Surprise: Biz Grads Underemployed?


Like most graduates, you probably picture yourself making a splash right away. You’re an asset, you tell yourself. You earned A’s and your professors and classmates lauded your work.  After absorbing best practices in college, you’ll spend your days pushing paper in a high rise – and your weekends climbing rocks and hitting the clubs.

Fast forward three months. Forget the skyscraper. You serve coffee at dawn and read off a telemarketing script by night. You’ve moved back in with your parents, who’ve instituted a curfew (I’m not 18 anymore). For some reason, you’re resumes are being ignored (Aren’t college grads supposed to be cheap labor)? And you keep telling yourself: “I could be doing so much more.”



Sound like an English major’s lament? These days, you’re hearing it more-and-more from a new group of students: business majors. According to PayScale, “Business Management and Administration” graduates finished second to only criminal justice majors when it comes to underemployment.

In the survey sample, 60% claimed to be underemployed, a nebulous term that encompasses “being paid less than your market worth; toiling at a job that doesn’t use your education, training, and skills; or just not logging enough hours to make ends meet” in this survey. In fact, 81.2% of Business grads, who earned a median starting salary of $44,300, stated that they were underpaid.  Another 16.7% complained that they weren’t using their education or training.

HR Management just missed being ranked among the top 10, with 48% of HR grads referring to themselves as underemployed. Overall, the highest numbers of business majors claiming to be underemployed held positions like office managers, customer service representatives, and retail managers.

PayScale’s sample was taken from 68,000 respondents, comprised of 52% females and 48% males.


What Now

But are business grads really faring all that poorly? When it comes to starting median pay, business majors actually earn the most among the ten majors reporting the highest underemployment. For example, business majors earned  over $12,000 more than general studies grads to start – and nearly $4,000 more than education majors. True, they ranked just below graphic design and health care administration majors in feeling underemployed. However, they were squarely in the middle –well above liberal arts and psychology majors – when it comes to using their skills and training.

That said, business grads hold a legitimate beef with compensation. PayScale also measured their pay against the market and found that 44.6% were actually underpaid (i.e. earning 10% below market pay). However, that percentage correlates closely with other majors, including health care administration (44.4%), education (44.4%), and criminal justice (44.3%). The highest percentage of grads who were truly underemployed came from sociology majors (53.4%). The lowest were liberal arts majors (37.7%).

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