In Career

The reasons why you have a college degree but can’t find a good job

Everyone wants a college education because every older generation has said: A college degree is what got me here.

That still rings true even for me because without my business degree, I would have never even had an opportunity to snag my dream job in the first place.

(Of course, I also worked like a mofo after snagging said dream job instead of slacking and coasting, but that’s another discussion for another day).

For me, the reasons why people who have college degrees but can’t find good jobs in our economy are usually one, some or all of these reasons:

1. THEIR DEGREE HAS NO MARKET VALUE

This is the biggest one for me.

They got a degree in Fine Arts, but had no intention of becoming an artist, a teacher, or understanding what they could actually do with a Fine Arts degree.

Or even if they got a degree in Computer Science but it was so general that when they left with this rather coveted IT degree, they did absolutely no research into what areas of IT actually need people and how to get into said high-demand areas.

They just got the degree, thought they could flash it at any company and get a job. Yeah, right.

No demand, and too much supply = Hello minimum wage!

What sucks the most is that you could have just skipped all that schooling and student debt, and worked at that minimum wage job right out of high school.


Travel-Photograph-NYC-New-York-City-USA-McDonalds-Fast-Food-Junk

2. THEY HAVE KNOWLEDGE BUT NO IDEA HOW TO APPLY IT

Memorizing a textbook and being able to recite every word in one, is not the same as being able to use what you have learned.

For me, this is where the biggest unknown factor comes in. Someone who really sucked at memorizing textbooks and learning stuff by heart, can have that single spark of logic or ability to trump all others  in a real world setting when things are not so neat and clean.

This applies to any job, really. Even if you read about past examples of business failures, I was always taught in class that even if something failed in the past for that company in that particular period, it doesn’t mean that it will fail again today.

A very rigid school education (I am thinking of Asian countries here) prevents such creativity to blossom and punishes those who don’t conform to textbook rules, which is partly the reason why I suspect many Asian countries can’t seem to get a leg up over Western ones in terms of innovation, design and sheer risk-taking.

Hong-Kong-Market-Asia-Lanterns-2-Shopping-Street

3. THEY PAID FOR THE DEGREE

I lump degrees that are done online, via correspondence or any school that doesn’t have any kind of standing or ranking in any lists of schools into this category of having “paid for the degree”.

That is not to say that people who come from these schools are stupid and unable to get great jobs, but it does mean that people who come from these schools and are ambitious will have to work harder and smarter than others who went to schools that are considered ‘real’ schools. It will also take them longer to reach the top, but it is not impossible.

From my experience and understanding, the name of the school matters a lot less here in North America than it does in Europe, particularly in France.

You could be a college graduate and still make it in a company without someone at the top saying:

So-and-So school? I haven’t even heard of it, forget it, we’re not even going to consider hiring that person.

…yet if it comes down to picking from the crop of a decent college versus a no-name one, companies are going to fill up on candidates from a college they know and respect versus one that everyone considers you just paid to get a degree from.

There are maybe only 3% of colleges at the most that are worth attending, and who really offer a real education where the diploma means and says something.

The rest?

They’re capitalist enterprises looking to cash in on this hunger for a college degree even though you could barely understand what you were being taught in high school, and flunked out on your entrance exams which barred you from getting into those 3% of schools worth attending.

A college degree is not the same as the next, particularly if it is thought to have done ZERO filtering on its candidates and therefore just took anyone in who had an itch to rack up a lot of student debt.

I am particularly appalled by basic English mistakes being made from so-called college graduates or MBA graduates who are native English speakers. I really can’t believe that you can obtain an MBA without having learned the difference between your and you’re, or their, they’re and there.

SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Armed with either a degree with no market value, a fake one from a school that just took your money or lacking in how to apply all of this knowledge juggling around in your head, you have 3 options:

  1. Go back and get a real degree in an area with a higher demand for those skills that companies want
  2. Go to a technical school (e.g. trades) and become a plumber, electrician and pick up a skill that society needs
  3. Suck it up and work hard at your minimum wage job, in the hopes of rising in the ranks over the years

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Am my own Sugar Daddy. Am a millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I have 11 side incomes that are on track in 2020 to make me $50K - $75K. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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Posted on January 27, 2020

