The Fruits of A College Degree

If you have ever taken the time to chat with current college students and ask them what they expect to be doing after graduation, you’ll probably hear a lot of idealism in their answers. After all, the point of going to college is to pursue success and happiness in life. Right?

Well, I can’t quantify this, but I would be willing to bet that a very small percentage of high school seniors head off to college “for the love of learning.” In today’s materialism-possessed world, craving knowledge for the sake of knowledge, in whatever specialized area, seems almost crazy. “Why would you want to gather knowledge when you could be gearing up to gather big bucks?” might be the reply of choice to those would-be scholars.

We generally refer to such non-college programs that provide certification in such areas as nursing-related skills (nurse’s aide, etc), computer tech, secretarial applications, etc. as “preprofessional.” In my view, it seems that most college majors are in some way also preprofessional, simply because the idealistic participants in those majors dream of graduating and starting their careers in some way related to what their degrees are in.

For example, business administration is a popular undergraduate major. Students in that curriculum may not have a specific idea about which branch of business they want to follow, but they know that they are being prepared to meet the qualifications of a wide variety of professional organizations. Thus, they are preparing for their entry into the professional realm. Ergo, they are following a preprofessional path.

I’ve always been curious about the outcomes of college students’ degrees and, by extension, their lives. Although reports that track such things are no doubt available via search engine investigation, one heavily quantified report landed in my inbox recently and gave me some important answers to my question: “The Class of 2016: Where are they now?”

Mike Brown of LendEDU sent me One Year Out of College, How Is the Class of 2016 Faring? It’s the kind of survey that people who want to see trend analysis can sink their teeth into. I find this extremely valuable — and interesting — data that all college underclassmen should examine to see which way the winds of post-college life are blowing. Forewarned is forearmed, they say.

I’m convinced that, in general, seeing how the currents of hiring are flowing in America and the world at large can be an important component in setting one’s compass, if not expectations. Once you are able to survey the landscape, a path to success may be much more easily charted.

Anyway, let’s take a look at Mike’s data. I won’t cover it all; there’s just too much, but I’ll highlight those stats that I feel offer the more dramatic picture. Here’s MIke’s introduction, followed by some excerpts:

The Class of 2017 are the newly minted graduates, joining millions of other Americans in the working world after more than a decade of schooling.

All the attention from friends, families, and employers has been on the Class of 2017, but hey, let us not forget about their predecessors, the Class of 2016.

At this point, much of the Class of 2016 has been in the workforce for just over a year, and LendEDU wanted to check in on them to see how they were doing.

In order to do this, we have commissioned a poll of 500 four-year college graduates from the Class of 2016 asking them a multitude of questions regarding their experiences so far in the real world.

Highlights from:

Full Survey of the Class of 2016, One Year Out of College

1. How long did it take you to get a job after you graduated?
49.20% had a job lined up at graduation
26.71% took one to three months to find a job
11.45% have not been able to find a job since graduating
8.84% took three to six months to find a job
3.82% took six to 12 months to find a job

2. (Asked to those with a job) Which of the following best describes your current feelings about your current job?
43.54% like their job
33.79% love their job
13.38% are indifferent about their job
4.99% dislike their job
4.31% hate their job

4. (Asked to those without a job) Why do you feel that you’ve been unable to get a job?
38.55% cannot find openings in their field
25.50% have not been able to find a job that they are passionate about
13.05% do not have the skills necessary to be hired in their field
11.85% do not have a professional network in place to find a job
11.04% say they are a poor performer in interview situations

5. How much are you currently earning per year?
28.31% are earning between $0 and $25,000
22.09% are earning between $35,001 to $50,000
20.28% are earning between $25,001 and $35,000
12.65% are earning between $50,001 and $75,000
11.85% preferred not to say
4.82% are earning over $75,000

6. Which of the following best describes your feelings about your earnings?
28.92% are not making anywhere near as much as expected
26.71% are making just as much as expected
24.30% are making a little less than expected
11.04% are making a little more than expected
9.04% are making much more than expected

7. Which of the following best describes your degree field?
25.30% said Education
23.69% said Business (e.g. Finance, Economics, Accounting, HRIM)
22.69% said Other
18.47% said Science, Mathematics, and Engineering
9.84% said Liberal Arts and Humanities (e.g. Philosophy, Literature, English)

10. Which of the following best describes your feelings about your first job?
46.18% said their education adequately prepared them for their job
18.88% said their education under-prepared them for their job
18.88% said their education over-prepared them for their job
16.06% said their education did not prepare them at all for their job

12. What is your biggest complaint about the real world?
41.57% said it is managing finances and paying bills
26.71% said it was working and staying on a full-time schedule
16.06% said it was having less time to see friends and family
15.66% said it was added stress from work

16. Which of the following best describes your current financial situation?
69.48% said they do not receive financial assistance from their family
30.52% said they do receive financial assistance from their family for things such as rent, food, transportation, etc.

I find this information extremely enlightening. I left out a lot, so be sure to check all the 16 categories of responses, plus Mike’s  observations and analyses in these areas:

One Year Out of College & the Class of 2016 is Iffy With Finances

A couple of questions resonated from this poll that displayed both the lack of confidence and ill-preparedness from Americans that are one year removed from college. First and foremost, their biggest complaint about the real world is managing finances and paying their bills. …

Colleges Have Left Young People Somewhat Under Prepared

One of the common themes from this poll was that the respondents felt as though their college or university could have done more to prepare them for the working world. …

The Class of 2016 Had Ambitious Plans for Their Salary

The last trend we found from this poll was that many that graduated last year believe they should be making more money than they are currently making. …

Mike’s comments amplify the already highly illuminating survey results. In an email to me, Mike also noted:

“One common complaint regarding the young workforce is that they bounce from job-to-job. Well, our poll showed that 48.98% of 2016 graduates have already had at least two jobs since graduating.

“Here are some other findings:

– 41.57% said their biggest complaint about the real world is managing finances and paying bills
– 73.09% are considering going back to graduate school to better prepare for their career
– 50.50% want to leave their current job because they are not getting paid enough …”

If you’re curious about LendEDU’s methodology, that’s explained at the bottom of Mike’s article.

So, then, what can we say about this snapshot of the Class of 2016’s entry into the real world? I don’t know what you might say, but this thought occurs to me:

It appears that, at least for those surveyed from the Class of ’16, one of the very few commonalities between ideal and real are the letters “eal.” I would also add that it appears, at least from these results, that preprofessionalism rules in college, intended or not.

My thanks to Mike Brown for his generous sharing of these survey results. I hope you find them useful.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.