Not every liberal arts grad is working as a barista

Far fewer college grads are destined to be serving coffee and flipping burgers than you might think.

While some politicians warn that liberal arts majors are headed straight for a career as a barista, that’s closer to myth than reality, according to two economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. They found that about 9% of all recent grads landed in low-skilled, low-paying jobs like waiters, cashiers, bartenders, cooks and baristas.

The research focused on those who faced a tough job market after graduating during the four years following the Great Recession.

And those who felt stuck waiting tables with a bachelor’s degree didn’t stay there for too long. The number of those in low-skilled jobs was cut in half by age 27.

But there is some truth behind the fear of too many over-qualified college grads in dead-end jobs. Almost half of all recent grads worked in a job in which the researchers defined as a “non-college job.” That means that less than 50% of the workers in that job indicated that at least a bachelor’s degree was necessary.

Of those people, however, more than one-third earned more than $52,000 a year. Many worked in sales, or business support and were managers or supervisors. While those might not be a college grad’s dream job, they’re still better than low-skilled service jobs.

And it’s better to have a degree than not. Those younger workers who didn’t finish college are much more likely to work in the lowest-paying jobs.

The outlook is getting better. While the demand for college educated workers stagnated during the Great Recession, it has picked back up in recent months, according to the researchers.

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