Why Are College Graduates Unemployed: 9 Reasons Why So

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Did you recently graduate from college? Are you someone struggling to find work after finishing school? You’re not the only one going through hardship, as many recent graduates are experiencing the same feelings. But have you asked yourself some days, “Why are college graduates unemployed?”.

Why are college graduates unemployed: What percent of college graduates are unemployed?

Within the last decade, college graduate employment remains an issue. It doesn’t look like it’s going to get better moving forward. 

According to some statistics, around 53% of recent college graduates were unemployed or underemployed. Around 43% of recent graduates remain underemployed in their first job. Looking at these numbers, it doesn’t look encouraging for recent or future graduates down the road.

Why are graduates not getting jobs?

As I write this article in 2020, there are obvious reasons why recent graduates are struggling to find work. The current economic problems present uncertainty if graduates can gain employment in jobs they went to school for. I would say it’s a mix of economic, cultural, and personal problems that people have in taking charge of their lives.

However, there are other reasons besides the current situation taking place in 2020. There are things to discuss that have been ongoing for years why college graduates find themselves in right now. It’s important to understand if individuals want to change course in finding meaningful work they enjoy.

In this article, I will layout nine reasons why college graduates struggle to find work. Some of them aren’t directly related, but they’re relevant to what’s going on around the world today.

Why are college graduates unemployed?

Little or no work experience

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Recent graduates may come out of school with little work experience. In some cases, they spend most of their years focusing on school instead. If they don’t work while in school, the chances of being hired right after graduation can go down.

With a little experience, it may take a few years before graduates end up getting a job they went to school for. When you have little to show on your resume (besides a college degree), graduates may need to work other jobs before getting to the job of their preference.

It’s why some people emphasize gaining experience while in school. Getting a head start can help, especially if some jobs are more competitive than others.

For myself, I did not work while in school. That’s why it took me two and a half years to find a great-paying job since finishing school.

I didn’t land that dream job right after graduation, but I’m not the only one who faced this dilemma. I wish I had worked part-time to help build my resume and learn new skills as well. Though I’m fine today, starting work early on would have benefitted me a lot.

Many jobs do not require a degree

There are plenty of jobs today such as gigs or temporary positions that don’t require formal education. Most of the jobs here are in the service sector (food service, retail, customer service). The past decade alone had more of these jobs than other occupations (i.e. manufacturing, engineering). For the most part, none of these jobs require a degree in any kind to be qualified.

The underemployment rate, the number of people taking jobs lower than their experience level, has increased in recent years. It explains why many college graduates take service sector jobs than work they went to school for. Also, it’s a problem with schools not focusing on preparing their students for the workforce. 

So underemployment is an issue that has not been addressed nearly as much. If it affects younger people, the longer it takes to jumpstart their careers. Even with formal education, graduates can still apply for jobs they’re overqualified for.

Lack of communication skills

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Not everybody lacks communicating with other people. But for some graduates, not adequately preparing for job interviews can cost them a lot of time and frustration. The little things, whether it’s asking questions during interviews or sending a thank-you note, are good ways to show that someone is interested in the job.

Besides job interviews, good communication skills are a necessity for the job. Knowing how to cooperate with one another can make a big difference in your career. If graduates are not skilled in communicating with one another, it’ll be more difficult to get jobs where communication is essential for success.

Academics do not make you more qualified

Going to school with a fancy degree alone is not enough to qualify you for a job. Sure, you can put it on your resume and also say “I took classes in arts, history, and political science”. But is saying that going to qualify you for the right job? Most likely it will not regardless.

For decades, getting a formal education was the key to succeeding in the workforce. There seemed to be a sense of pride for having a degree, and it helped you stand out from the rest. These days, there are more people going to college that it really doesn’t matter anymore. So it’s harder to stand out if you have the same degree thousands of other graduates have as well.

Some fields are in less demand

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Some jobs that require you to get formal education are in less demand. In previous years, the case of going to school seemed more valuable. But with outsourcing and artificial intelligence (AI) growing, some jobs will no longer be done by humans. So it’s not a good point to get trained in jobs where it can be taken over by AI.

