefully before selecting a degree program if they want to be successful after graduating from college.

There may be fewer jobs available, but those students who make the most of their college education will be able to have lucrative careers.