Bachelor’s degree is no job guarantee in 2013

by Sheridan Reed

I’m often told how bad the economy is, or how there are no jobs out there and how little of a difference a bachelor’s degree makes anymore. But it seems as if California might be on the upswing. According to NBC, the state’s job growth is now outpacing the U.S. average, with unemployment at its lowest point since December 2008.

That being said, unemployment is still at 9.4 percent, giving California the third highest unemployment rate in the country. A large portion of the job gains in California were located in Southern California, which is finally beginning to catch up to Northern California, where a decrease in unemployment has been underway for some time.

Surprisingly, North Dakota, Nebraska and Vermont top the list for lowest unemployment rates at 3.3, 3.8 and 4.1 percent respectively. Granted, you have to take these statistics with a grain of salt, considering California has a population of more than 37 million and North Dakota less than 700,000. However, during the past year, California jobs have increased by 2 percent compared to a 1.4 percent national increase. So, which industries are causing the sudden growth?

Information-based companies, and professional and business services, reported the most job growth, with trade, transportation and utility businesses reporting the largest decrease in jobs. Hopefully this implies a general improvement in the state and national economies, but I’m not sure how reliable this is for a view of the job market as a whole.

I also wonder what this means for me and how much my degree is really going to be worth once I graduate and enter the “real world.” I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for quite a while now, and one thing has remained consistent throughout my experience:  Many of my co-workers already hold college degrees and are well-educated. Most work in this industry when they hold a degree in something entirely unrelated because of the money, which is consistent and considerable. These people have degrees in varying fields, such as business, economics, musical theater and even child development, but the jobs they can get with only a bachelor’s degree won’t pay the rent. Recently, a young woman came in to apply for a hostess position at my job. She had recently graduated from the University of California, San Diego, with two bachelor’s degrees and couldn’t find any well-paying jobs in her desired fields.

The harsh reality has put many students on edge. They are trying to get marketable degrees rather than ones that actually pique their interests. Originally, many colleges were based on the ideals of the pursuit of knowledge, but universities have become more like factories, pumping out students with degrees that will supposedly help them land jobs. The only way to guarantee a job now is to get at least a master’s degree. It’s becoming what the bachelor’s degree was 20 years ago. Between that and the increased interest rates of subsidized student loans, it’s no wonder we saw the outrage that was the Occupy movement.

With decreasing unemployment in California and the U.S., chances are it’s easier to get a job anyway, so I would encourage students to study what interests them, not just what might look best on a resume. Remember, you might be doing whatever you choose for the rest of your life.