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Stats and Facts About College Graduates Unemployment Rate (2021)

College graduates’ unemployment rate is one of those topics that we shouldn’t avoid. Students across the US are willing to get into tremendous debt to obtain a degree, only to face no job opportunities once they’ve graduated.

Therefore, readers should pay attention to the statistics listed below. They explain how saturated some professions are, which majors would potentially be a waste of time and money, and which ones offer a straightforward pathway to a job.

Key College Graduates Unemployment Rate Facts and Statistics

  • Approximately 63% of high school graduates enrolled in college last year.
  • Around 53% of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed.
  • The unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 4.8%.
  • Mass media majors have an unemployment rate of 7.3%.
  • General education majors have an unemployment rate of just 1.7%.
  • 43% of college graduates are underemployed in their first job.
  • In total, 34% of college graduates are underemployed.
  • 73.2% of criminal justice majors are underemployed.

General College Grad Statistics

Stats and Facts About College Graduates Unemployment Rate 1

1. The percentage of people who are 25 or older with a bachelor’s or master’s degree increased to 36%.

(Census)

During the most recent year for which complete data is available, nearly two million Americans graduated with a bachelor’s degree and entered the labor force. According to college graduates employment statistics, more than 35% of people aged 25 or older got a bachelor’s degree or higher.

2. 62.7% of high school graduates enrolled in college in 2020.

(BLS)

In 2020, fewer high school graduates enrolled in college, as 66.2% enrolled the year before. While 66.2% of female graduates enrolled in college, 59.3% of male graduates did. Also, only 50.7% of black girls enrolled.

3. The rate of return on investment in college is under 14%.

(Independence)

College graduates job statistics show that the investment in college is just under 14%. That rate might seem too low and lead to reconsidering enrolling in college. However, when we compare it to other investments, like bonds (3%) and stocks (7%), it’s worth it for most people.

4. Workers with some college education or an associate’s degree make up the largest share of the civilian labor force.

(Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Since 2012, the most significant part of the US civilian labor force comprised workers who have an associate’s degree or enrolled in a college. While the percentage of unemployed college graduates has gone down, the percentage of the labor force members with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree has increased.

5. Roughly 53% of recent graduates are unemployed or underemployed.

(University of Washington)

The average college graduate needs up to half a year to find their first employment. Even with a perfect resume, references, and an established job-seeking strategy, they are unlikely to find work in their field or even one that requires a college degree.

Statistics on College Graduates Getting Jobs

Stats and Facts About College Graduates Unemployment Rate F2

6. The unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 4.8%.

(Statista)

The unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher stays relatively low if we consider the fact that the unemployment rate has increased drastically because of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, statistics about community college graduates indicate that people with less education can’t expect the same. The highest unemployment rate is for people with less than a high school diploma (11.7%).

7. The unemployment rate for associate degree holders in the US is 7.1%.

(Statista)

The unemployment rate for college graduates data offers some good news: young people shouldn’t question their decision to attend college, as those who only have a high school diploma have an even more challenging time finding work.

8. Median earnings for recent graduates are lower today than they were in 1990.

(Harvard Business Review)

Recent college graduates don’t earn more than their predecessors did in 1990 or 2000. Furthermore, they might earn slightly less. In 1990, the median pay for recent graduates was $44,926. It dropped to $43,749 in 2000.

College graduate employment rate data implies that today, the median yearly income for those aged 22 to 27 and who have a bachelor’s degree is $44,000.

9. Recent college graduates are 5.7 times more likely than workers overall to be advertising and promotion managers.

(Harvard Business Review)

Taking the share of recent graduates with a bachelor’s degree aged 22 to 27 who work in the position and dividing the figure by the overall number of workers in it, we can determine that recent grads are 5.7 times more likely to be advertising and promotion managers.

10. Interest in arts and entertainment is increasing, and the interest in graphic design is the highest.

(Indeed)

There’s no issue with the college graduates unemployment rate in some professions:

Interest in arts and entertainment-related jobs among recent graduates spiked. For this population, the list of top 10 occupations by interest now looks like this:

  • Graphic designer
  • Industrial engineer
  • Film and video editor
  • Psychiatric technician
  • Marriage and family therapist
  • Art, drama, and music teacher
  • Writer
  • Counselor for substance abuse and behavioral disorders
  • Photographer
  • Social worker

11. Interest in occupations related to business and finance drops the most.

(Indeed)

The college graduates unemployment rate has increased in some professions due to a loss of interest in others.