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  1. AB

    For readers interested in empirical evidence, not personal anecdotes and unsubstantiated opinions, about the growing disconnect between graduates (including in disciplines like STEM, teaching, and nursing–all critical fields facing growing rates of graduate unemployment and falling average wages), visit the US Bureau of Labor Statistics pages and large state university publications on discipline-specific graduation and employment rates. Unemployment and underemployment rates in the US relate strongly to the numbers of a field’s graduates. Job acquisition and pay aren’t immune to supply-and-demand economics. Adding in large social effects like the attrition of unions in the US, our government’s lobbyist-motivated disinclination to enact several jobs protections acts, exporting jobs to cheaper labor markets, importing cheaper skilled labor, rapid age-related turn-over in coveted tech disciplines (like software engineering), universities increasingly hiding behind privacy statutes not to disclose to matriculants graduation and employment rates, and well-documented credentials inflation across the board, and, yes, the US “higher” education system is severely flawed and the consumer is paying the price. But things won’t be fixed anytime soon because businesses increasingly set US policy.

    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      FYI — The whole blog is a personal opinion. All that remains out of reading your entire comment is still the same question: “Why can’t I find a job with my degree?”

      No demand = No supply

      People go to school, to take a degree that they KNOW is in a low-paying profession, then come out of it and say: “but why can’t I find a job?”

      Why don’t we go the other way, figure out what jobs are in-demand and growing for the future, and take a degree in them?

  2. Tyler Perry

    This has to be some of the most boomer mindset sh!t I have ever read lol. The issue is that companies are refusing to hire on and train new employees and instead are sticking with boomers that refuse to retire or take a pay increase. The entry-level job requiring 5 years of experience in that specific field and a master’s degree to get in has become the norm.

      1. AB

        Illuminating, productive response.

        1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

          My blog, my prerogative to say WTF I want. Your choice to read or not.

  3. The TRUTH

    F**k education. If you don’t have experience, you aren’t getting the job. I have a Master’s degree but less than the 3-5 yrs of experience EVERY opening requires. So two years later I’m still working my $15/hr job, paying off my $50,000 in student loans because I went back to school.

    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      You’re right – experience is a big deal. It is why a lot of people do internships during the summer to get into the first job.

  4. nunya

    I have a bachelor’s degree from an ivy league, a master’s degree in education, am getting a doctorate with a focus on higher education, and I have years of experience in the field of education, and I can’t find a living wage paying job. Education is a necessity; schools, professors, and administrators are necessary and needed. But, I can’t seem to get even an “entry level” job as an adjunct faculty member, let alone as an administrator, which is the job I want. I don’t think my degrees are useless, the colleges I have attended and am attending are clearly not, and I have experience, so your theories don’t apply. Do you have any other suggestions?

    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Have you tried teaching? “Education” doesn’t seem to make sense to many people as it is so broad as a subject. Without researching into it, I don’t even know what jobs you could get with that degree.

      Why not aim for corporate administration job instead of in “education”? From there, there are training jobs, education-related jobs for places even like private preschools, or even in private schools.

      Maybe you need to widen your search into other industries.

  5. Nazarene G

    You really must be some kind of special dumb because what you wrote is not true 100% for all. The job market is just hard. Anyone with a degree can find more than a minimum wage job. May not be the best job for them but it will pay more than minimum wage. When you get some real information then you can write your crappy story. Yes I do have a degree and I do have a career that probably pays more than you make.

    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      And you are responding to me, so I wonder where that puts you.

      1. Stephanie Lee

        It is hard out there for so many. Whether you have a good marketable degree or a degree that is broad like Liberal Arts. I think sometimes people have to go for a job that pays more than minimum wage until they find their calling. Your advice on going back to school to get another degree is not the best advice. Your advice on going to a technical school is also not the best advice. That would just mean more student debt. Your ways of doing things may have worked for you but they are not for everyone. I think going to college is worth it regardless of what you study because they are many, many companies that pay extremely well and all they require is a degree. In any field. So maybe you might want to get off your wagon and write something that the masses can relate to. LOL….

        1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

          Wonderful, why don’t you try your ideas and let’s see where it takes you?

          Check back in 10 years and let me know how you’re doing. In the meantime, other folks who aren’t whining about how all of my options are not great ideas, are reconsidering what they could do in re-certification, or trying another more lucrative career (technical school) instead that doesn’t have massive student debt, versus getting a completely useless degree from even an Ivy league school, are going to be farther ahead than you are.

          Sounds to me like sour grapes, frankly. Prove me wrong.

  6. Leanne

    You’re a fucking snob.

    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Working at minimum wage, are we?

  7. bobby jo

    I have a degree in healthcare administration through University of Phoenix. I can’t find a job at all in this field. I have people in my church with NO formal education and they have jobs in the very field I am looking for. This makes no sense. They all say either I don’t have enough experience or they can’t afford to pay me what I am worth. I even filled out application for $10 an hour to get the said experience. NOTHING. So frustrating.

