Jobs and Kids

I’m taking a brief hiatus from holiday consumerism to write a brief blog post about college kids and jobs. I finished an article last week on the topic. I’m not sure when it will come out, but I’ll puff it here when it does. In the meantime, let me just pass along advice that I picked up when doing the article. This is advice that I’ve been hounding my own college kid about this past week.

The job outlook for college grads isn’t wonderful, especially for kids who have just concentrated on finishing their degrees without much thought beyond getting the BA and for kids who don’t have parents to grease the wheels of the economy with connections.

I spent a few hours doing keyword searches on the online job boards for college BAs with a liberal arts and no experience. Most of the jobs that turned up were Dunder Mifflin type jobs selling random stuff for about $15 per hour. That might be fine. It’s a way to move up in a company. Research shows that most kids with liberal arts degrees start off in sales positions; some move into Human Resources or marketing. But college grads should know what those kinds of jobs are and be aware that that’s where they’re going to end up with a major in History.

30 percent of kids don’t make it past their first year of college. A huge chunk fail out their first year, or they leave because they can’t handle the independence of a school or they hate the chaos of a dorm. I see this among the kids that graduated with Jonah. Some are honor student kids. One had a big running scholarship to a fancy school. College is tough, and many can’t handle it. They end up at community colleges or trade schools. Two of Jonah’s classmates are now selling stocks at Boiler Room-type places.

I’m hearing anecdotal stories about massive student loan debt. Like $100K to $200K. I think those numbers are super high in the Northeast, because working class families around here make too much to qualify for Pell grants. Then they have to go to grad school, because 65 percent of all jobs now require advanced degrees. And they can’t afford that next step, because they owe too much from undergraduate education.

Internships are the new normal for college students. But internships are for rich kids. Kids who have to work in the summer to help pay for college can’t afford to work for free. And many of those internships at the fancy colleges actually cost money, because they are in foreign countries or in other cities. Families who are struggling to just pay for college can’t take on that extra burden.

Colleges have dumped a ton of money into career development centers, which is great, I suppose. Some are better than others. Some offer real help; others hand the students a pamphlet on writing resumes. And only a small percentage of students are going to the centers, because it’s not required.

Guys are choosing very different majors than girls and are having much different outcomes on the job market.

Students, especially the dudes, are choosing large public colleges over small liberal arts colleges. In some ways, this is a good thing. The large public colleges are cheaper and have more resources. But many students can get lost in the system. The kids who survive the big school experience learn how to manage the system. They learn how to tap into the resources. Others get in the bubble of student life and have little contact with adults who can help them.

Alright, done with the brain dump right now. More later.






10 thoughts on “Jobs and Kids

  1. We have the internship dilemma. S can make $3-4K in the summer working at the kennel, but that means no internship. But we need the $$ because we’re still $10-15K short for finishing out her education. She’s looking into selling her eggs. I’m only half-kidding. Well, I was kidding when I said it, and she seems to be taking it way too seriously.


  2. We had a different issue with the internship thing. Our son did research summers, got that $3k each time, but came out with a very narrow picture for the future. The research was great as long as he thought grad school was next. When that was deferred, he was really left with no work experience and not knowing what he could do. He’ll be in taking classes in a tech program at the local CC next spring.


    1. The girl that I interviewed for the story went that same route. She finished her BA, couldn’t find work, so she’s going to a for-profit college to get an AA degree in sonography. She’s a little pissed off that she spent all that money on college and has to spend another $40K to get this new degree. These tech schools are going to take off in the next few years.


  3. “One had a big running scholarship to a fancy school.”

    Athletic scholarships can make it really hard to put in a decent effort at school.


  4. Many, many internships are paid. My daughter had a paid internship (she was an accounting major – $15 per hour 6 years ago), my nieces and nephews (all engineering majors) had well paid internships ($20+ per hour). Internships where I work are paid ($20+ per hour).

    Government internships and publishing are some areas with internships that are not paid.


  5. Yeah, well, maybe it isn’t so grim for liberal arts degrees. The Wall Street Journal published this article today: (sorry, there is a pay wall.)

    Key paragraph: Jobs requiring high levels of social interaction grew by nearly 12 percentage points as a share of the U.S. labor force between 1980 and 2012, according to a study published last year by David Deming, professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. Less-social, math-intensive jobs fell by 3.3 percentage points over the same period.

    “Work, broadly speaking, has shifted toward an emphasis on things that we can’t do with technology,” he said. “There’s no way to program a robot to figure out when a customer has had a bad day.”

    On the other hand, 65% of jobs today do not require advanced degrees. They can’t, by definition, when far fewer than 65% of high school graduates manage to complete a college degree in 6 years. Looking at this chart, labor force participation is very similar for people who have “Bachelor’s degree and higher:”

    Now, if you live in a fancy suburb, as we do, it may seem that everyone needs an advanced degree, but that’s not true.

    And, it may seem that one must have an advanced degree to make a living, as people with advanced degrees (generally) earn more. See:

    Note that people with advanced degrees earn on average $286 more per week than people with only a BA. However, repaying student loans will take a chunk out of that premium:

    The New America report referenced in that Forbes article:

    Those figures don’t include the opportunity cost of the years spent pursuing the graduate degree. So it may be much more of a wash in financial terms. (That’s assuming that the degree is in a field that will pay enough to repay the student loans and allow the student to eat.)

    And sales and marketing can be very lucrative careers.


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