Business majors most likely to be underemployed, report finds

June 19, 2013: 1:17 PM ET
college jobs
Psychology majors are almost twice as likely to end up working as a barista than other underemployed grads, PayScale found.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

What you major in can mean the difference between making an annual salary or making Frappucinos post-graduation, according to a recent report.

While underemployment is an issue facing many graduates, those who major in business administration and management, criminal justice, drama, English and psychology, are more likely to work in jobs they are overqualified for, according to a report released Tuesday by career web site PayScale.

Based on an analysis of PayScale's 40 million job profiles, the report looked at the top ten majors most affected by underemployment, and the most common jobs graduates with bachelor's degrees in these fields settled for post-graduation.

Those who majored in business administration and management are 8.2 times more likely to find work in a job beneath their skill level, the report found. Those with criminal justice and drama degrees are nearly 7 times more likely to be underemployed, and liberal arts, anthropology, psychology and English degree holders aren't doing so well compared to their peers either.

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"In today's economy, having a college degree no longer guarantees placement into a white collar job," said Katie Bardaro, lead economist for PayScale. "The labor pool is oversaturated with college graduates, and job opportunities are simply not there."

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Among underemployed graduates with business administration and management degrees, the most common jobs included retail store assistant manager, waiter or credit and collections manager, the PayScale report found. This is despite the fact that the Bureau of Labor and Statistics' expects some of the jobs that business administration majors commonly pursue -- like management analyst positions -- to grow by as much as 22% (faster than average) until the year 2020.

Part of the problem is that most students aren't graduating with specialized degrees, such as accounting or finance, says Bardaro. But another issue is that there are simply too many graduates majoring in the field. "For these majors, more people are graduating than are in demand by potential employers," she said.

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Beleaguered psychology majors are nearly twice as likely to end up working as a barista at a coffee shop than college grads with other majors, PayScale found. The typical median starting pay for a full-time barista is $19,000. Meanwhile, liberal arts and anthropology majors are commonly finding work as administrative assistants, where the median starting pay is a little more than $30,000 a year.

Underemployment not only has a negative effect on graduates looking for jobs, it has a ripple effect that is felt throughout the economy as a whole. Workers that do not hold college degrees are being pushed out of jobs that degree holders are taking, said Bardaro.

"As fewer people are able to find the jobs that match their qualifications or desired hours, less money cycles through the economy and businesses continue to hold back on hiring," she said.

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