A national survey of 2006-2010 college graduates has found that just more than half are working full time.
The survey, released recently by Rutgers University's John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, said 53 percent of the graduates have full-time jobs. Twenty-one percent are in graduate or professional schools. Seven percent are unemployed, and 7 percent are working part time and looking for full-time work.
Among those working, up to one-third of the recent grads said they accepted a job that paid less than they expected, was below their level of education or was not in their field of interest. Eighteen percent took a job without health benefits.
The median starting pay for 2009 and 2010 graduates was 10 percent lower than the salary received by those who entered the work force in 2006 and 2007, researchers said.
Half the graduates said they had taken jobs that didn't require a bachelor's degree.
The survey found that the male graduates were earning more than the women. "There is more than a $5,000 difference in starting salaries, with a median for men of $33,150 compared to just $28,000 for women," the report said.
Nearly one-third of the graduates said they had quit a job since graduation. Twelve percent said they had been laid off. Twenty-three percent said they had worked for temporary agencies or done seasonal work.
Despite the less-than-rosy job market they encountered, nearly three-fourths of the graduates surveyed said they had no second thoughts about the value of their college education. But nearly half said they might have been more careful about their choice of major or done more with internships or part-time work while they were in school.
The survey found a median debt of $20,000 among those who entered the work force after college.
Authors of the study said the economy had dampened the usual optimism of college graduates about their future.
"The dismal sense of college graduates' financial future is yet another sign of the corrosive effect of the great recession," said Cliff Zukin, a professor at Rutgers University and an author of the study.
"Even young graduates of four-year colleges and universities, who are typically optimistic about their futures, are expressing doubt in another cornerstone of the American dream — that each generation can enjoy more prosperity than the one that came before it."
The study is online at www.heldrich.rutgers.edu.