It’s no secret that succeeding in today’s labor market is challenging for everyone, including recent college graduates. Learning how to navigate the labor market—and making the most of your college education--can be incredibly helpful in charting a path toward greater opportunities. It is essential that you learn about the realities of today’s labor market when making decisions about academic majors, internships and student activities.
Your college education and the social networks you develop in college can help you gain access to job opportunities after graduation. Now, more than ever, succeeding in the job market requires careful planning, thoughtful decision-making and hard work.
The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University — one of the nation’s leading academic centers devoted to studying the labor market -- developed the following quiz to help you prepare for success after graduation. College provides a wealth of opportunities to students who use their time and resources wisely. This quiz is designed to help you begin thinking about the short and long-term steps you should take now in order to succeed later.
The U.S. labor market is complex and even the best informed experts struggle, at times, to answer the questions presented in this quiz. But, some sources of information are more accurate — and less biased — than others.
Always view information about jobs and career opportunities with a critical eye. Compare information from multiple sources. Visit the websites featured in the quiz.
Make sure that you are labor market savvy.
Your future depends on it.
Good luck, and let us know how you did in the comments section! (Scroll down for the answer key.)
1. What was the median starting salary for college graduates entering the labor market in 2009 and 2010?
a. More than $50,000
b. $40,000 to $49,000
c. $30,000 to $39,000
d. Less than $30,000
2. Pick the three academic majors from which college graduates earn the most money upon completing their programs.
d. Psychology and Social Work
e. Computers and Mathematics
3. True or False? On average, people who graduate in the same major generally earn the same amount.
4. What percent of recent college graduates in the classes of 2006 to 2010 obtained jobs closely related to their major?
5. How many college graduates from the classes of 2006 to 2010 report that they are working in jobs that do not require a college degree?
6. What’s the average annual federal loan received by a full-time student enrolled in an undergraduate degree program?
7. What’s the average annual federal loan received by a full-time student enrolled in a graduate degree program?
8. Which of the following is a reliable source for predictions of the fastest growing occupations for the next decade?
a. The Bureau of Labor Statistics
b. The Wall Street Journal
c. Your College Placement office
d. None of the above
9. What percentage of college graduates from the classes of 2006 to 2010 are still looking for a full-time job (either unemployed or working part-time seeking full-time work) as of June 2011?
10. What is the current unemployment rate for workers with a bachelor’s degree?
11. Approximately how many job seekers are there for every job opening in today’s economy?
a. 2 job seekers to 1 opening
b. 3 job seekers to 1 opening
c. 4 job seekers to 1 opening
1. d. According to a survey in the Spring of 2011 by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, among men and women who graduated college from 2006-2010, the median starting salary in 2007-2008 was $30,000, and in 2009-2010 it was $27,000. Source: Heldrich Center
2. b, c, and e. The highest earning major groups are: Engineering ($75,000), Computers and Mathematics ($70,000) and Business ($60,000), respectively. The lowest are: Arts ($44,000), Education ($42,000) and Psychology and Social Work ($42,000). Source: The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University
3. False. Throughout the past few decades, many studies documented the existence of wage inequality between races as well as gender, and workers should be mindful of these differences when considering job opportunities and entering salary negotiations. While there is speculation that the income gap is narrowing between men and women, as well as whites and non-whites, a recent study by Georgetown University was highly critical of the persistent differences. The study found that “… even in one of the highest-earning majors for women (Chemical Engineering), women still make $20,000 less per year than men.” The study also found notable salary differentials between races within each major group, and some differentials are more than $20,000. “The report also highlights some glaring racial and ethnic earnings gaps. For instance, African-Americans who graduate with a Finance major earn an average of $47,000 per year, which is less than Hispanics ($56,000) and Asians ($56,000) — and much less than Whites($70,000).” As mentioned previously, there is plenty of information on these topics, and students are encouraged to research this topic as it applies to the field you plan to enter, in order to effectively negotiate fair compensation. Source: The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University
4. b. According to the Heldrich Center survey of recent graduates, 44% say their job is closely related to their major. Source: Heldrich Center
5. b. According the same Heldrich Center survey on recent graduates, 40% of respondents are working in a job that they say does not require a college degree. These people are commonly being referred to as “malemployed.” Source: Heldrich Center
6. a. According to a study by the Project on Student Debt, federal loans are the primary source of loan aid; the average undergraduate federal loan is $4,883 per year. Source: Project on Student Debt.
7. b. According to a study by the Project on Student Debt, federal loans are the primary source of loan aid, and the average graduate student borrows $15,744 per year. Furthermore, the American Bar Association statistics indicate that 2009-2010 law school graduates from public schools borrow $68,827 on average, and private school graduates borrowed $106,249. Source: Project on Student Debt, American Bar Association's Legal Education Statistics
8. d. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics makes their predictions for the next ten years, but these are no more that informed guesses. When making career decisions, it is best to refer to multiple sources, and to be skeptical about predictions of future trends. As the Heldrich Center pointed out in “The Labor Market Then and Now”, the BLS predictions can be highly inaccurate, as pointed out on page 9 of the report. For example, 3 of the 10 occupations projected to experience the largest growth from 1998-2008, systems analysts, general managers and top executives and truck drivers, actually experienced declines. Source: Heldrich Center
9. b. In a survey conducted by the Heldrich Center, of 571 men and women who graduated from college between 2006 and 2010, 14% indicated in the spring of 2011 that they are either working part-time and looking for full-time work, or they are unemployed looking for full-time work. Additionally, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco estimated that as of December 2010 nearly 11% of 21-23 year-olds who possess a Bachelor’s degree are unemployed, and nearly 26% are part-time employed. By comparison, the rate was 3.1% for 23 year old college graduates in the 2003-2008 period. Sources: Heldrich Center, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Bureau of Labor Statistics
10. b. The unemployment rate for college graduates is 4.3%, according to the July 2011 data. The national unemployment rate in July 2011 was 9.1%. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
11. c. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that there are 4.5 job seekers to every 1 job opening, as of June 2011. This ratio has improved during the recession; it reached a high of 6.1 job seekers to 1 opening. Source: EPI
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