Underemployment Rate for College Graduates on the Decline


The reality of underemployment has been a concern for students everywhere in the last half decade – and in many cases has been a deterrent to attending college and earning a degree. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, employment prospects for college graduates took a downturn, and within just two years, underemployment rates reached their peak, with 16.7% of the country considered underemployed in 2010. Underemployment is a term that refers to both unemployed people and those in part-time jobs. More so than the unemployment rate, underemployment provides a better holistic picture of the nation’s economy. For many college graduates over the last 5-7 years, there has been work – but it hasn’t always been the kind of work they were looking for when they entered college.

Good news is, employment rates have steadily improved in the last five years, with the underemployment rate hitting a new low this past year when it fell below 10%.

While this is good news for everyone nationwide, the news is even better for college graduates. Whether you’re thinking about attending college for your first degree or going back for an advanced degree, recent studies have shown that underemployment rates for those with a college degree is by far lower than for all other groups. Consider these stats from a recent Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce report: in 2015, the underemployment rates for those with different levels of education were:

  • 7% for those who did not attend college
  • 9% for high school graduates
  • 2% for Bachelor’s degree holders
  • 2% for graduate degree holders (Master’s and Doctorate)

Generally speaking, the higher your level of education, the greater your chances of being employed in a full-time job. While these statistics are impressive for the nation as a whole, when you break it down into different demographic groups, you can see even clearer the benefits of a college degree. Consider the underemployment rates for African-American and Hispanic populations.

For African-Americans, the underemployment rates in 2015 were:

  • 21% for high school graduates
  • 14.6% for Associate’s degree holders
  • 9.7% for Bachelor’s degree holders
  • 6.1% for graduate degree holders

For Hispanics, the underemployment rates in 2015 were:

  • 14.4% for high school graduates
  • 10.8% for Associate’s degree holders
  • 8.4% for Bachelor’s degree holders
  • 6% for graduate degree holders

Your Time is Now

The state of the economy can often be a deterrent for higher education. Given the high cost of earning a degree coupled with previously unimpressive employment rates, those who are on the fence about earning a degree often decide to wait until things look better. If you’re on the fence, now is your time! With underemployment rates falling – and prospects for college graduates even higher than for all other groups – earning a degree could be the right choice for you.

Not sure if a college degree will improve your job prospects? Been waiting on the economy to improve before going back for your Master’s? Don’t delay any longer. At Alliant International University, we offer a wide array of Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degrees in five professional fields – Psychology, Education, Business, Forensic Studies and Law – that can help improve your career prospects in practical fields of employment.

If you are interested in learning more about any of our degree programs – or are curious about the potential career possibilities in any of these fields – we encourage you to contact us today.


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