“That was pretty devastating,” Brotherton said.
After that, he took a job at Home Depot and has now worked his way up to be a department supervisor, earning benefits and just enough to cover his $800 a month student loan payment.
Brotherton said he is appreciative of his job, but he often thinks: “If I would have started at 18 instead of going to college, I would be doing really well for myself because I wouldn’t be in debt and I would be making even more money.”
He continues to look for a job that would utilize his degree or pay more, but “it’s hard to get your foot in the door,” he said. He’s given up the plan he had to attend law school because of the extra debt he would incur.
“It’s really disheartening,” he said. “I just want the chance to live a successful life. When the job market crashed, it’s not there anymore.”
Another consequence of college graduate underemployment is that high school graduates and dropouts are being displaced from jobs because employers will often hire the candidate with a degree even if the job doesn’t require it, Robe said.
People who attend college must focus on studying in a field that will lead to a job with a competitive wage, Robe said. According to the Georgetown study, many of the new jobs that will require postsecondary education are in information services, financial services and health care.
There is also evidence that a college degree protects, at least to some degree, against unemployment. Nearly four out of every five jobs eliminated during the recession were held by high school graduates or drop outs, and those jobs continue to disappear during the recovery, according to Georgetown.
At the same time, nearly 200,000 jobs were added for people with a bachelor’s degree during the recession and 2 million more have been added during the recovery, Georgetown found.
University of Dayton graduate Gina Gerhart said she will never regret going to college, even though she has struggled to find a full-time job in her field since graduating in 2011 with a degree in communication and English, with a concentration in journalism.
“Graduating from college, it’s a huge accomplishment,” said Gerhart, who now works part-time at a YMCA in Akron, Ohio. “It never looks bad to have a college degree.”