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NCES Report Describes Employment Outcomes of Recent College Graduates

July 25, 2014

A recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics finds that four years after graduation, college graduates are more likely to be employed than the general labor force, and that their current job is probably not their first after college. The report, Baccalaureate and Beyond: A First Look at the Employment Experiences and Lives of College Graduates, 4 Years On, is based on a survey of 17,000 college graduates who received bachelor's degrees between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008. In spite of the economic recession that was in effect during this time period, the study found that the unemployment rate among these degree holders in 2012 was 7 percent, compared with the average overall unemployment rate of just over 8 percent. On average, respondents had been unemployed for a total of six months over the preceding four years since graduation.

The data suggest that these recent graduates were very likely to have changed jobs at least once during the four-year study period. Some 39 percent of graduates reported that they had held only one job since graduation, while nearly 34 percent held two jobs and 27 percent held three or more. There was a noticeable difference between graduates who received their degree before age 24 and those who received them at age 30 or older; about 56 percent of older graduates had only one job during the four years compared with 34 percent of the younger category.

Overall, about 85 percent of respondents worked full time in 2012 (the remainder were either unemployed or out of the labor force due to full-time attendance in post-baccalaureate programs or other factors). Those employed full time worked an average of 41.2 hours per week. The average salary for a full-time position four years after graduation was $52,200, and the median salary was $46,000. There was a significant gender gap in salary, with the average salary for men at $57,800 compared with $47,400 for women. Age also affected salary levels; among graduates who were 30 years old or older at graduation, the average salary was 15 percent higher than for the sample as a whole. Field of study was also associated with salary; engineering and engineering technology graduates led all categories with an average salary of $73,700.

The complete report includes a full description of graduates' employment and other post-collegiate outcomes by sex, race/ethnicity, age, and other factors. 


Mark O'Dell
Research Analyst