    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Why not ask your people in the church for an entry level job in the industry and THEN move up to your level?

    2. Gillete Nevado

      Try to convince those people from your church to use them as a referral to get you to the Medical job. You must show you are interested and committed to applying for the job.

      1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

        That is an excellent point.

    3. Skiser

      Same here I have a Associate’s in Business admin. and working on my bachlor’s, I hear of high school grads. making 6 figures, I am currently working on my Bachelors and wondering if I am wasting my time because I can’t even land an interview. How am I suppose to get experience if no one is willing to give me an opportunity.

      1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

        I would say getting a bachelor’s would not be a waste of time per se, but it may not get you to a 6-figure job the way you might expect it to.

        Those degrees are not as valuable as they were let’s say 50 years ago where very few people actually had them.

        Have you considered doing any kind of part time or temp work with an agency in the field you are interested in? If you temp at a place, you can put it as actual experience and that might help.

    4. Sherry

      I have an associates degree which means nothing because that’s all my pell grant would grant me yet I work at an insurance agency making 14 dollars an hour after passing the property and casualty licensing test the very first damn time in Mississippi! Which usually doesn’t happen unless one has experience in the field and I did not! So degrees do not matter!

      1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

        The worst is you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You need experience to work and how do you get experience? IF YOU WORK.

  8. Don R

    A college grad in any field doesn’t need to go back to school to get a certificate to be a payroll tech or an accounting tech. The problem is not with the grads but with the thoughtless business mentality of not bothering to up train the new generation of workers, instead expecting them to come prepackaged with 5 years of work experience, then whining about a skills gap that doesn’t exist. If you doubt me then just go talk to baby boomers, ask them what their major was, and what their first job was out of college. I rest my case. Furthermore, if an underemployed college grad has to be the one to explain the obvious to you, then I contend that this just confirms that older generations of college grads are “overemployed”, if there is such a thing, or at least over privileged. No boomer who types with two fingers and thinks HTML editing is an advanced skill deserves $50k a year, no matter how good they look on paper.

    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      You make an excellent point

  9. Sharon

    I have a BA in teaching and can’t even get an interview as a receptionist even though I have over 20 years experience in various office fields! Oh and about using my teaching degree…”previous teaching experience necessary” is why I stopped applying to schools. SHORTAGE MY BUTT!!!!

    1. Andy

      Move to Arizona, you would be hired in a nanosecond. Teachers are no where to be found. So they now are allowing people who don’t even have a college degree to teach.

  10. Luna

    This is a stupid article. When you’re 18 and just finishing high school, it’s impossible to know what life outside school is like. It’s not possible to know what to expect. The adults and teachers around you do not prepare you, and yet there’s condescending articles like this. Unbelievable.

    For the record, many people with fine arts degrees find work as business writers, paralegals, tech writers, teachers, and fundraisers. The fact that it’s hard to find a job in an age when hundreds of people are applying to same measly job ad, or sending their resume to same companies cannot be blamed on students.

    People spend thousands of dollars on an education to be PREPARED for the real world. And yet people want to blame grads when they’re not prepared. That’s moronic.

    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Yes, thank you for your enlightening comment particularly when it starts off with “This is a stupid article”. That is a great way to open discussion on subject matters when you have a difference of opinion, and I can see YOUR education has definitely served you quite well. /sarcasm

      I had a friend who SUCKED AT SCHOOL and knew it, but she wasn’t trying to pretend to become a doctor. She wasn’t going to some random college to get some random degree and then pretend she could use it for an ACTUAL job outside. She thought long and hard about the situation, assessed what she was capable of, went to a community college, started a degree which she parlayed 2 years of with night school into a transference degree to get into a “real” college where she obtained her nursing degree with a proper name on it, and now makes a good living.

      She didn’t just give up and say: oh I guess I’ll just go into fine arts and some random subject matter like Celtic languages that I think I’ll like, see where it takes me, and try and use that to get a high paying job then BITCH and MOAN and whine about how she only can find jobs at minimum wage.

      She actually had a plan, asked counsellors, told them frankly what she wanted to get into and asked how to get there.

      Gumption, attitude, perseverance. She wanted something and found a way to get there.

    2. Jenifer

      I agree with you, and I normally wouldn’t voice my opinion when I don’t like an article, but the nasty attitude of the writer when replying to you made me to jump in. This article gives absolutely no practical advice. It’s vague and condescending.

