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US college grads are entering the best job market in years, but salaries are low

Posted at 4:34 PM, May 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-21 16:34:28-04

Graduates across the U.S. are looking forward to entering the workforce, but a new study shows the workforce may not be ready for them.

Research from Accenture finds 49 percent of recent grads are underemployed or working jobs that don't require a college degree, and almost half of 2013 and 2014 graduates earn less than $25,000 year.

The numbers reveal the disparity between the expectations of new graduates and the reality of the working world.

The good news is the job market is slowly improving, and the chance for success depends greatly on a student's major.

Sara Green is an engineering student graduating from Pennsylvania's Lehigh University with a STEM degree, which is one of the most-lucrative degrees in the nation.

"I'll be coming back to Colorado and I'll be working in Centennial at Seeker Engineering," said Green. "It's an aerospace company."

Green credits Lehigh University for her success right out of school.

"All of my friends have jobs or are going to grad school. Most people had multiple offers. Most people got into multiple grad schools. So, I think Lehigh does a phenomenal job preparing us," said Green.

College grads may also benefit from an economy on the mend.

Anthony Carnevale is the director of Georgetown University's Center for Education in the Workforce. He says job prospects are improving.

"The overall unemployment rate for college graduates is below 3 percent," said Carnevale.

The economy has been on the upswing for the past 5 years. Carnevale predicts the college labor market won't fully recover until 2017, but predicts graduates today are much better off than even a few years ago.

"You get on a pathway. If you get a bad start that's not as productive as somebody who comes out when employers are having trouble finding people in your field and you get in the right job at a higher level," said Carnevale.



Census data shows that some pathways put you on a fast track to success. Students who major in engineering and architecture have the best chance of employment and earn the most out of college.

Education is least likely to yield a livable wage.

"None of them are high paying, but the very worst one is early education, which will give you a wage that is not even equivalent to a high school graduate," said Carnevale.

The job market is still tough, but there is hope for graduates like Green.

"I've been told by a couple of different mentors that the first salary you get isn't going to be your ending salary," said Green. "It's just a start"