There are a lot of jobs that are at risk of going away in the years ahead. As AI continues to rapidly rise, these jobs will be automated to make workflow more efficient. The following is a shortlist of professions at risk of being taken over by AI.

  • Lawyers
  • Bookkeepers
  • Mortgage Bankers
  • Financial Planners
  • Middle Managers

The education system is outdated

The way education was established in previous decades does not work well in 2020. A lot has changed over the years, especially with the internet continuing to develop and get better.

The system in front of us is an antiquated- one that’s ineffective and does not prepare students for the 21st century. If today’s system doesn’t prepare students to go out in the workforce, it’s certainly outdated.

With new technology and the internet, students can take classes online at affordable costs. There’s no need to sit in classrooms and receive in-person instruction, where virtual classrooms (online learning) are now available. There’s been a shift from old blackboards to computer screened whiteboards for instruction time.

In some cases, people don’t need to enroll in a formal program (i.e. Master of Business Administration Degree) to learn how to run a business. Oftentimes, they can look into informal programs where they can learn a skill at a lower cost.

These programs can help people build their own businesses; for example, joining a platform such as Wealthy Affiliate. The time to get a business up and running can vary. It can take as little as 3-6 months, and sometimes up to two years. It all depends on an individual’s time and effort, but they’re getting value and money’s worth by taking action.

Traditional Education Is Dead

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The middle class is dying

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In the last decade, the wealth gap between the rich and the poor has widened. You may have heard the saying, “The rich get richer, the poor get poorer”, and it continues to this day. More so, it also means that the middle class keeps declining each year.

There are plenty of reasons to say why it is. Some I believe include too much government intervention in the economy, bad decisions made by politicians, and the destructive monetary policies of the Federal Reserve. I could get into much more detail, but that’s a separate topic worth discussing for another post.

The main point is those in the middle class are seeing their standard of living go down further. According to a recent Pew poll (September 2020), more than half of young people (18-34) live at home with their families. A lot of them are college graduates struggling to find work and live on their own. 

It clearly shows the middle class is dying. Unfortunately, it’s only going to get worse unless there is a major change of course in monetary policy.

At some point in time, there will only be two different classes: rich and poor- that’s it.

Monotonous repetitive jobs fading

Going off my point about AI earlier, there are many jobs involving repetitive tasks that will go away. These jobs involve easy, repetitive tasks that can easily be handed over to automation. If this type of work can be handled through automation, what’s the point of having humans do these boring tasks?

Some of the jobs I mentioned earlier can be handled through outsourcing. Particularly with a financial advisor, there’s been a rise in Robo-advisors and more people utilizing online banking these days. If someone does not need to meet with a banker in person, they can use a Robo-advisor while working on their computer. Also, online/mobile banking has become a convenient option and a great time-saving tool.

Creative work on the rise

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With repetitive jobs declining, it also means a rise in jobs that involve creative and analytical skills. One thing that AI doesn’t have yet is creativity, where humans are much better at doing. As we move beyond 2020, creative skills are going to matter more as AI takes over a lot of jobs that humans are used to doing. 

To an extent, schools do offer programs in work that require creative work. However, the programs can be costly depending on the career or profession. So some people would ask if it’s worth paying thousands of dollars to take part in a formal education program. If not, some people may just turn the other way and look somewhere else.


As I mentioned earlier, the issue of unemployment among college graduates won’t improve anytime soon. The reasons mentioned earlier indicate a bigger issue in the last several years. Whether it’s following a broken education system, lack of jobs, or automation, these things can’t be ignored or overlooked.

Let’s face it: the world has changed in the last decade and will continue to do so in the years ahead. Governments will be unable to keep up with the constant changes. Also, it looks like colleges and universities are not willing to adjust to the new economy today.

Therefore, it’s up to you to keep learning new skills (or polishing old ones) and stay ahead of the changes taking place.

What are your thoughts on the issue of unemployment? Are you someone who’s in this same boat, or know someone who’s struggling right now?

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