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Despite low unemployment, many college grads are out of work

The average graduate needs 7.4 months to find a job

Photo (c) monkeybusinessimages - Getty Images
Young people are routinely told they must get a college degree in order to get a good job, but earning a degree is no guarantee of employment. Not without pounding the pavement for a few months.

Research conducted for the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows the average college graduate who does not leave school with a job will spend 7.4 looking for one.

Based on a salary of $4,000 a month, the average college graduate loses $29,600, compared to the graduate who steps into a job immediately after receiving a diploma. That's enough for the Class of 2018 to pay back three-fourths of their student loans.

Employers aren't impressed

The research shows that business leaders are not happy with the level of “career readiness” colleges are providing students, and they complain that they unnecessarily have to retrain graduates to get them up to speed.

At the same time, an increasing number of graduates don't think the colleges they attended have done a very good job of getting them ready for a professional career; research shows this group is facing higher levels of unemployment than previous generations.

These developments stand in sharp contrast to the current job market, when the unemployment rate is at 3.8 percent, near a record low. Yet the advice site AfterCollege reports 83 percent of college graduates leave school without lining up their first job.

Getting the right skills

Mark Beal, a public relations professional and an adjunct professor in the School of Communication at Rutgers University, says graduates have a better chance of getting a job if they have the right knowledge, skills, tools, and strategies.

"My concern is that college graduates are not given all the career transition insights, knowledge and skills they will need for the dozen job searches they are expected to have by the time they are 38-years-old," Beal said. "I want graduates to be able to secure the right employment more efficiently so that they have the job security to take their place in our vibrant economy."

The problem has been building over time. In 2013, author Dr. David DeLong noted there is a big difference between college graduates who find jobs right away and those who struggle. At the time, he cited a lack of career focus as the chief reason for graduate unemployment.

DeLong thinks many college graduates have unrealistic expectations about the job market and do not realize a ground floor position is sometimes necessary to get started. For example, he says working in the mailroom at a major player in your chosen field is probably a better job than working in retail -- unless your career path happens to be retail.

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