College grads face a more competitive job market

January 04, 1993|By Carol Kleiman | Carol Kleiman,Chicago Tribune

Between 1990 and 2005, 19.8 million college graduates will enter the labor force. What does their future look like?

Although education is essential in a workplace with rapidly changing technology, a government study has reached the alarming conclusion that 30 percent of those graduates may have to settle for jobs that do not require a college degree.

The leader of the study, Kristina J. Shelley, emphasizes that 70 percent of college graduates will find jobs in which they can apply their educational backgrounds. But her federal study of supply and demand shows that college graduates in the 1990s and early 2000s will face a more competitive job market than did graduates in the 1980s.

Available jobs for college graduates in this decade are projected 602,000. Of that number, 311,000 will be new jobs.

"The decrease in jobs for college graduates has been going on for two decades," said Ms. Shelley, an economist in the Office of Employment Projections of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Many workers without a degree but who are in occupations with potential to be upgraded to college level will still be on the job in 2005. It's unlikely they will be laid off to make room for college graduates."

Two factors underlie the trend: Economic growth will be slower than in the 1980s. And there will be more bachelor's degrees awarded.

Ms. Shelley's conclusion: The underemployment of college graduates will continue to worsen.

The study, published in the Occupational Outlook Quarterly and the Monthly Labor Review, shows that 29 million workers with four or more years of college education were employed in 1990 -- and more than 23 million held jobs that require a four-year diploma. Half worked as executives, administrators and professional specialists. Other major employment groups were technicians, sales representatives and supervisors.

"Jobs continue to be created for college graduates, but if you are planning to go to college, it is wise to select your career carefully," said Ms. Shelley. The economist, whose son is a college student majoring in music, adds that if there is something you love, major in it, "even though you might not automatically walk into a college-level job."

For the last two decades, graduates with MBAs have been the bellwether of the employment market. It is thus significant that a survey of 1991-1992 graduates of the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business indicates that the key to professional success in this decade is to be highly trained and skilled.

The study of 336 of the 570 new MBAs from the school shows that 80 percent had jobs by July. It is expected that 95 percent will be employed by the end of this year.

"There were still more jobs being offered than students to fill them, but fewer than before," said Jeanne J. Husain, director of ++ the school's career services. "Employers definitely are constrained because of the economy, but they still value the education our students get."

Financial services companies hired 40.2 percent of the MBA graduates of the University of Chicago. Overall, 49.1 percent of the new MBAs work in financial positions across industries. Consulting positions were accepted by 20.8 percent of the students, and 12 percent went into marketing.

Although there will be no job guarantee for college graduates, Ms. Husain noted that "the value of a college education goes beyond what you learn in the classroom. Being on your own and learning to learn are things you carry with you for a lifetime."

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