Even though they pay better, jobs related to business and finance are not making any top lists these days. What’s more, the interest in jobs that come with a high risk of injury is also dropping. Here is the list of the top 10 occupations that recent graduates are losing interest in:

  • Radiation therapist
  • Statistician
  • Statistical assistant
  • Speech therapist
  • Economist
  • Actuary
  • Sales person
  • Nutritionist and dietitian
  • Forester
  • Nuclear engineer

College Graduate Underemployment Rate

Stats and Facts About College Graduates Unemployment Rate F3

12. 43% of college graduates are underemployed in their first job.

(The Wall Street Journal)

Underemployment is the number that represents the percentage of graduates working in positions that do not require a college degree. If at least 50% of people in a certain occupation have a bachelor’s degree, that position is classified as a college job.

Close to half of those who graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree can expect their first job to not require any degree, according to college graduates job statistics.

13. 33.8% of all college graduates are underemployed.

(Inside Highered)

When talking about college graduates, everyone between the ages of 22 and 65 with a bachelor’s (or higher) degree is considered. Unfortunately, over a third of them were in positions they were overqualified for.

14. 41% of recent graduates are underemployed.

(Inside Highered)

The situation is even more alarming for recent graduates. The lowest underemployment rate they’ve faced in the last few decades was in May 2001, when it was 37.6%.

15. 73.2% of criminal justice majors are underemployed.

(Statista, Criminal Justice Degree Hub)

Some degrees face severe underemployment rates. Even though it’s not one of the majors with the highest unemployment rate, getting a bachelor’s in criminal justice will almost certainly lead to underemployment, as just over a quarter of those who graduate with this degree end up working in positions that require it.

16. 49.7% of psychology majors are underemployed.

(Statista, Psychology Today)

Even though most psychology majors dream about becoming counselors or therapists and positively impacting peoples’ lives, about half of them don’t get that chance. According to the college graduate employment rate data, most of them are employed as HR representatives and psychiatric technicians.

17. 11.5% of nursing majors are underemployed.

(Statista)

For those who opted to go to nursing school, the situation is on the opposite end of the spectrum. A little over 11% of those with a degree in this field are underemployed.

And in case you’re interested in unemployment rates for specific majors, you’ll find the following section particularly interesting.

Unemployment Rate by College Major

Stats and Facts About College Graduates Unemployment Rate F4

18. The unemployment rate for mass media majors is 7.3%.

(New York Fed)(Crimson)

Graduating with a degree in mass media will get you to face an unemployment rate almost four times that of college-educated adults. Those who find a job in this highly competitive field can expect their starting salary to be around $35,000.

19. The unemployment rate for anthropology majors is 6.0%.

(New York Fed)(Crimson)

Sorting the unemployment rate by degree, we can see that earning a BA or BS degree in anthropology also puts graduates in a difficult position when finding work.

Their unemployment rate is 4.5% higher than the college graduate average. What’s more, it’s 2.9% above the overall national average. Starting salaries in this field are estimated at $33,600.

20. Liberal arts majors’ unemployment rate is 4.3%.

(New York Fed)(National Center for Education Statistics)

According to data on education statistics and college grad unemployment data, liberal arts majors are among the most unlikely degree-holders to find work.

In fact, 5.8% of recent graduates (25 to 29 years of age) are unemployed. While starting salary data is not available, the median annual starting salary for recent liberal arts graduates is $35,000.

21. The unemployment rate for economics majors is 4.2%.

(New York Fed)(National Center for Education Statistics)

Economics used to be regarded as a field with a secure job line. However, the stats about the unemployment rate by college major indicate that this has changed dramatically since the 1990s. Nowadays, economics graduates face a difficult job search.

Those who find a job can expect to do well, though, as the median salary data shows some impressive figures. People with a bachelor’s in economics have a median salary of $55,000.

22. The unemployment rate for general medical and health services majors is 1.1%.

(New York Fed)(National Center for Education Statistics)

There are some professions on the other end of the unemployment rate for college graduates scale.

Pursuing an education in general medical and health services doesn’t only represent an act of selflessness and desire to help. It’s also a smart move when it comes to future employment. Less than 2% of those with a bachelor’s in this field are unemployed.

