Post-College Path No Longer So Clear
The path one takes after earning a degree from a college or university in the United States is not as clear as it once was.
Two new studies suggest that college graduates entering the U.S. job market may not work in the field they expect. And these men and women may change jobs and even industries more often than their parents ever did.
Some experts say this both presents new difficulties and opens up new possibilities in an economy .
The first study is from Emsi, a company specializing in labor market research. The company released the findings last month.
The Emsi study was based on an examination of the job histories of about 125 million Americans. Researchers looked at the first three jobs of individuals . The six were languages and philosophy, the social sciences, business, communications, engineering, and information technology.
The study found that many of the graduates started out working in the field . For example, 20 percent of engineering graduates worked in industrial or mechanical engineering for their first job. Yet by their third job, many were working in a completely unrelated field. Advertising, sales, and financial research were among the top 10 job outcomes, or results, for all six groups.
In fact, about 54 percent of all job outcomes in the study were some form of business operations.
Clare Coffey is a data researcher and writer for Emsi. She said that the study does not speak to the outcomes for college students in every field. But the fact that the six fields in the study are so different and yet had similar outcomes does suggest career paths have changed overall.
"A lot of the way we think about work and education … is still … like, 'The jobs are scientists and writers and teachers' sort of this 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' way of thinking about jobs," said Coffey. "But the areas where there's tons of demand and tons of growth are … being able to communicate about products for companies and also oversee the process by which they're distributed."
Edwin Koc argues that changing jobs and even fields is something the current generation of college students will deal with more in the future. Koc is the director of the National Association of Colleges and Employers. He noted that his daughter, , has held four different jobs to date. He graduated in 1973 and has held the same number of jobs since then.
Part of the reason for this is that the current U.S. job market is very strong. This means that if people are unhappy with their current position, it will likely be easy for them to find a job with better pay, Koc said. Younger workers also have less of a connection to their employers as they have seen growing limitations on financial benefits and even job security.
Edwin Koc and Clare Coffey agree that colleges and universities must support students' ability to grow and change. They should do this by urging students to take classes outside their usual field of study and seek out early work experience in areas of interest to them. Employers should look to fill positions with individuals normally expected for those jobs.