SAN FRANCISCO--As the temperatures begin to rise and summer descends on the city, another class is set to walk across the stage and into graduation. But what really waits for us after we cross that stage and remove the cap and gown? According to the Associated Press (AP), not employment.
Late last month, the AP reported that one out of every two recent college graduates is underemployed or jobless. As someone who is getting ready to graduate, that is a pretty grim statistic. Maybe it’s the economic climate, or the nature of our journalism department, but sadly, I’m not surprised.
College was supposed to be the golden ticket to a successful job and middle class life. From an early age we were groomed to believe that if we stuck it out all four, five or even six years of higher education, we too could have the perfect picket-fenced house and the easy 9-to-5 suburban existence showcased on those old Beaver Cleaver re-runs on Nickelodeon.
I remember telling family and friends that I would get a real position--in an office, with my name on a desk--after I graduated college. Instead, I’m looking at a menial job in a coffee shop--with my name on a pin. Now, as I sit back and reflect on my early 20s, I’m wondering where it all went wrong. How did I get to a place of debt and joblessness?
It started with a choice. Before journalism school even entered my mind, I wanted to be a mortician.
Don’t think I was some crazy goth kid who watched too many horror movies. Getting a degree in funeral studies appealed to the most sensible parts of me. Think about it, the job only requires an associate’s degree, and as long as people die, I would have had a set career.
Another perk is that the funeral industry is a job sector experiencing growth. That’s right, even in this economy, the job is expecting an 18 percent growth rate. Although I could have had all this, the career, the job, the growth rate, I followed my heart instead of my head. I chose to go into journalism and screw my credit rating from now until, well, eternity.
You might be asking, what’s so bad about journalism? After all, isn’t it one of the most esteemed careers one could go into? Even though that may have been the case 40 years ago, that is simply not the way things work today.
Nowadays, students work for free through unpaid internships--really a nice way of saying exploited labor. According to the Daily Beast, which I might add, put journalism at number eight on a list of the 13 most useless majors, the news world is experiencing a negative six percent level of employment.
Hear that? Negative six.
As if to add insult to injury, the New York Times has reported that the average debt for a student in the class of 2011 is $27,000. Add that to the fact that banks advertise all over campus only making the accessibility of credit that much easier for college students.
In essence, I gave up the best years of my young life and ruined my good credit score due to my insurmountable debt in order to be set free. This sounds more like a divorce than a graduation. And if that’s the case, why not shoot for the moon and make it a double ceremony? Either way I have a 50/50 chance at something.
Really, if one were to sit back and consider everything, it makes sense that half of all undergrads are facing unemployment. As a product of public schools, I’ve been told since I was a child that a college degree was my gateway to a successful life. Now that everyone and their mother have a bachelor’s degree in something, I've come to the conclusion that a bachelor's degree is the new high school diploma—and with it come high-school-diploma jobs.
College degrees are no longer special; they no longer hold the clout they once did. Until something in our tight and over-educated economy gives in, I gleefully look forward to my old career of asking people if they would like room for cream.
All things considered, if I could look back and do it over again, I would have taken my chance with the stiffs.
Liz Ireland is graduating from San Francisco State University where she studied journalism.
Image from shutterstock.
Editor's Note: Spelling errors have been corrected.
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