The median pay for recent graduates is not too shabby either, sitting at $45,000, college graduate stats on salaries show.

23. General education majors’ unemployment rate is 1.7%.

(New York Fed)(National Center for Education Statistics)

As elementary and high school teachers are always needed, this major’s extremely low unemployment rate will likely remain at 1.7% for the foreseeable future. Recent general education graduates can expect to earn about $36,400.

Unemployment Rate for College Graduates vs. High School Graduates

Stats and Facts About College Graduates Unemployment Rate F5

24. The proportion of the US population with at least a high school diploma is around 90%.

(Statista)

With the increase in education, the number of people with high school diplomas has dropped significantly. The rate of those who never graduated from high school has also gone down.

25. The unemployment rate for high school graduates in the US is 16.9%.

(Statista)

Considering the unemployment rate for college graduates data, high school graduates have considerably higher unemployment rates than college graduates. The situation has worsened due to the coronavirus pandemic.

26. Workers with less education work in jobs are more likely to be impacted by automation.

(ILO)

Automation is a prospect that could negatively impact the employment rate on a scale we can’t even begin to understand. The unemployment rate for college graduates and high school graduates will also skyrocket as businesses worldwide introduce automation into their daily dealings.

It’s estimated that people with less or no education, women, and workers in lower-wage jobs are more susceptible to automation.

27. Half of those with bachelor’s degrees are potentially affected by automation.

(Indeed)

Those with college degrees and language skills should be even less worried about automation. Stats about the graduate unemployment rate reveal that 50% of associate’s degree holders are in these occupations, together with 28% of workers with bachelor’s and 11% of workers with graduate degrees.

Luckily, there are numerous online skills courses to improve your abilities. Platforms like GoSkills and 360Training are just a few of the many online courses people can enroll in and strengthen their professional resumes.

28. The median pay for college graduates is 74.5% higher than those with just a high school degree.

(CNS News)

When all bachelor’s degree holders are taken into account, college graduates statistics show a median yearly salary of $52,019. For high school graduates, median pay sits at $29,815. That is another reason why students should carefully evaluate and explore colleges with the best job placement rates.

29. The US government invested $100 million in apprenticeships in 2020.

(Industry Week)

On-the-job training is one of the best ways to improve the job status of those without a college degree. More than $100 million was invested in high-tech apprenticeships. Improving their skillset is one of the only ways for high school graduates to reduce the pay gap between them and the college-educated workers.

College Graduates Unemployment Rate — Conclusion

Students and college graduates should know more about employment, as it can help them find a job. However, unemployment rates shouldn’t scare them. Instead, they should motivate them to give their best to find a suitable and well-paid job.

Choosing the field they are passionate about should be the number one priority for those selecting a college major. No matter which one they choose, those who are best in their fields shouldn’t worry about finding a job.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What percent of college graduates are unemployed?

The unemployment rate of college graduates in the US heavily depends on the type of degree they’ve obtained. For those with a bachelor’s degree, the percentage of the unemployed sits at 4.8%. The situation is slightly different for graduates with an associate’s degree; their unemployment rate is 7.1%.

The unemployment rate is this high only because of the coronavirus pandemic. We need to consider that the unemployment rate for those with less than a high school diploma is 11.7%.

What percentage of college students get a job after they graduate?

Generally speaking, around 53% of recent college graduates cannot find a job in their field of studies after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. They are either completely unable to find employment or need to settle for a position that doesn’t even require a college degree.

It usually takes about six months for a graduate to find a job. A student or graduate should have a career-seeking strategy and some work experience to increase their chance of getting employed.

How many college graduates are unemployed or underemployed?

Around half of college graduates are underemployed, so they work in positions that don’t require a degree. In fact, 41% of college graduates are underemployed. Finding work has become even more difficult because of the worldwide pandemic.

However, some studies show college graduates are less likely to be affected by the changes that covid has brought than those with less education.

Are there more job opportunities for college graduates?

You could argue that employment opportunities are always available for those willing to work. However, the statistics listed above show otherwise.

If they can’t find work the traditional way, recent college graduates should look into websites such as Indeed, TopResume, CollegeGrad, etc. If that doesn’t work out, freelancing is always a viable option. Stats about college graduates unemployment rate should help all young people gain a clear insight into finding employment after graduation.