Bad News for College Students and Job Seekers

Unemployment rate expressed as a percentage, 1981-2014. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We may be more than five years removed from the worst recession this country has seen in decades, but it's left a lasting impression on multiple generations of workers.

According to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate sits at just 5.8%, unchanged from the previous month and tied for the lowest level since July 2008. At its peak of 10% in Oct. 2009 the unemployment rate reached levels not witnessed since Ronald Reagan was in office in June 1983. Long story short, the job market of today is nothing like it was even five years ago.

For those who are currently in college or who are unemployed and looking to get back into the workforce, the low unemployment rate is both a blessing and a possible curse in disguise.

A lessening unemployment rate suggests that businesses are looking to hire and the U.S. economy is again clicking on all cylinders. Conversely, a low unemployment rate could suggest that there simply aren't many job openings left to go around. Remember, people choosing to leave their job to retire, go back to school, or to simply take a position at another company create a steady state of unemployment that's typically believed to be around 3%-4%.

Source: Flickr user Walt Stoneburner.

Bad news for college students and the unemployed Yet, BLS projections of where job growth will come from between 2012 and 2022 might be even scarier for college students and the unemployed.

According to the BLS, the professions expected to see the greatest job growth between 2012 and 2022 are:

  1. Industrial-organization psychologists (53.4% estimated employment growth)
  2. Personal care aides (48.8%)
  3. Home health aides (48.5%)
  4. Insulation workers (46.7%)
  5. Interpreters and translators (46.1%)
  6. Diagnostic medical sonographers (46%)
  7. Helpers for brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons and so on (43%)
  8. Occupational therapy assistants (42.6%)
  9. Genetic counselors (41.2%)
  10. Physical therapy assistants (41%)
  11. Physical therapist aides (40.1%)
  12. Skincare specialists (39.8%)

Plenty of potential job growth in the healthcare field as you can see, but also one notable concern: just two of these professions requires a master's degree (industrial-organization psychologists and genetic counselors) and only one other a bachelor's degree (interpreters and translators). The remaining nine jobs have a typical education level of entry that includes "less than high school," a high school diploma, or perhaps an associate's degree which can be had in as little as a few months to as long as two years. In other words, the professions with the highest job growth aren't looking for college students or unemployed workers with large skill sets.

Home health aide. Source: via Flickr.

"Why's that bad?" you ask? Generally speaking, the more challenging a job and the greater set of skills needed to accomplish a job, the higher the pay. It means a good chunk of the professions with the best job growth prospects through 2022 could offer wages well below the national average.

Data released earlier this year by Sentier Research showed that median household income for 2014 is $53,891. Just three out of these 12 professions offer a median annual wage that's higher than the median U.S. wage in 2012 according to Sentier.

The easy way to get aheadThe changing job environment means only one thing for college students and the unemployed: they need to be more proactive than ever about their future employment.

The key to landing the best-paying job possible, in spite of the BLS data listed above, is going to college. The Pew Research Center released data in February showing that Millennials aged 25-32 earned a median of $45,500 per year with a Bachelor's degree or higher compared to $28,000 with merely a high school diploma. College, which had at one time been considered a privilege, is now the expectation of many employers.

Source: COD Newsroom via Flickr.

Furthermore, for those currently unemployed without a college degree, perhaps it's time to consider heading back to college. A Gallup study from Gallup-Purdue demonstrated just last week that graduating from college later in life isn't a detriment to your income potential. Nontraditional graduates (aged 25 and up) had nearly identical annual personal incomes to those that graduated between the age of 18 and 24. It's never too late to better your occupational outlook!

But on top of just "going to college," people need to consider choosing a field where there's also a high initial starting wage or room for quick pay advancement. Registered nurses, for example, are projected to see double-digit job growth over the coming decade and their starting salaries are usually $50,000 or less. However, the upper tier of RN's make close to $95,000 per year, providing an RN with plenty of income-advancing power over their lifetime.

Just because the job market isn't what it used to be doesn't mean that Americans can't actively put themselves back on the path to success. But, this only happens if workers make a plan to be proactive about their future. Which path do you think you'll find yourself on?

The article Bad News for College Students and Job Seekers originally appeared on

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