      I am also a writer, and I would never cop an attitude with a reader for having an opinion. There is this attitude among writers that every reader opinion is supposed to help them. Readers may want to comment on the article for other reasons, and not have any interest in opening a discourse with the writer or helping them to improve. It’s not all about the writer experience. It is also about the reader experience.

      A writer can not put something out into the world expecting one specific reaction. A writer needs to have thick skin.

      1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

        And readers have to understand that writers are also only human.

  11. Anne

    I have a BS in biotechnology and 4 years experoence as a lab tech. Started to look for a new job and sent out over 50 resumes, and got no offers. Apparently no experience or education is important but who you knew.

    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      That’s true, the network you have is the most important. That’s generally why I think the big name universities aren’t just scams, they’re also to have access to the network of students who are there and who are friends of yours who can get you a job as their parents have positions in companies, etc.

  12. Yadgyu

    I would honestly advise people to choose degrees based upon need. I think the days are long gone when you can actually go to College and get the job that you want. I honestly think people should go to college and get a useful degree, get the job they can get, and then work toward obtaining the dream job as a part time hobby.

    America has changed and if people don’t adjust to the environment they will not survive. I think many colleges offer classes that are pretty much the same ones we took in middle/high school although they shiny them up a bit so they feel more complex. Simple learning is all we really need.

    These schools are making money off information we already know. I find that the more complex they make the learning the less valuable and interesting the information actually becomes. Basically they are over thinking it.

    I never would say education is a waste and I would never feel like a failure just because I couldn’t get a job after college, not when the economy is bad. You have to use context as a guide. You wouldn’t say the entire stock market has no value ever just because it is in a slump. As we know the markets go up and down. And when they’re up all is grand and there is money to be made.

    In times where things do not make sense or seem tough remember to use perspective and context and then it will make more sense and things become easier to bare.

    1. sherry@savespendsplurge.com

      Excellent, and thoughtful insight. Thank you.

  13. STEM Digital Nomad

    I have a STEM Masters which is not required to where I am working in now but the time that I took off to specifically focus on IT was very invaluable, especially when doing a career change. Being a student also allowed me access to scholarships to tech conferences whereas the normal rate would have been in the thousands of $.

    The only thing that I wish I did better during the time that I was a student was to pay more attention to the certifications required and to have graduated with at least one certification. Also, to have done more project and code work – I do have a few projects open source but felt I could have done better.

    I did do distance education because I lived in a rural area where the nearest university to me didn’t offer the degree that I was looking for. I felt bad for this, considering that the year before I was going to free lectures at a top Ivy school equivalent in London. Doing education by correspondence is actually very tough when it comes to doing side project work (ie to build a portfolio) – I was pretty much socially and geographically isolated and found it difficult keeping motivated.

    However, I somehow survived all this and managed to escape – moved countries into a STEM field and makign above average wage where I can also work wherever I want to. Luckily my employer didn’t look down on where and how I got my degree.

    1. sherry@savespendsplurge.com

      That’s the beauty of being in North America. Degrees matter but not really if you work hard and are good at what you do. I had a friend who got into Microsoft out of high school, because he was so brilliant.

  14. Ramona

    I have friends who are IT graduates and have never bothered making this work for them. While I, having studied the Letters, am running a successful web design business. But I did work my butt off since 2004 till now, while they just had fun and expected high-paying jobs to fall into their laps just because they’re cool

    1. save. spend. splurge.

      LOL

      ‘because they’re cool’…

      Nice. 🙂 Hard work trumps degrees every time.

  15. Jaime

    Fine Arts degrees can be marketed if the graduate becomes an art entrepreneur which actually means creating artwork, selling it, licensing it, marketing it, and teaching classes on it. And this can be done but 99% of artists are shy about doing this. They think it means “selling out” and the thing is that the old masters such as: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, all worked for pay. They created art for churches and wealthy patrons.

    In this day and age artists can’t just focus on creating art. They need to focus on entrepreneurship too. A great example of this is the artist Lisa Congdon. Certain industries like sales and insurance don’t care what your bachelor’s degree is in, just that you have one. I have a friend that majored in sociology and she got a foot in the door at an insurance company as a customer service rep.

    In the insurance world there are many departments you can go into like claims, fraud, enrollment services, customer service, etc. -so you don’t always need a specific degree unless you’re going to work for their accounting, IT, actuarial, or finance departments.

    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Even in my field, people started with Arts degrees then fell into it and found they had an affinity for it

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Save. Spend. Splurge.
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