For recent grads the real world proves tough, but not impossible

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The transition from college to the real world has never been without its growing pains.

Graduates from every generation have found themselves in thankless first jobs, with low salaries and long hours. There always have been, and always will be, new college grads who move back in with their parents, or who wish they didn’t major in psychology, or who forego the job market altogether in favor of a few more years in the haven of academia.

Clearly, this already difficult transition is even harder to make when the economy is in the midst of a downward spiral. So, when I came across a new study from Rutgers University, called “Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy,” I figured the data was going to tell a fairly obvious tale.

However, upon reading the study, there was some pretty interesting insight beyond the expected stats about reduced starting salary (grads who got their first jobs in 2009-2010 suffered a 10 percent reduction in starting salary compared to those who graduated in 2006-2007) and higher unemployment (of those surveyed, 53 percent are working full time, 21 percent are attending graduate or professional school, 12 percent work part-time and 14 percent are unemployed).

Here’s a quick look at some of the more surprising findings: 

Overall, recent grads are happy that they went to college

Nearly 75 percent of recent college grads said they were happy with, and have no second thoughts about, their decision to attend college. The same number felt that their education prepared them to succeed in their first full-time job.

On the other hand, though, three-quarters said that — looking back on their education — they would have done something differently (changed majors, done more internships, etc.).

Overall, recent grads are happy with their first jobs

Although nearly 30 percent of recent graduates reported making concessions for their first jobs — like accepting a lower-than-expected salary or working below what they regarded as their education level — two-thirds reported that they were satisfied with their first jobs.

More than three-quarters (78 percent) of those who graduated from 2006-2008 stayed at their first job longer than a year. Of those who graduated in 2009 or 2010, 68 percent are still at their first job.

Internships pay off

Average starting salary was significantly higher for graduates who completed at least one internship during college ($34,680) than it was for those who did not do an internship ($28,000). Forty-seven percent of graduates said they wished they’d done more internships or worked part time in college.

Most recent grads felt their first jobs were a step down the right career path

“Only one-quarter if graduates said that their first job was the beginning of what they hoped would be their career. But another half (46 percent) described their first job as the first step on the way to that career path.”  One-quarter said that their first job had nothing to do with their desired career and was “just a job to get by.”

So what do you think? Are you a recent college grad? Are you glad you went to college? Did you get a job in your desired field? How do you feel about the future of your career?

Let us know in the comments section, below.

11 Comments
  1. I graduated 2008 in medical billing and coding, worked an internship and have still not found a job in this carreer or anything close to it.

  2. I graduated in 2009, Completed 3 internships in my field, when I graduated I was unemployed for 3 months, then worked for min wage at a department store before getting a whole dollar an hour more at the casino near my families home. I graduated on the deans list and having a ton of experience through my internship and part time job during college, however every place I applied told me that I needed experience, actual experience, experience that I was paid for because the internship really didn’t count because no one was willing to pay me. The internships I completed were the best experiences of my life, and they showed me that I was headed in the right direction for me down the road, however it has been down the road and I am working a job that really has nothing to do with what I want to do, just to “get by”. This job market is really hard and they have tons of people who have experience that were laid off and are now willing to take that pay cut to the “entry level” salary. It takes a lot of time and patience to really make it. I work a full time job as a receptionist, but my second full time job is trying to find a job in my field. It gets exhausting but I know that it will pay off in the end.

  3. No jobs.
    The times of recruiters coming to campuses to hire are gone.
    The adage “go back to school” may translate into more student loans and still no job.
    Education used to be to prepare for a career, not to be the goal by itself.
    No industries, business going abroad, what hell we created for ourselves with our own hands. Hands yes, but no brains.

  4. I graduated in 2010 with a Biology degree, I do have some regrets. I wish I had done internships so I could have experience in the field to see if I liked it. But even with that I am happy where I am and where I am heading. I finished my degree in Jan… it is very hard to find biology openings in the winter!! So I was without work for 3 months then I had an amazing opportunity to be a college instructor with apparently above average wages. I love teaching but I don’t care for the instability of contract work. I am going back to school for 2 more years to get my B.Ed and get a more stable teaching job.

  5. Graduated in May 2010 still looking for a job. Thought I might as well get my graduate degree since there is no work. I am praying that the next two years will bring back jobs. Hoiw does Marcie get to be an instructor at college with a degree? Even at Community Colleges they demand 18 hours of advanced credits in your field. I think she is full of it.

  6. I graduated in 2010, I couldn’t get into an internship program, even that market was too competitive here even though I was an honors student. I think though that if I’d gotten one it would have helped out a lot as a whole year later I am still unemployed and the only places hiring have nothing to do with my degree and even the few entry level positions out there want years of experience. After getting a BS in management, I wish I’d gone to school for some sort of advanced science that is more marketable in this economy.

  7. Graduated May 2007 and found a job within a month. Stayed there about a year and a half and went for another job. Since my first salary in 2007, I’ve more than doubled it. This is by no means unusual for engineers (actually this is normal). As the world continues to advance, more and more engineers will be needed to create the “stuff” everyone buys. The outlook is phenomenal and I recommend it to anyone. If you want to have a safe future, go into engineering (for those in HS reading this). I have no regrets.

  8. I graduated in 2005 with a BA in communications. In 2005 I worked at a major hardware co-op corporate office. Back then it was a great paying job in my area for a college grad with my experience. As an undergrad I worked two paid internships full time while in school full time and was satisfied when I finally received a permanent job before I graduated. That was then, the economy has since made a turn for the worse. I did work in higher education for five years and that industry has since made budget cuts so my work never turned into anything permanent, as I was a temp worker on campus. Now, I am still unemployed and employers tell me I have too much experience or they cannot afford to pay me. I do not get why companies in my state penalize people for having a college degree. My husband has a BS in Economics and can only find temp work. Go figure! This is a mess and something needs to change ASAP.

  9. I have total admiration for all of you who graduated between 2009 and 2011 and managed to find a job– any job– that pays at least a little bit. For those who say majoring in engineering guarantees a job upon graduation, I have a story for you: my younger brother who graduated from college in 2009 with a degree in electrical engineering still has not found a job– any job– to this day. This is not just about your field of study, but about how well you network with potential job leads. This is about how you make it past the first screening interview. This is about how to seek help when you need it. This is about hanging out and competing with peers who will probably succeed in their careers because they do not sit around waiting for the perfect situation to happen. My brother continues to sit in front of his computer every day, living off of my parents’ dime (because I kicked him out after discovering that he’d rather spend most of the day playing video games), and says to himself, no one appreciates what I can offer, I am above grabbing any of the low-hanging fruit, I’ll wait for my friends to give me good job leads, I’ll keep applying to positions online because that’s what I’m comfortable doing, and in the meantime I’ll clam up so no one can see I’m vulnerable. Congrats to all of you who are not doing that.

  10. Hi Katie. it really doesn’t make a difference. I graduated as an honors student with my associates in criminal justice and still worked jobs having nothing at all to do with my degree. I applied and applied non stop and I either did not meet all the requirements or education just was not enough. I too thought what you did, until I just seen your post. I have my bachelors in criminal justice, graduated with a 3.5 and I am still a housekeeper. I continue to get denial letters every other day and it gets discouraging that no one wants to give you a chance. I dread to get my first interviewe because I don’t want to appear desperate no matter how excited I may be. It’s hard out here. I decided that I would get my foot in the door and become a correctional officer but then the hurdle was that I had to past the p.o.s.t exam. I’m not a push up kind of girl, so until I can past the p.o.s.t I’m at a stand still there.

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