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College grads seek other options with fewer jobs in struggling economy

December 15th, 2011 Posted in Business

By Mandy Morgan

LOGAN — Dusty Jackson was certain that if he kept the connections he had at the Logan Recreation Center while finishing a degree in Exercise Science from Utah State University, he would be on the fast track to a full-time job that he enjoyed. All he had to do was graduate; it can’t be that tough, can it? What he didn’t expect to happen was to eventually end up working a couple of part-time jobs at a restaurant and a gas station with his four-year degree.

“I was single, I was graduated, I just got laid off, I had nothing to hold me back, nothing to go off,” Jackson said. “I lived off of my savings for the rest of the year and had a hard time getting a job. I’d always figured I would finish my degree, get a job, and if I needed to get a master’s, I could go back and specialize in that.”

It didn’t go quite as planned for Jackson. Eventually he moved to try looking for full-time work outside of Cache Valley, while working part-time jobs here and there. Jackson is nowhere near alone in his predicament; he is just one of thousands of students across the nation who are struggling to find full-time work after gaining a college degree.

About 47 percent of college graduates at universities all over the country are either looking for full-time work, are working part-time, are unemployed, are going to graduate school, or a combination of any of these, according to a study released in May of 2011 by John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

Not only are recent graduates competing against each other for fewer jobs, but they’re also up against more experienced workers who graduated a few years before them and are back in the job market, said Heidi Schierholtz in an article published by Cleveland.com. Schierholtz is an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization in Washington, D.C.

“I have no experience working full-time,” Shane Jonson, a recent USU graduate with a Parks and Recreation degree, said. “In this economy a lot of people that have been around are applying for these entry-level jobs and are beating me out with their experience.” Jonson is currently working two part-time jobs after not being able to find full-time work, and has decided to go back to USU to get his master’s to bolster his resume and make him a more competitive job candidate.

For many graduated students, the best option after obtaining a bachelor’s degree is to pursue more education. For the academic year 2008-09, about 13 percent of students who graduated from USU reported being admitted to or looking into applying for graduate school, said Eddy Tsing, Assistant Director of Career Services at USU.

However, for some students the other alternative is to go back to school and get a second bachelor’s degree. Dalen Van Wagoner earned his first bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science before deciding that he wanted to go into a completely different field.

“Either I had to go to a pre-therapy school to get a therapist license, or be a personal trainer,” Van Wagoner said. “I didn’t feel like I wanted to go to a medicine school and I didn’t want to do personal training.” Instead, he realized that he wanted to coach and teach high school, so going back to school for another bachelor’s was the best option, Van Wagoner said.

Though it is stated in the study done by the Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University that 81% of college graduates take over six months to get their first job after graduation, it is still proven that having that college degree is a valuable asset. The median salary for college graduates in the range of 2009-10 was $27,000, and that figure only went up if there was an internship involved in ones education, or if the job was related to the field of study.

In the end, 62 percent of college graduates in the study believed that more education would help with their overall career. Whether all of those graduates went back for more education is unknown, but according to Van Wagoner, it depends on each situation.

“My suggestion would be to go for more school until you for sure know what you want to do, and once you for sure know just work hard on getting that job,” Van Wagoner said.

It took almost four years for Jackson to finally obtain the kind of full-time job that he really wanted as an Events and Facilities Coordinator at the Intermountain Volleyball Association in Salt Lake City. The full-time job includes benefits he has desired, as well as involvement in something he has past experience with and enjoys, said Jackson.

The battle for jobs is always going to be raging; oftentimes it will come down to the personal situation and experience, and perhaps the best advice that can be given on the topic comes from someone who has been a part of the battle.

“Try and get the most out of high school, take as much college in high school as possible, try to get a job where you could see yourself potentially getting a career, and then get 4 years experience in what you want to do,” Jackson said.


More information on the problem: Many With New College Degree Find the Job Market Humbling

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