80% of college graduates end up in jobs that have nothing to do with their degree

I was in a job interview today at a restaurant and my interviewer, who is also a manager at the restaurant, told me he did the same major im working on right now which is chemistry. When he was in college he worked in restaurants to pay for his tuition, he graduated about 8 years ago but decided to stay in restaurant work because he liked it and the pay is good. My cousin (as another example) has done a B.S. in aeronautical engineering, and a M.S. in engineering but about 1 year after finishing his M.S. he wants out of engineering, and has joined the Air Force.

The manager told me that “80% of college graduates end up in jobs that have nothing to do with their degree” but i dont know how true this is. When you include homemakers who quit their jobs to raise a family (like my aformentioned cousin’s mom did), and all those with liberal arts degrees, and those who switch careers and maybe if you include those who do an undergrad in something unrelated to grad work (ie, someone who becomes a librarian with an undergrad in biology and a masters in library science) it seems feasable but 80% is still a very high number, i would’ve assumed closer to 50%.

So is this quote true?

Well, when you say “end up”, does that mean the last job before you die? If someone majored in engineering, had a long career in that field, and after retirement ended up being a greeter at Wal-Mart, you could say he “ended up” there.

Alternatively, there are a lot of degrees (like liberal arts degrees) that might not neatly fit in a job category. If someone majored in Literature, and ended up doing anything other than teaching Lit or working in a bookstore, I’d say that counts as having a job unrelated to their major.

I don’t have much trouble believing the 80% figure.

FWIW, I majored in structural engineering, and I’m now a programmer, doing nothing related to engineering.

i honestly dont know what ‘ended up’ means exactly. I doubt it means retirement and working at walmart, i think it means more along the lines of ‘your main source of money and what you work in’. Dont know the timeline for it though but you seem to be an example of what he was referring to, a major in one thing and a job in another.

I work in a company in which almost nobody, outside finance and HR, is doing what they studied to do, because no school teaches it. Everyone here has industry experience, but we hired them out of industry to do this job. So at least around here, it’s absolutely true.

To be honest, I’d guess the 80% bit is an urba myth. Think of all the people you know who DO do something they were educated to do. All teachers with education or con-ed educations are doing what they learned. All engineers with B.Scis working in any engineering job are doing what they learned to do. All doctors, all lawyers, all dentists, all vets, all accountants have education in their fields. The majority of computer programmers are educated in computers. Every auto mechanic I have ever met did community college courses plus a multi-year apprenticeship program, as well as a great many other skilled trades like plumbers, electricians, die cutters, and industrial trades of all sorts. Lots of managers and executives have MBAs. Graphics designers usually have education in graphics design. Hell, around here you have to take a community college program to cut people’s hair, and you have to do a six-month course to deal cards in a casino. Most bartenders around here take a community college course to learn how to tend bar. There are too many people who ARE educated to do their jobs for 80% of the workforce to have post-secondary education that isn’t related to their jobs.

Well, it was too much data for my head to crunch in a hurry, but maybe comparing these two sites is a good starting indicator:


The second one in particular seems to indicate that for recent graduates a good number of them seem to think that their careers are at least partially related to their chosen field of study.

In my industry, there are quite a few either way, meaning there are people that don’t even have degrees, and others that 99% of the time have a certain specific degree from the same school.

People can come up with statistics to prove anything. Forty percent of all people know that.

Hell, 30 years ago when I was a struggling journalism student, they were warning us that 2 out of 3 of us would be out of journalism in FIVE years.

And what about my then-girlfriend? She was an anthropology major who had no interest in anthropology. she merely wanted a social science degree to set up for graduate school. She got her graduate degree, then spent 18 years in the military, got her law degree, and now she’s (happily) back working for what her graduate degree prepared her for. Where does she fit?

I have another friend who swears he’s going to open up a little shop someday and sell some political science…

92.3% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Kind of like my friend who plans on applying at the philosophy factory as soon as a position comes open.

Yup…and if you say you saw it in the ‘New York Times’ last Tuesday, everyone will nod in agreement.

Allowing for the fact that statistics like this one are easy to make up or misremember from an e-mail forward and eighty percent sounds to me like an especially suspicious number, I suspect the statement is largely true. Especially depending on how you define “nothing to do with their degree”.
At any rate, it is fascinating to me listening to my fellow classmates in information science/library science describe their diverse backgrounds(and aspirations). According to the director of a nearby public library, a good icebreaker question for networking is “What has been your career path?” This also supports the idea that many information professionals have had round about career paths. Also you should remember that many people attend college and choose majors before they really know enough about themselves to know what they want to do with their lives, and thus may end up changing fields.

Honestly, I really though “99% of…” was just a commonly accepted way of saying “virtually everyone but because there’s bound to be an exception I won’t commit myselft to 100% hence here I’m saying 99%.” Was I wrong?

I’m sorry I don’t have any hard numbers for you (and I’m not going to make them up!:slight_smile: )

But I can give you some more anecdotal evidence. I have a BA in Television/Radio production. I now work as a SQL Database Developer.

Zev Steinhardt

In several recent threads, I’ve noted this phenomenon. 80% sounds high, and I doubt the restaurant manager could come up with a cite for that.

The fact remains that people do pursue professional careers that are not usually predicted as derivatives of their college degrees. While I’ll skip the debate over the meaning of “end up in” as I believe most people would interpret that to mean what I’ve described in the first sentence of this paragraph, I will challenge the use of “unrelated.”

Never having met a professional colleague with a degree in the same discipline as mine, I’ll guess I can say I’m of the target population. And there is no way I could have pursued the career I have without my college education. While the demanded curriculum didn’t include many courses I took, my own course of study did.

As a pysch major, I wandered from the camp of what we called the “humanists” when I became interested in the brain as an organ. This led to taking biology and physiology courses that demanded some exposure to organic chemistry as well as physics. I took a couple of years of physics courses, which demanded more math exposure. All of the above are courses that a bright psych major can easily dodge. And the following 20 or 24 or so credits in geology are rarely seen to be part of a psychology degree path.

I believe a university education, pursued to a degree or, perhaps, not, can give you some depth and additional perspective that you might not otherwise absorb if studying to a particular specialization.

That’s my own experience, but I’ll add that it’s not a surprise to me that many humanities grads are managers or owners of businesses. So, yeah, the particular degree a person holds might not be what’s usually recruited for their specific field of endeavor, I think most would say, as I would, that their education has been useful to them.