4-year grads seek associate degrees

Unemployed college graduates are heading to community college, writes David Koeppel in Fortune. Instead of pursuing an expensive graduate degree that may not pay off, they’re seeking associate degrees in vocational fields.

Some of the returning students are recent graduates who have found that their sociology or philosophy major has not been enough to find gainful employment. They are now training for careers as nurses, IT specialists, or medical technicians.  Radiation therapists and registered nurses with associate’s degrees earn median salaries of $74,200 and $63,800 respectively, according to a 2009 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Many of these students have graduated fairly recently and the job market didn’t pan out the way they expected, says Felix Matos Rodriguez, the president of Hostos Community College in the Bronx. “Some say their initial choice of major was not the right one. For some folks that were laid off, it was a wake-up call.”

In California, 260,000 college graduates under 30 are working in food service, retail and clerical jobs that don’t require education, reports KEYT in Santa Barbara.

“We’re seeing graduates in humanities and some of the arts fields struggling,” said Ian Moats, staffing consultant at Express Employment Professionals.

“A bachelor’s degree used to be a golden ticket into getting a decent middle wage paying job where you could have the opportunity to prove yourself. We’re seeing that that’s not the case so much now due to the competition and the skills gap they’re not getting the opportunity to prove themselves in the job market and they’re resulting and taking lower wage jobs,” said Moats.

Jobs that require “good customer service, interaction, good communication . . .  are good preludes” to more responsible jobs, said Raymond McDonald of the Santa Barbara County Workforce Investment Board.