“When people ask, ‘What do you want to do when you graduate?’ I feel like yelling, ‘Whatever I can do for whoever will hire me,’” Towson University senior Maria Malagari told the Towson Towerlight. She’s hardly alone; this year’s soon-to-be college grads are entering a job market that should make the rest of us grateful that we’re not members of the Class of 2012. (And if you are — sorry!) According to a recent study commissioned by the Associated Press, half of young college graduates are either un- or under-employed. Job prospects for young people with bachelor’s degrees are at the lowest level in more than a decade.
The AP’s analysis of government data is one of the first to take into account the problem of underemployment — that is, when grads have some sort of way to earn money, but not one that employs their skills or offers promise of future advancement. With tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, twenty-somethings feel lucky to get a job as a barista or retail clerk.
Of course, it’s not equally bleak for everyone. Those graduating with degrees in nursing, teaching, accounting, or computer science have much stronger prospects than arts or humanities grads. And suddenly, the time-honored wisdom of going to college in order to snag a high-paying job stops seeming quite so logical. “You can make more money on average if you go to college, but it’s not true for everybody,” says Harvard economist Richard Freeman. However, “If you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing, it probably bodes well to take some job, if you can get one, and get a sense first of what you want from college.” Most of the careers with the largest projected job growth over the next decade don’t require a college degree.
Back here in Baltimore, the soon-to-be Class of 2012 at Towson remains (nervously) undaunted. “I’m going to keep researching and applying to jobs no matter how many rejections I get,” Malagari told the Towerlight. “I’m still hopeful. I know something will open for me soon.”